Scoring: DSince Lopez went down, Kevin Garnett has been installed as the starting center, with Andray Blatche and Mason Plumlee backing him up, primarily. KG has struggled offensively in general this season, averaging 6.7 points per game on 37.2% shooting from the field, both career-lows by far. Additionally, in the past two games starting at center, Garnett has really struggled, shooting just 5-of-17 (29.4%) from the field. All in all, Garnett has posted just a 98.7 Offensive Rating (team points per 100 possessions with him on the court) this year, and a 93.5 Offensive Rating over the last two games.
Meanwhile, Blatche has been in a shooting slump as well. He shot just 1-of-11 from the field on Wednesday, and he's only scored 18 points in 51 minutes over the last two games, with an ugly 79.0 Offensive Rating over that span. While it would be unfair to expect anybody to replace Lopez's offense by themselves, Blatche has been much more of a pure scoring threat than KG, and the Nets really need him to step it up.
The rookie Plumlee is an interesting case. He leads the team with a 64.0% shooting percentage from the field, due in large part to his propensity to attack the paint. Plumlee has attempted 69 of his 75 total shot attempts from within eight feet from the basket, with 62 of those shots coming from within five feet. The high-percentage shot is Plumlee's bread-and-butter, but even he's been off his game lately. He's shot just 36.4% over the past two games, including just 4-of-9 from inside eight feet. It's just been a rough go of it offensively for Nets centers since Lopez went down so far.
Rebounding: C+The Nets' rebounding hasn't been very good all season, and rebounding wasn't a primary strength of Lopez's game as it is, so I feel a C+ grade is fair in his absence. The Nets were outrebounded in each of the past two games, but I don't think it was egregious in either case. They got outrebounded 46-36 by the Pacers on Monday, but Brooklyn actually had one more offensive rebound and the two teams were tied in points in the paint. Christmas Day, the Bulls pulled down six more total rebounds, two on the offensive end, and outscored the Nets in the paint by 10.
Garnett is averaging 7.1 rebounds per game with a 19.1% rebound percentage, and his 31.0% defensive rebound percentage is actually second-best in the entire NBA among players with at least 13 games played. Kevin Love, the NBA's leading overall rebounder, is the only one with a better mark, and it's just 0.2% higher. Over the past two games, KG's defense rebounding percentage is a terrific 35.7%, proving that while his scoring touch is not what it used to be, the Nets' team rebounding problems would be much, much worse without him.
Meanwhile, Blatche has a respectable 12 rebounds himself over the last two games, and Plumlee has nine in 30 minutes over that span. The team rebounding has left a lot to be desired, (28th per game, 24th in overall percentage) but considering KG's prowess on the defensive glass, again, I think a C+ grade for the big men is fair.
Defense: B-Like the rebounding, this is an area that could be better overall, but could be much worse if not for the efforts of the 37-year-old Garnett. Unlike rebounding, overall defense had become a strength of Brook Lopez's game that will indeed be hard to replace, as Lopez's 102.7 Defensive Rating (team points allowed per 100 possessions with him on the court) was the second-best mark on the team.
For what it's worth, the Nets as a team are fourth-worst in the NBA with a Defensive Rating of 106.3 on the season. However, if we sort by each respective team's last two games league-wide, the Nets' Defensive Rating of 105.2 jumps up to 11th-best. While all these "last two game" stats in this post of course require a "small sample size" disclaimer, hopefully that trend is somewhat sustainable and isn't an outlier.
KG's defense in particular has been really good the past two games, with a team-best 89.5 Defensive Rating in 37 total minutes. That's better than his season rating of 103.9, and perhaps a move to center will do him a lot of good. Plumlee's also stepped it up, improving his season mark of 110.0 to 101.2 over the last two games. Blatche's rating has declined slightly, as he's put up a 106.4 over the past two, 106.1 overall.
The Nets defense hasn't been great, but they've certainly improved from where they were at the start of the season. Considering Lopez was arguably their most important defender, I'm comfortable giving the big men a solid grade for their defense since his injury, as it's another area that Garnett has made a major impact. There's no doubt that replacing Lopez on offense is going to be extremely difficult, but it's encouraging to see that the big men are holding their own defensively. Let's hope they keep it up.