With all the theatrics surrounding Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons at Brooklyn, it is easy to miss a player that is making waves, on the court that is.
28-year-old Yuta Watanabe continues to prove he fits seamlessly into the Nets’ rotation and out of nowhere, has become their best three-point shooter.
In fact, he currently leads the entire NBA in three-point field goal percentage on 57.1 percent, with the second-highest player not even coming close (Josh Green on 53.1 percent).
KD was HYPE after this 3 by Yuta Watanabe!
— NBA (@NBA) November 21, 2022
He has quietly been improving his role on both ends of the floor and offering stability off the bench that Brooklyn so desperately need.
On Sunday, the Nets had a 127-115 win over Memphis and Watanabe recorded 16 points on 4-6 shooting from three at 66.7 percent and 6-9 from the field for the same percentage.
12 of those 16 points came in the fourth quarter, where he also dropped four 3’s. Watanabe received a standing ovation from the Brooklyn Brigade after his performance and even received praise from Kevin Durant after the game.
— 𝙏𝙖𝙡𝙠𝙞𝙣’ 𝙉𝘽𝘼 (@_Talkin_NBA) November 21, 2022
“That means a lot to me,” Watanabe said postgame. “Thank you for your help. We’re just going to keep getting better so thank you guys.”
“You guys can tell how much the team trusts me by how they pass the ball,” he continued. “They’re just giving me great passes, I just made open shots so that was a team effort.”
The Japanese Olympian has been posted up on either corner of the three-point arc. From the left, he’s shooting at 87.5 percent and from the right, 69.2 percent.
His turnover rate is also second to none, as he averages 0.3 per game – the same amount Trey Murphy had in 2021-22, which was the least amount of turnovers in the league.
In their game against Portland on Friday, Watanabe scored a season-high 20 points, seven rebounds and shot 5-7 from the field and the three point line, which ultimately helped his team to a two-point win over Portland.
Defensively, he uses his length and natural instincts to come from help positions to alter shots when his teammates are getting beaten on drives. He isn’t afraid to use his power to create a huge block!
Yuta Watanabe flies in for the BIG TIME block on DeMar DeRozan 🚫pic.twitter.com/YbbRx1CXWW
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) November 2, 2022
Before he signed with the Nets during free agency in August, he had played in 121 NBA games, across four seasons with Memphis and Toronto Raptors.
He appeared in 38 games with Toronto last season, averaging 4.3 points and 2.4 rebounds in 11.7 minutes per game. His averages have gone up across the board this season this season in his first 14 games, because he is now getting 17.7 minutes of game time and notching 7.5 points, 2.9 rebounds.
Watanabe became just the second Japanese-born player to represent in the league when he was drafted and then debuted for the Grizzlies in 2018.