Nets Get Green Light From Three

By Cory Wright
BROOKLYN, NY - OCTOBER 6: Luis Scola #4 of the Brooklyn Nets shoots against Ish Smith #14 of the Detroit Pistons on October 6, 2016 at Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

As long as it’s open, coach Kenny Atkinson is giving every one of the Brooklyn Nets the green light to shoot a three. And if Thursday’s preseason win over the Detroit Pistons was any indication, there will be a lot of Nets – from Jeremy Lin to Brook Lopez – shooting from downtown. “His big thing is playing with pace,” Joe Harris said on Friday at HSS Training Center. “That offense kind of flows through our motion, guys are going to get a lot of open 3s, especially when guys like Jeremy are getting into the paint – it creates a lot of openings for guys.”

The Nets hit 14-of-34 from deep on Thursday and that was without Bojan Bogdanovic – the team’s best 3-point shooter last season. Harris went 2-of-4, Lin led the way with 5-of-8, and Luis Scola went 3-of-4. In total, 12 of the 15 Nets who played in the preseason opener took a shot from downtown.

“We’re committed to it, we believe in it,” the coach said. “But again, I think I said last night after the game, we do want open shots. I thought we took more than a couple, four or five that were contested. And we show it to them and say ‘make another pass, or drive it.’ It’s not an all-out extreme 3-point attack. I think it’s we’re trying to get open shots.”

Atkinson has used the term “system fit” to describe a lot of the Nets’ offseason moves and it’s clear that their ability to shoot 3s plays into that system. Scola morphed from a long-two shooter into a capable 3-point shooter last season in Toronto, hitting 40.4% from downtown. Justin Hamilton was brought in to complement/back up Lopez at center, but the 7-foot big man has a 3-pointer in his toolbox as well. Harris chucked up around six 3s per game last season in the D-League and the Nets’ new system fits his shooter’s mentality. Greivis Vasquez hit 38% (133-of-351) two years ago. Mix in returnees Bogdanovic and Sean Kilpatrick and the Nets have a lot of options on the perimeter.

“Guys who are able to shoot the ball on this team really like it. Guys like Luis hit a number of 3s, Justin. We have some bigs that can really shoot. The way the offense flows just naturally guys are going to be able to get a lot of clean looks from three.”

That’s something the Nets lacked last season, as the team had the third-lowest 3-point frequency (21.8%) in the NBA. By contrast, Atkinson’s Atlanta Hawks had the sixth-highest frequency (35.1%). On Thursday, 43.5% of the Nets’ field goal attempts were from beyond the arc.

Lin said after Thursday’s game that he knows he won’t be getting eight open 3s every night, so while the Nets are looking for the deep ball, they’ll take what defenses give them. With a center like Lopez and a penetrating point guard like Lin, they always have the option to pick-and-roll effectively.

“It’s not super-strict in terms of calling a play every time down. It’s more of a motion offense, and it’s read-and-react,” Atkinson said. “They’ve got a little bit more freedom there. I was happy with our pace, happy with how we moved the ball. We can get better, definitely. [We had] 21 assists, I’d love to be around 28, 29, 30; those are real magic numbers for where we want to go.”

All Atkinson is looking for is the open shot. And if you’ve got it, take it.

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