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Rodions Kurucs an ‘incredible surprise’ for the Nets

Rodions Kurucs, Nets

The Brooklyn Nets entered the 2018-19 season with no expectations. After three straight playoff misses, many expected them to be one of the league’s worst teams.

However, the Nets are alive and contending once more. At 30-29, the team currently holds the sixth seed in the competitive Eastern Conference.

Some of the credit has to go to breakout stars D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie, as well as productive center Jarrett Allen.  Nonetheless, the success of rookie Rodions Kurucs has been just as unexpected as that of his team.

Picked in the second round and expected to spend this season in the G League, Rodions Kurucs has played his way into a starting role with the team.

Not even Brooklyn expected Kurucs to be so productive, with Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson admitting that Kurucs was supposed to be a development project.

“I think the idea was it was going to take time to develop him,” Kenny Atkinson told Michael Scotto of The Athletic.

“I mean, just physically especially. He didn’t play a lot of minutes in Barcelona, so it was like I don’t think any of us — and you’d have to ask Sean [Marks] — thought, ‘Oh, he’s going to be NBA ready right now.’ I think it was a development project. This has been an incredible surprise that he’s ready from a physical standpoint. He can handle the mental part of the game, and it’s just an unbelievable surprise. I didn’t think we thought he’d be ready right now.”

The 21-year-old slipped to the second round in the 2018 draft, where Brooklyn scooped him up. He has been arguably the game’s fourth-best rookie, behind only top picks Luka Doncic, Deandre Ayton and Trae Young.

This season, Kurucs has started 29 games for the Nets. The small forward is averaging 8.8 points and 3.6 rebounds while shooting 45.8 percent overall. He has two guaranteed years left on his contract followed by a 2021-22 team option.