Posted Dec 2 2011 12:59PM
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The New Jersey Nets doubled their win total from 12 to 24 in the 2010-11 season, but their most important move was trading for point guard Deron Williams at the deadline.
Williams has the ability to make everybody around him better, but he played just 12 games with the Nets last season and was nursing a wrist injury (that eventually required surgery) at the time. That, along with the amount of cap space the Nets have to use on free agents, makes New Jersey a huge wildcard in the Eastern Conference.
Set to begin playing Brooklyn in a year, the Nets hope that Williams will anchor their franchise well beyond the move. But he has the option to become a free agent before he ever plays a game at the Barclays Center, so the Nets might need to show improvement and potential for greatness right away.
Pace: 92.4 (24)
OffRtg: 100.2 (27)
DefRtg: 107.0 (22)
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
Avery Johnson coached a top-10 defense in his final two seasons in Dallas. And in his first season in New Jersey, the Nets had a couple of strong defensive stretches. There was a six-game stretch in December in which they held their opponents to just 94 points per 100 possessions and a seven-game stretch after the Williams trade when they allowed just over 100.
But overall, they just didn't have the personnel, either on the perimeter or in the paint, to maintain that kind of defense. They were a decent defensive rebounding team, but fouled too often and forced the fewest turnovers in the league, just 13.1 per 100 possessions.
Offensively -- at least in the 70 games they didn't have Williams -- the Nets had just one go-to player. As a result, Brook Lopez saw a lot of double-teams, which he doesn't yet handle well. The Nets were a putrid offense, scoring less than a point per possession before the Williams trade.
Playing with his wrist injury, Williams shot just 35 percent from the field in his 12 games with the Nets. But the team's offense was still stronger (scoring 105 points per 100 possessions) in Williams' 456 minutes on the floor.
As a good point guard should, Williams made his teammates more efficient. Six Nets played at least 100 minutes with Williams, and four of them had a higher true shooting percentage in those minutes than they did the rest of the season.
Player efficiency with and without Williams
But the Nets were just 4-8 with their new star, because defensively, they were pretty awful with Williams on the floor, allowing 113 points per 100 possessions. Interestingly, before trading Williams, the Utah Jazz were much worse defensively with him on the floor (108.4 points per 100 possessions allowed in 2,009 minutes) than they were with him on the bench (99.1 in 747 minutes).
Lopez is one of the best young centers in the league, and hasn't missed a game in his first three years. But he seemingly took a step backward last season, especially on the glass.
His rebounding took a dive from 8.6 rpg to 6.0 rpg last season. There were 27 games in which Lopez grabbed less the five rebounds and four in which he failed to grab a single defensive board.
You can blame some of Lopez's rebounding regression on Kris Humphries, who had a much bigger role than he did the previous season and who ranked third in the league (behind Marcus Camby and Kevin Love) in rebounding percentage, grabbing 22 percent of available boards while he was on the floor.
Humphries certainly took some rebounds away from Lopez, but the numbers show that Lopez was almost as bad a rebounder when Humphries was on the bench as he was when Humphries was on the floor with him.
Brook Lopez' rebounding numbers, 2010-11
|REB%=Percentage of available rebounds grabbed while on the floor|
His rebounding numbers weren't the only ones that indicated that Lopez became more of a finesse player last season. He also moved away from the basket offensively. Lopez took just 33 percent of his shots from within five feet of the basket last season, a decrease from 49 percent the year before.
Brook Lopez's shooting within five feet of the basket
|% FGA=Percent of total field goal attempts|
The presence of Williams didn't really change things. Of Lopez's 183 shots taken with Williams as his point guard (and on the floor), just 66 (36.1 percent) were from within five feet of the bucket.
Now, it's not like Lopez can't shoot. Despite the increased number of shots from the outside, his overall field goal percentage took just a slight dip (from 49.9 percent to 49.2 percent). He shot 39.8 percent from 10 feet and out, better than the league average of 38.4 percent.
But spending his time further away from the basket caused Lopez's free-throw rate to go down last season and he was a less efficient offensive player as a result. His true shooting percentage dipped from 57.0 percent to 54.9 percent. For Lopez to be most effective, he'll need to strike a better balance between his post game and his perimeter game.
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