At 0-4 with no first round pick next June (and no control of any first round pick until 2019), no hope for a real superstar on the roster until at least the summer and a lack of talent to compete in the Eastern Conference, it looks more likely by the day that this will be a painful lost season for the Nets.
Still reeling from the trade for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, Brooklyn was essentially hard-capped over the summer and didn’t acquire any free agents who cost more than the mini mid-level exception. The Nets needed to dole out $110 million to keep Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young in the offseason and will gain flexibility next summer when Joe Johnson’s $24.89 million contract comes off the books.
Deron Williams, mercifully, had his contract bought out, with Jarrett Jack sliding in as the starting point guard this season. Getting Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in a draft-night trade with Portland gives the Nets a good young piece for the future, but the team’s poor play this season due to their lack of talent won’t be “rewarded” since their first-round pick will go to Boston as part of the Pierce-Garnett trade.
In an incredibly tiny four-game sample size, the Nets statistically can’t really do anything well. They’re 27th in points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, 29th in scoring offense, 29th in pace and 28th in field goal defense.
One major weakness that Brooklyn head coach Lionel Hollins would like to address going forward is the team’s 3-point shooting, where the Nets are 28th in attempts per game and 28th in field goal percentage.
“I think the inconsistency, not inability, maybe inability with certain guys, to go into the paint and throw the ball back out,” Hollins said of the cause for the team’s 3-point woes. He discussed the Nets running a set play and then being unable to throw the ball back outside after dribble penetration. “We have to be better at going into the paint and making the pass back out. And then that’s starts the scramble for them, because you get in there and everybody helps.”
The Nets looked less stagnant offensively in their 103-96 loss to Milwaukee on Monday in front of a pathetic 12,576 fans, doing a better job of spacing the floor and moving the ball.
“I thought it was pretty good,” Nets forward Joe Johnson said of the ball movement. “I thought early on we got great shots and we had that 33-point quarter. But we got fatigued in the second half. I thought we got some great looks but it just didn’t happen.”
Brooklyn had 33 and 32-point quarters against the Bucks, its best output since a 36-point second quarter in the season opener against Chicago, but was unable to sustain it for the entire length of the game.
“We move ourselves. I think that’s the key. I think us moving and screening and not standing and holding the ball,” Hollins said. “Instead of holding it, one dribble and pull back and shoot a long jump-shot, just go and make a play for somebody else.”
Despite shooting 16-of-37 from the paint, 6-of-19 from three and surrendering 25 points off of turnovers, the Nets were in the game right until the end.
“To put that much effort and that much fight into the game and not pull it out is definitely disappointing,” said Nets guard Shane Larkin, who provided a valuable spark off the bench and played well in the backcourt alongside Jack on Monday.
Another huge problem is Brooklyn’s field goal defense, where it’s allowed 51.1 percent shooting on 2-point shots and 42.7 percent from three. Both of those percentages are in the league’s bottom five.
To show where the Nets are struggling defensively, here’s a chart showing how Brooklyn’s opponents are shooting divided into six zones on the court. Numbers courtesy of NBA.com. League rank in parentheses.
|Nets D By Zone (League Rank)||Attempts/Game||Makes/Game||Field Goal %|
|Restricted Area||17.8 (7)||11.5 (13)||64.8 (22)|
|In The Paint (Non Restricted)||18.8 (10)||8.5 (17)||45.3 (20)|
|Mid-Range||18 (5)||7.3 (10)||40.3 (20)|
|Left Corner 3||2.5 (9)||1.8 (25)||70 (30)|
|Right Corner 3||2.3 (11)||1 (17)||42.9 (21)|
|Above The Break 3||18.8 (25)||7.8 (28)||41.3 (29)|
Brooklyn is above average in opponent attempts, likely because its slow pace also limits in the number of possessions the other teams have as well. The same applies to the number of field goals the team allows per game. The problem is the percentage of shots its opponents make, all below average.
As seen in the chart, Brooklyn’s had a big problem defending the 3-pointer through four games. Opponents being 7-of-10 on left corner threes and 3-of-7 on right corner threes is clearly a tiny sample size that could very well be corrected over time, but allowing such a high percentage on above-the-break triples is alarming.
Teams are going to continue hoisting threes against the Nets until they can prove that they can adequately defend it. The teams with the four worst 3-point field goal defenses— Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Houston and New Orleans— are a combined 2-14 for a reason.
“We need a win so we can get some confidence and go forward,” Hollins said after the game.
The East’s lone 0-4 team has a whole lot to improve on this season while not having much to look forward to during this 2015-2016 campaign. With no draft pick next summer and no real reinforcements in sight, it looks like it’s going to be a very long winter for the Brooklyn Nets.
Shlomo Sprung is a national columnist for SheridanHoops who focuses on analytics, profiles and features. He is also the web editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, The Sporting News, Business Insider and other publications. You should follow him on Twitter.