Why The Nets Keep Losing: Diagnosing The Issues In Brooklyn
With almost 20 games under the belts of the Brooklyn Nets, things have gone about as expected following Brooklyn’s hot start. With impressive wins against the Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Phoenix Suns, fans and NBA writers alike marveled at how the rag-tag and Jeremy Lin-less Nets were able to pull out the convincing victories against two possible playoff teams, the next super team, and a Suns team that is loaded with young talent.
Brooklyn has looked good, and competed in almost every contest, but the wins just aren’t materializing. Yes, Lin being out has been a major factor, but there are some things that not even Lin can fix. Kenny Atkinson’s system has done wonders for the Nets, but without the proper personnel, it hasn’t been very prosperous.
Atkinson’s motion offense has completely changed how Brooklyn operates. What was once a slow, old, half court team is now a young, fast paced, motion oriented team. This has led to a gigantic increase in three point attempts but it hasn’t necessarily led to a gigantic increase in makes. Nineteen games into the season and Brooklyn trails only Mike D’Antoni‘s James Harden led Houston Rockets in three point attempts. While they are taking a ton of threes, which is good, they are failing to hit them.
Taking the second most threes in the league but shooting the fourth worst percentage is not a winning formula. What is most shocking is that the issue isn’t with their stretch five’s in Brook Lopez and Justin Hamilton, but the wings and guards. Brook, who just added the three pointer to his arsenal, is second on the team with hitting 36.7 percent of his shots from deep while Hamilton is nailing 44.2 percent of his shots from deep.
Randy Foye is shooting 28 percent from deep, Isaiah Whitehead only shoots 14.3 percent, Joe Harris takes almost five threes per game and only hits about 31 percent of them, both Sean Kilpatrick and Bojan Bogdanovic are taking over four shots a game and hitting under 33 percent, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson 25 percent of his shots from deep. Even Jeremy Lin is apart of this problem, only hitting 31.6 of his threes while taking almost four per game before his hamstring injury.
Yes, some of this can be attributed to poor/no point guard play, and yes some of it can be attributed to guys still learning the offense and where to find the best shots, but something has got to give. Aside from Foye and Bogdanovic, none of these players are known to be knockdown shooters. At the end of the day, you have to realize that these players can only take you so far. The Nets will need to find shooters anyway they can. The three point shot currently accounts for almost forty percent of shots taken in the offense. If forty percent of the offense is based on something you do twenty-sixth best in the league, it isn’t a wonder the wins aren’t piling up.
Whether that is scouring the D-League for the next Danny Green, buying or trading for a draft pick, trading for a shooter before the deadline, or striking it rich in free agency this offseason, Brooklyn will need to add these pieces going forward.
Rebounding has been a real Achilles Heel for this team. Despite having a true seven footer that is an elite low post scorer, the rebounds aren’t materializing. Brook’s lack of rebounding isn’t a new issue, it is something that has plagued him since he entered the league. For whatever reason, it just doesn’t happen for him. Whether it is getting boxed out, out hustled, or moved out of position he just doesn’t get it done on the glass.
Unsung hero Trevor Booker is currently leading the team in rebounds per game with just about eight. Brook comes in second with 5.3 per game, then four players all pull in around 4.5 rebounds per game, but after that there is a gigantic drop off. The team does an alright job on the defensive glass, pulling in the twelfth most defensive rebounds per game in the league, but is twenty-second in offensive rebounding. Taking the second most threes in the league but hitting them at the fourth worst rate means there are tons of offensive rebounds to be had, the Nets just fail to capitalize on them.
Much like the situation with shooting, these players can only take you so far. You can’t expect Brook to become a ten rebound a night guy this late in his career, you can’t ask Hamilton to become a rebounding specialist when he isn’t equipped to do so. Sean Marks and Atkinson will need to address this sooner than later, probably in the offseason. In the meantime, there are options in the D-League if they can’t wait. It is a guard-heavy league with lots of opportunities for rebounds, teams would have a good idea of what they are getting in a rebounding specialist from there.
Both of these problems are trivial compared to the major issues facing the defense. It is the reason the Nets have lost the games they have and the fastest way to turn things around. If Atkinson can solve this problem, the wins will start coming and in a hurry. The problems with shooting and rebounding are without a doubt things that need to be solved, but nothing matters in comparison to the defense. Without fixing the hemorrhaging D, expect the Atkinson era to look pretty similar to this.
Trailing only the Suns in points allowed, the Nets are bad in almost every aspect defensively. Giving up 113 points per game, it isn’t a shock to see Brooklyn struggle to get wins. They allow just over ten threes, which is very high, and allow a league high twenty-five assists. In addition to that, they also allow forty-eight rebounds per game, third highest in the league. Teams can do almost anything they want against Brooklyn, they can’t stop anyone from doing anything.
Unlike the previous two issues, this one is not easily solved with the addition of a player or two. Atkinson needs to evaluate whatever system he is running, and throw it out. Solving this issue is way above my pay grade, but whether it is getting some guys that can defend or installing a new system or trying to light a fire under the current players, something needs to happen if they want to start winning now.
Again, I am not going to pretend I have the answer on how to fix this defense or that I know what is going on in Atkinson’s head, but if he wants this year to be more than a building block year, which is what was to be expected, then he needs to address this sooner than later.