You know that term “savvy vet” that exists in the basketball dictionary? There’s an image of Jared Dudley featured next to it.
Racking up over 18,500 minutes, being eight games away from playing No. 800 and having appeared in the postseason for three different franchises, Dudley has more experience than 86 percent of the players currently in the NBA.
So when the Brooklyn Nets traded for him, they knew exactly what they were getting.
In this league, a veteran presence in a contending locker room can provide a boost when called upon. But for a growing team with high aspirations to continue its gradual ascension from the bottom of the league, it is invaluable—for everybody.
“Huge,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said of Dudley’s impact prior to the team’s win in Cleveland. “And for the coach too, right? The young coach, he’s been in the league longer than I have. I learn things from him every day…his spirit and his enthusiasm and he’s a positive dude.”
Atkinson cracked into the NBA as an assistant for the New York Knicks in 2008, while Dudley began his career the year beforehand. From the beginning of training camp, there has been a mutual respect between the two. Each of them knows the basketball IQ that the other possesses.
One example Atkinson mentioned was Dudley’s advanced understanding of defensive schemes. He presents strategies to counter “REDing,” a term coined by the San Antonio Spurs meaning emergency switches. These tricks that help Brooklyn’s offense slip out to get free are a luxury the third-year head coach hasn’t had before.
“You learn more from players than you do from coaches,” Atkinson said. “He’s a real sharp guy.”
In passing that knowledge along to the coaching staff, Dudley senses he’s earned Atkinson’s trust when he’s on the floor. Not only is providing advice to teammates fine without permission, it’s encouraged.
“I thought that leadership-wise I’m getting this team to play the basketball that coach wants to play,” Dudley told Basketball Insiders. “It makes me another coach on the floor helping these guys get there.”
Looking at it from the other end of the spectrum, Dudley has been picking up on Atkinson’s analytical approach to the game. Like many progressive minds in the NBA, the philosophies are data-driven, relying on tendencies and percentages. But they’re unlike anything the seasoned veteran has put into action before.
Despite that, Dudley has learned the system quickly. He’s guided younger teammates along and produced in the minutes he’s been on the floor, and Atkinson couldn’t be happier with the fit.
“He really keeps the ball moving,” Atkinson said. “I think that’s what the coaches like. He’s not a ball holder. I think he makes other guys better. He facilitates stuff for Caris [LeVert]. He facilitates for D’Angelo [Russell]. The ball doesn’t stick in his hands. And obviously, [he] gives us some spacing out there.”
Atkinson has always felt Dudley’s defensive prowess has gone overlooked as well, referring to the job Dudley did on Blake Griffin in the season opener as evidence of that.
And, adding to that, Dudley won’t require an extra boost. He respects Atkinson too much to not give it his all every night.
“I respect how he holds everyone accountable,” Dudley told Basketball Insiders. “From assistant coaches to players to waterboys—he holds ‘em at a high level. When you do that, it means that he can talk from a star player to a role player the same way.
“And he does it in a way that it makes you want to go hard, run through a wall for him. It doesn’t necessarily mean that always happens, but as a player, you can respect that ‘cause it’s not like that for every coach.”
Watching film and in-game adjustments are Dudley’s specialty. He has a keen eye to find openings during sessions and let the guys know what spots to be in.
When the Nets took on the Cavaliers, he relayed to Basketball Insiders that he told the team to put Kevin Love into pick-and-roll situations as much as possible. He understands certain players’ strengths and weaknesses, so whatever gives them the chance to make winning plays, he’ll point it out.
To Dudley, it’s easy to teach when the students want to listen. Caris LeVert, D’Angelo Russell and Jarrett Allen are three blossoming talents that Brooklyn is extremely high on, and he can already see why.
“They’re our young guys that want to learn, so when you tell ‘em, they don’t have an attitude,” Dudley told Basketball Insiders. “High energy, high work-ethic type guys.
“Caris is getting better each day. D’Lo’s learning because he’s still playing the point guard position different. And then Jarrett Allen man, I mean he’s expanded his game to shoot the three. We demand a lot out of him. As far as his development goes, this team will grow.”
One week into the season, Dudley is enjoying the role he’s taken on for the Nets. He’s setting a professional standard and sharing his experiences to the benefit of everyone on the sideline—and that isn’t changing anytime soon.
“It’s been a little roller coaster,” Dudley told Basketball Insiders. “But to be 2-2 after four and to have a breakout shooting game, I’m right on pace where I need to be.”
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