Brooklyn Nets: Yuta Watanabe is fuelling an unexpected turnaround

Brooklyn Nets Yuta Watanabe (Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports)
Brooklyn Nets Yuta Watanabe (Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports) /

Yuta Watanabe is fuelling the Brooklyn Nets’ early-season turnaround. 

Don’t look now, but the Brooklyn Nets might be getting back on track.

After a horrendous start that included (deep breath) a 2-6 start, a suspension of Kyrie Irving due to anti-semitic comments on social media, Ben Simmons’ continued fright of the orange sphere known as a basketball (that led to a players-only meeting), giving up 153 points to the Sacramento Kings, and a visibly frustrated Kevin Durant, it’s safe to say things were not sunshine and rainbows in Brooklyn.

When the Nets traveled to Portland on November 18 after their embarrassing loss to Sacramento, many expected more of the same. You could almost feel the entire world getting ready to write Brooklyn off and bury them six foot under after yet another embarrassing loss.

How the Brooklyn Nets may have saved their season

But then something happened that may have (emphasis on “may have”) saved their season.

At the end of a four-game west coast road trip, the Nets went into the Moda Center and found a way to beat the Trail Blazers as heavy underdogs.

Kevin Durant was dazzling as usual putting up 38 points and eight rebounds, but there was another guy who was key in the Nets’ victory. A guy who rocks one of the best headbands in the game and is proving to be the Nets’ ace in the hole in their sudden surge.

That man is Yuta Watanabe.

Watanabe had a somewhat slow start to the season, but in the Nets’ last four games he is averaging 13 points while shooting 62.5% from the field and a ridiculous 52.2% from three.

It’s not like he’s doing this on just a few shots, either. While he doesn’t get 15+ shots per game, he has put up those numbers while taking 32 shots overall during this stretch, 23 of those being from deep. The 28-year-old is very selective about when to rise up and release, but more often than not, if he shoots with his feet planted behind the three-point line, it’s going in.

Those three-point numbers haven’t been a flash in the pan. Watanabe is leading the entire league in three-pointing shooting making 57.1% of them. If that’s not good enough, he’s also making 76.2% of his corner threes.

In the Nets’ back-to-back wins against Portland and Memphis, Watanabe shot 9-13 from beyond the arc and hit all of his triples in the fourth quarter against the Grizzlies. Any time the Trail Blazers or Grizzlies tried to make a run, Simmons or Durant would drive to the hole and find a wide-open Watanabe ready to tear opposing fans’ hearts out from deep.

Watanabe’s historic run is more than likely not going to be sustainable for a full 82-game stretch, but if nothing else he (along with Simmons) has been able to take some of the heavy pressure off Durant’s back. No other player who has taken over 100 shots in this young season has a higher contest rate than KD, and Durant has been desperate to find some semblance of help.

He has found that in Watanabe and the trust between the two will only lead to more open looks for the hottest shooter in the NBA.

With the sudden rise of Ben Simmons (he had 22 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists, on 11-13 shooting against Memphis. WHAT?) and the return of Kyrie Irving, the Nets appear to be in as good a position as any to go on a run here and get back on track to help out one of the best players in the world in Durant.

And rest assured, when one of those three drives to the basket and looks for a kick, they’re going to find Watanabe in the corner ready to drill a corner three, smiling in the opposing team’s face as he does it.

dark. Next. The Miami Heat is having an existential crisis; Does Pat Riley have one more miracle move in him?

"“Yeah, my shots are easy because of KD, Ben, those guys pushing the ball, giving me great passes,” Watanabe said to the New York Post. “So I’ve got to appreciate them giving me great passes. And my job is just to make those open shots. So, I’m just going to keep shooting with confidence. I know I can do that.”"