In a Nets bake-off between Reggie Evans and Mirza Teletovic, defense wins
One of the more interesting subplots in the 2012-13 Brooklyn Nets' season has always promised to be the battle between Mirza Teletovic and Reggie Evans for minutes on the court.
The two free-agent signings from this summer, introduced in mid-July on the same day, only fit into the team's rotation in one place: backup power forward. But their games are as different as can be.
Teletovic, signed to a three-year, $9 million deal after a successful career in Europe, is a scoring specialist. He plays little defense and doesn't rebound much.
Evans, signed to a one-year contract at the veterans' minimum, is entirely about rebounding and defense. He seldom shoots, and has a total of one three-point field goal to his name in an 11-year career.
So who would earn more minutes? Teletovic, who signed the far richer contract for more years, making the team's investment in him more significant? Or Evans, who seemed to fit both the team needs and the preference of coach Avery Johnson, a sucker for defense?
The answer so far has been Evans, reinforced in Sunday's 98-85 Nets win over the Portland Trail Blazers by 14 rebounds, a game-high, in 22 minutes.
In 12 games, Evans has averaged 18.5 minutes per contest, playing no less than 13 minutes in any of the games to date. Teletovic has played 38 minutes all season, with a "DNP- coach's decision" to his name eight times already.
The quick answer to why this has been the case is that Evans has been doing what is expected of him, while Teletovic has struggled. Evans has grabbed 25.4 percent of the available rebounds when he's been in the game, just above, but in keeping with, his career rate of 21.2 percent. He's even making shots at a 57 percent clip, but this is largely irrelevant; he's taken just 14 in 12 games, for a usage rate at the very bottom of the 223 players with at least 200 minutes played so far this season.
As for Teletovic, he's actually taken more shots than Evans this season, even though he's played 17 percent of Evans' minutes. But he's just 6-for-18 so far. Teletovic is caught in a loop. needing more shots to find his offensive rhythm, while his poor shooting (to go along with poor defense) reduces his time on the court.
Johnson is making an easy call here. The Nets have no shortage of offensive talent; it is the defense, and rebounding, that needs to be merely average for the Nets to make a sustained playoff run.
It raises one question, though: just what were the Nets thinking when they signed him?