There is no definitive statistic that sums up Yuta Watanabe’s impact on the Nets this early in the season.
A player’s net rating is usually a good place to start because it calculates the team’s score compared to the opponent’s score for the minutes a player is on the court. Watanabe has a net rating of plus-2.5 through the first nine games of the Nets’ season.
For reference, Kyrie Irving’s net rating is minus-2.8, Kevin Durant’s is minus-five, and Ben Simmons’ is minus-13.9.
Therein lies the problem with using statistics alone to calculate a player’s impact: Durant is one of the most impactful players in all of basketball, but because he’s playing the lion’s share of minutes on a Nets team that started the season with a 2-6 record, the numbers are close with his name shows that the team does not work well when he plays.
That’s why the only number that matters for Watanabe, who becomes a legitimate rotation player on a team with championship hopes, is the number of minutes he plays each night for the remainder of the regular season.
Watanabe is the unlikely impact player this Nets team needed to weather the drama they found themselves in between Irving’s five-game suspension and Simmons’ injury woes. He embodies the next-man-up mentality that has been linked to the Nets through general manager Sean Marks’ tenure in Brooklyn.
And this is a player who is quite clearly a favorite of Nets governor Joe Tsai. Watanabe is one of Japan’s NBA players, the other being Washington’s Rui Hachimura. Tsai is the only owner of a Chinese team in the NBA.
Watanabe is clearly proud of Tsai. The Nets governor tweeted, “Where are my Utah highlights?” to the Nets after the forward, who has a non-guaranteed contract, was the driving force behind the Nets’ 42-point victory over the Wizards on Friday.
He couldn’t have asked for those highlights if Watanabe hadn’t played well.
But he did, and that’s becoming the norm for a Brooklyn team that needs all the help it can get while four rotation players — including Seth Curry (ankle) and TJ Warren (foot) — deal with issues that keep them from getting on the court. . In 24 minutes, Watanabe scored 14 points and made six of eight shots. The Nets outscored the Wizards by 21 in his minutes off the bench.
Not to mention defensively – two blocks and a steal against the Wizards, plus two more blocks against the Chicago Bulls, including a hit on DeMar DeRozan.
Watanabe maximizes his time on both ends of the court, which is why the Nets need him most of the time.
CLAX CANNOT MOVE (EXCEPT LINE)
Nets center Nick Claxton currently leads the NBA in field goals made.
It’s evidence of growth both on and off the court — what Steve Nash called a more professional approach to his craft in the offseason. Claxton made 51 shots and missed just 19. He shot 9 of 10 from the field in the game against the Wizards to move into first place.
Claxton is averaging 12.6 points on 73% shooting from the field.
A little more concerning is his 41% shooting from the free throw line. After he broke Shaquille O’Neal’s record by making 10 straight free throws in Game 4 against the Boston Celtics last season, free throws became the focus.
Claxton will need to improve on that, but he has taken a step forward in every other part of his game.
One game after Durant turned the ball over six times and said “get used to my losses” because five players are constantly guarding him, he had 11 assists and just two turnovers Friday against the Wizards.
Another player with unexpected game performance? Sophomore guard Cam Thomas, best known for his scoring ability, dished out six assists and zero turnovers in the same game.