The Brooklyn Nets played most of the 2022-23 season with a hole behind breakout center Nic Claxton. That roster void – a product of second-year center Day'Ron Sharpe's inability to crack the rotation – played a significant role in the team's 29th-ranked rebounding, with Brooklyn frequently being forced into small-ball lineups.

Twenty-one games into 2023-24, Sharpe has emerged as the quality backup center the Nets were missing last season, averaging 7.0 points and 6.8 rebounds on 56.7 percent shooting in 16.0 minutes per game. The North Carolina product posted a season-high 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting to go with 11 rebounds, four assists, one block and one steal during Saturday's win over the Washington Wizards.

Head coach Jacque Vaughn pointed to Sharpe's consistency on and off the court when speaking about the 23-year-old's leap from last season.

“Day’Ron knows my challenge to him was the professionalism, the consistency, knowing what I was gonna get from him on a nightly basis, and he’s really answered that,” Vaughn said postgame. “Tonight, really his energy, his ability to rebound the basketball, to have a physical presence, changed the game.”

“I think it is understanding that [his professionalism] affects his playing time. So that's the biggest weapon right there. And I think he is realizing that he has a part of this thing, whether that is doing extra shooting, whether that is [recognizing the] normal shots we want him to take, whether that is cleaning up some of the defensive miscues, whether that is asking the right questions… All of that recognition shows growth and the willingness to learn. That’s all you want.”

Sharpe, who Brooklyn selected with the 29th pick in the 2021 draft, has always possessed elite rebounding ability. He flashed his dominance in that area last season, leading the NBA in offensive rebound percentage among players to play at least 500 minutes.

However, his troubles defending the pick-and-roll and finishing in traffic offensively limited his playing time. He's made strides defensively this year with the Nets shifting from their switch-heavy scheme to a drop coverage. He's also made glaring offensive improvements, consistently finishing in the pick and roll and even showing flashes of self-creation.

The improvements in other areas have allowed Sharpe's rebounding ability to shine. His 15.4 boards per 36 minutes lead the team, and he said his production all starts with his interior presence.

“Nobody can really stop me on the glass for real. Just realizing I'm a dog on the glass,” he said. “I’m gonna go at you every play and you’re gonna have to stop me every play. I just feel like that’s just giving me more confidence. I’m finding myself more comfortable with the ball, not scared to do stuff, not scared to turn the ball over, not scared to make that play. I just got more trust in my teammates and I think my teammates trust me more.”

Sharpe's emergence alongside Claxton offers the Nets one of the NBA's most dynamic center duos. The pairing's success amid schematic changes has allowed Brooklyn's rebounding to go from worst to first in less than one season.

Claxton and Sharpe combined for 26 rebounds Saturday, leading to a 20-7 second-chance points advantage. The Nets scored 76 points in the paint, two shy of a franchise record. Vaughn said that synergy and sustained production from the center position is the model for Brooklyn moving forward.

“I’ve been with them from the beginning, and I get a chance to see and push them and want more from them, and they want more from themselves,” he said. “They enjoy pushing each other, and now there’s some synergy of, I'm gonna pass the baton to you, and you’re gonna play your minutes, and you’re gonna pass it back to me, and we’re gonna try to dominate it from that position.”