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Multiple efforts matter, which is why Nets need Day’Ron Sharpe on the court more

There have been few bright spots in the Nets’ recent 2-9 stretch, but the vivacity of third-year center Day’Ron Sharpe has continued to shine through the mess.

In Tuesday’s 112-85 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center, Brooklyn’s fourth straight defeat, Sharpe was the team’s most efficient scorer among starters and reserves. He finished with 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting with nine rebounds, two assists and one block in just over 17 minutes. And even in the midst of a season-worst blunder, his energy and effort continued to stand out.

What separates Sharpe from others in the Nets’ frontcourt is multiple, purposeful efforts on a nightly basis. Seeing the 6-11 center give up on a play has become a rarity at this stage in his career. He may not be the shot-blocking threat Nic Claxton is just yet, but he compensates for it with sheer physicality and a lively motor.

Brooklyn did not make its first 2-point attempt until the 2:27 mark of the first quarter on Tuesday. It was Sharpe, who entered the game in place of Cam Johnson just over a minute prior, that delivered. He secured the rebound after a missed Cam Thomas 3-pointer, then secured his own miss on a put-back attempt before finally getting a shot to fall off the glass over Larry Nance Jr.

This is what multiple efforts look like — and it matters.

“As we get going, we’ll get into a position where we’ll keep rewarding the ability to play hard and the ability to play with physicality,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said.

While the Nets’ defense was laughable as a collective, it was Sharpe who made the play of the night. Trailing New Orleans 80-57 late in the third quarter, it would have been easy for Sharpe to dial it back and coast to the game’s inevitable outcome. But that is not how Sharpe is built.

Zion Williamson beat Mikal Bridges badly on a spin move in the paint and Sharpe was the final line of defense. Instead of surrendering an easy layup to Williamson, Sharpe extended fully and met the explosive forward at the rim. Williamson was so frustrated with the result, he got slapped with a technical foul.

“It really is like a boxing match,” Vaughn said. “When you get hit, how are you going to respond? And so we can’t think that making shots is the response. That’s the first piece of it.”

Sharpe, 22, has averaged 8.6 points, 7.7 rebounds (3.5 offensive) and 2.5 assists while shooting 61.5% from the field across his last 11 appearances entering Wednesday’s game in Houston. He is a cumulative plus-1.2 while playing 17.1 minutes a night in that stretch.

Claxton, Brooklyn’s starting center and soon-to-be unrestricted free agent, has averaged 11.2 points, 10.1 rebounds (2.7 offensive) and 2.3 assists over his last 10 appearances. He is a cumulative minus-10.7 while playing 27.5 minutes a night in that stretch.

Sharpe has been one rebound away from a double-double in two of his last three games and has reached double figures in scoring in six of his last seven games. The Nets have a NET rating of 9.2 with Sharpe on the court versus -6.4 with him off it. The on/off NET ratings for Claxton are -7.3 and 2.7.

Advanced metrics can sometimes be slightly deceiving in some cases, but they ultimately do not lie. The numbers clearly call for Sharpe to play more than he has. Brooklyn is simply a better team with Sharpe on the court, and while his stats are almost identical to Claxton over the team’s last 11 games, the energy he plays with on a nightly basis is beginning to separate him. The Nets need more of that across the board, and Sharpe’s effort should be rewarded, even if it comes at the expense of Claxton’s minutes.

More food for thought: Synergy basketball recently released its best five-man lineups in the NBA based on stabilized NET ratings in non-garbage minutes. The Nets have a unit that ranks 10th in the league at plus-4.3 points per 100 possessions ahead of the Sacramento Kings and the Golden State Warriors.

Claxton and Thomas are nowhere to be found. According to them, Brooklyn’s best lineup this season features Sharpe, Bridges, Johnson, Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith.