With the 2016-17 Brooklyn Nets stuck to the NBA’s cellar for yet another season, I’m going to take some time to commemorate some of the organization’s former players. Not the most talented ones — they have gotten enough coverage — but the ones that hung around for a few games, a season or even a few, before inevitably serving as key members of championship teams elsewhere, heading overseas, or playing competitive ping-pong. The guest stars, maybe without the stars. The qualifications? Less than 200 games as a Net, and no All-Star appearances (during their career). If you’re a long-time Nets fan like me, you know exactly who I’m talking about. Let’s start with a personal favorite, MarShon Brooks.
Nets stats: 129 G, .440/.302/.752, 8.5 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.6 APG, 14.7 TOV%, 22.7 USG%, 99 ORTG, 110 DRTG
Non-Nets stats: 35 G, .456/.520/.727, 4.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.7 APG, 14.3 TOV%, 23.4 USG%, 102 ORTG, 109 DRTG
Best game as a Net: With the Nets running out the clock on their time in New Jersey — at the end of a lost transition season — MarShon’s 24 points on 10-17 shooting was nearly enough to take down the Miami Heat’s Big Three. He did commit five turnovers, but posted seven boards and six assists to go with his usual array of effective iso-moves and rise-up jumpers. It was a glimpse into the potential he never lived up to with the Nets.
Origin story: Selected by the Celtics with the No. 25 pick in the 2011 Draft, immediately traded to the Nets for the No. 27 pick (Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson) and a 2014 second-rounder (Russ Smith).
The epilogue: Brooklyn threw him into the Pierce/Garnett/Terry trade after the 2012-13 season. He played for the Celtics, Warriors and Lakers the following year and then went on to Italy and China, where he currently plays for the Jiangsu Dragons.
I have never seen a player like MarShon Brooks before, and I don’t think I’ll see anyone like him ever again. But, like all stars that shine too bright too quickly, he burnt out, mostly because he wasn’t too fond of playing defense.
When you score 52 points in a college game, breaking a then-Big East record, that label is a hard one to shake. I mean, watch this and tell you wouldn’t expect this guy to be a really effective but high-usage NBA scorer.
But the 1.5 years he spent with the Nets were enjoyable, purely because of what he brought to the table offensively. He wasn’t a leaper, nor was he particularly fast, but at 6-6, he knew just how to use his length to fend off defenders on jumpers or at the rim.
For me, he played like a less explosive and (obviously) less talented Kobe Bryant. MarShon wasn’t nearly as good at getting to the line, but the way he could always create his shot by using his body was very Kobe-like. And in his rookie season, on a Nets team with more holes than legitimate NBA players, he seemed like a keeper.
His role diminished a bit when Joe Johnson came over the ensuing offseason and, then again, how many ball-dominant two guards does one team need? That made MarShon expendable, yet it made me sad to hear that he was another piece included in the trade.
I’ll admit I happened to like him more than most, probably because of how devoid that 2011-12 Nets team was of any talent outside of Brook Lopez and pre-injury Deron Williams. The problem is that as a guy who relied on the mid-range shot, MarShon wouldn’t have as much of a place in the current NBA.
Still, he deserved more than a protracted three-year stint before heading overseas. Points are still points, and MarShon could score against almost any defender in any situation. If he could ever dedicate himself to improving on the defensive end of the floor — and become a better rebounder — I have no doubt he’d still be in the league today. You definitely can’t teach size, or length, and MarShon had both in spades.
I do often think about what could have been had the Nets not traded for Joe and kept MarShon in a legitimate role. But, it seems that could be said with regards to many of the organization’s former first-rounders, whether it’s because of an injury, front office decision or other circumstance. Maybe that’s why the Nets are where they’re at today.