One Team, One Stat: Nets force right shots, but that's not enough
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2018-19 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Brooklyn Nets, who couldn’t turn their opponents over.
The Nets allowed their opponents to take just 57 percent of their shots from the restricted area or 3-point range.
That was, by far, the lowest rate in the league as shots from the restricted area (worth 1.23 points per attempt league-wide over the last three years) and from beyond the arc (1.07) are the most efficient ones. Forcing a lot of shots in between (worth just 0.81 points per attempt) is a good thing.
There is a correlation between shot-location defense (the percentage of your opponents shots that come from the restricted area or 3-point range) and overall defensive efficiency. Four of the bottom five teams in points allowed per 100 possessions — Chicago, Cleveland, Memphis and Sacramento — ranked in the bottom six in forcing shots in between the restricted area and the 3-point line.
But the Nets ranked 21st defensively (in the bottom 10 for the fourth straight season), despite forcing the right shots. They couldn’t turn their shot-location success into overall defensive success, because their defense was otherwise was too soft.
The Nets forced those shots in between by keeping their bigs back in the paint against pick-and-rolls, the same basic scheme that the league’s No. 1 defense — that of the Utah Jazz — employed. It allowed Brooklyn to rank sixth in opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area (61.1 percent).
It also kept the ball in the hands of the initial ball-handler, because he wasn’t forced to give it up. According to Synergy play-type tracking, the Nets allowed 280 more points (3.4 more per game) than any other team from pick-and-roll ball-handlers. They were at the top of the league in the percent of opponent possessions (22.3 percent) that were pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions and in how efficiently their opponents scored (0.91 points per possession) on those possessions.
Being at the top of the league in the latter is not a good thing. While the Nets had the highest opponent rate of opponent shots that came from between the restricted area and 3-point range, they also had the highest opponent field goal percentage on those shots in between.
Even at a league-high 42.6 percent, those shots in between were worth only 0.85 points per attempt — far less than the value of restricted area or 3-point shots.
The Nets’ bigger problem on defense was their inability to force turnovers. They forced just 12.3 per 100 possessions, the league’s lowest rate by a pretty comfortable margin. According to Synergy, their opponent turnover rate (9.4 percent) on pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions was also the lowest rate in the league by far (and less than half the rate of three different teams).
Furthermore, only 50.4 percent of Brooklyn opponent turnovers, the league’s second lowest opponent rate, were live balls. They had just one player (Caris LeVert — 3.2) in the top 75 in deflections per 36 minutes. Fewer live balls result in fewer transition opportunities for an offense that ranked 22nd.
It wasn’t just about deflecting the passes their opponents threw. It was also about not having their opponents throw that many passes. Brooklyn opponents recorded assists on just 52 percent of their field goals, the league’s lowest rate and well below the league average of 59 percent.
The Nets have the framework of a good defense. The challenge now is getting more active and disruptive within that framework.
Note: Stats marked with an * below are based on possession estimates. All other stats are based on true possession counts.
NETS NOTES – GENERAL
- One of two teams (Phoenix is the other) that has ranked in the bottom 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency each of the last three seasons. In the last 12 seasons, they’ve ranked in the top 10 on either end of the floor just once, when they ranked ninth in offensive efficiency in 2012-13.
- Saw the league’s second biggest drop in pace, from 101.8 possessions per 48 minutes (first in the league) in 2016-17 to 99.7 (sixth) last season.
- Had the second biggest differential (behind that of Houston) in points per game scored from 3-point range (plus-15.6) and the second biggest discrepancy (behind that of Houston) in points per game scored in the paint (minus-4.0).
- Had the league’s second worst record (2-8) with a rest advantage (when their opponent was playing the second game of a back-to-back and they didn’t play the day before). Only Phoenix (1-13) was worse, and the Nets had the same record (2-8) with a rest disadvantage (when they were the team playing the second game of a back-to-back).
NETS NOTES – OFFENSE
- Have been a *below-average offensive team in each of the last four seasons, in 16 of the last 18, and in 37 of the 42 seasons they’ve been in the NBA.
- Were the third most improved offensive team in the league last season, scoring 106.0 points per 100 possessions (22nd in the league), up from 103.6 (29th) in 2016-17.
- Scored just 1 point per possession in transition, the worst mark in the league.
- Saw the league’s second-biggest drop in turnover percentage, committing 15.1 turnovers per 100 possessions (22nd in the league), down from 16.2 (30th) in 2016-17. Only 51 percent of their turnovers, the lowest rate in the league, were live-ball turnovers.
- Saw the league’s second-biggest drop in the percentage of their shots that came from the restricted area, from 35 percent (the league’s sixth highest rate) in 2016-17 to 31 percent (19th highest rate) last season. Still ranked second (behind Houston — 82 percent) in the percentage of their shots that came from the restricted area or 3-point range (72 percent) for the second straight season.
- Led the league with 10 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers per game.
- Saw the league’s second biggest increase in 3-point percentage from before the All-Star break (34.6 percent — 28th in the league) to after it (37.9 percent — seventh). Also saw the league’s third biggest post-break increase in the percentage of their shots that came from 3-point range, from 40 percent (second) before the break to 44 percent (still second) after it.
- Scored 0.84 points per possession out of timeouts, the league’s second-worst mark, per Synergy tracking.
NETS NOTES – DEFENSE
- Have been a *worse-than-average defensive team in each of the last 11 seasons, ranking no higher than 16th (in 2012-13). The only other team that hasn’t had a better-than-average defense in any of the last seven seasons is the Sacramento Kings, who have been worse than average for 12 straight years.
- The 156 corner 3-pointers they allowed were the fewest in the league.
- Allowed opponents to score just 1.04 points per possession, the league’s second lowest rate, in transition, according to Synergy play-type tracking.
- Only 12 percent of opponent shots, the lowest rate in the league, came in the last six seconds of the shot clock (when league-wide effective field goal percentage is lowest), according to Second Spectrum tracking.
- Only five percent of opponent possessions, the second lowest opponent rate in the league, were isolations.
NETS NOTES – LINEUPS
- Got 41 percent of their total scoring, the second highest rate in the league, from off the bench.
- Averaged 104.3 possessions per 48 minutes with D’Angelo Russell on the floor. That was the fifth highest on-court pace mark among 224 players who averaged at least 20 minutes in 40 games or more.
- Highest on-court OffRtg among returning two-man combinations (minimum 500 minutes together): Russell and Jarrett Allen. The Nets scored 109.5 points per 100 possessions in 527 minutes with the pair on the floor together.
- Lowest on-court DefRtg among returning two-man combinations (minimum 500 minutes together): LeVert and DeMarre Carroll. The Nets allowed just 101.4 points per 100 possessions in 652 minutes with the pair on the floor together.
- Lineup of Spencer Dinwiddie, Allen Crabbe, Carroll, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Tyler Zeller allowed opponents to make just 5.8 3-pointers per 48 minutes, fewest among 48 lineups that played at least 200 minutes together. It also forced just 10.2 turnovers per 100 possessions, the lowest rate among that same group of 48 lineups.
NETS NOTES – INDIVIDUAL
- Jarrett Allen had an effective field goal percentage of 59.6 percent, the best mark among 25 rookies with at least 300 field goal attempts. His field goal percentage of 60.5 percent as a roll man was the third best mark among 24 players with at least 150 roll-man field goal attempts.
- Allen allowed 1.13 points per possession when defending post-ups, the worst mark among 47 players who defended at least 75 post-up possessions.
- Allen contested 19.8 shots per 36 minutes, most among 275 players who played at least 1,000 minutes last season.
- Allen Crabbe took 47 percent of his shots from 3-point range, down from 64 percent in 2016-17. That was the sixth biggest drop among 206 players with at least 300 total field goal attempts both seasons. He still ranked third with 2.4 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers per game.
- Ed Davis led the league with 575 rebounds off the bench (115 more than any other player).
- Davis averaged 6.9 screen assists per 36 minutes, most among 275 players that played at least 1,000 minutes.
- Spencer Dinwiddie had an assist-turnover ratio of 4.09, the second best mark among 326 players who averaged at least 10 minutes per game in 40 games or more.
- Dinwiddie saw the fifth biggest jump in usage rate (from 14.4 percent to 20.6 percent) among 235 players who played at least 500 minutes in 2016-17 and 1,000 minutes last season. Caris LeVert saw the eighth biggest jump (from 16.4 percent to 22.4 percent) among the same group.
- Dinwiddie tied for third with seven field goals (on 23 attempts) to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime, though he was just 1-for-10 on 3-pointers to tie or take the lead in the final minute.
- Jared Dudley scored just 0.110 points per touch, the third lowest mark among 295 players who averaged at least 20 touches per game in 40 games or more. He was the only non-point-guard in the bottom 10.
- Traveon Graham had a usage rate of just 11.1 percent, the eighth lowest mark among 285 players who averaged at least 15 minutes in 40 games or more. Davis had the 14th lowest mark.
- Joe Harris had an effective field goal percentage of 61.2 percent, the sixth best mark among 180 players (and the best among guards not named Stephen Curry) with at least 500 field goal attempts. His effective field goal percentage of 67.9 percent after the All-Star break was the second best mark among 253 players (best among guards) with at least 100 post-break field goal attempts.
- Harris shot 63 percent on drives, the best mark among players who attempted at least 100 shots on drives.
- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson attempted 3.4 times as many mid-range shots (184) as 3-pointers (54). That was the second highest ratio (behind that of LaMarcus Aldridge) among 207 players with at least 200 total field goal attempts from outside the paint.
- LeVert took 33 percent of his shots from 3-point range, down from 48 percent in 2016-17. That was the second biggest drop among 206 players with at least 300 total field goal attempts both seasons. DeMarre Carroll (from 58 percent to 50 percent) saw the 11th biggest drop among that same group.
- Shabazz Napier had an effective field goal percentage of 42 percent after the All-Star break, down from 53 percent before the break. That was the fourth biggest drop among players with at least 250 field goal attempts before the break and 150 after it.
- D’Angelo Russell had a true shooting percentage of 50.9 percent, the worst mark among 13 players who used at least 30 percent of their team’s possessions while on the floor.
- Russell took 51 percent of his shots from 3-point range after the All-Star break, up from 33 percent before the break. That was the biggest jump in 3PA/FGA among 203 players with at least 250 field goal attempts before the break and 100 after it.
NBA TV’s Nets preview premieres at 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Oct. 10.
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