One Team, Three Stats: Nets go beyond the arc

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann

The Brooklyn Nets have been one of the modest surprises in the first 15 days of the season. At 3-4, the team that most picked to finish 14th or 15th in the Eastern Conference is tied for ninth after Tuesday’s win against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Basics – Brooklyn Nets

Pace: 103.4 (4th)

OffRtg: 102.6 (18th)

DefRtg: 103.4 (15th)

NetRtg: -0.8 (19th)

With the Nets set to visit the New York Knicks in the first game of ESPN’s double-header on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET), here are three key numbers from Brooklyn’s first seven games.

No. 1

The Nets have taken 39.5 percent of their shots from 3-point range, up from 21.8 percent last season. That’s the biggest increase in the league by a wide margin.

New Nets coach Kenny Atkinson came from the Atlanta Hawks, who (at 32.9 percent) ranked fourth in percentage of shots that were 3-pointers over the last two seasons. They spread the floor, moved the ball, and often had five guys on the court who could shoot from the perimeter.

And that’s the early story with Atkinson’s Nets. All 14 Nets who have played this season have attempted at least one shot from beyond the arc, and their two centers — Brook Lopez and Justin Hamilton — rank fourth and fifth on the team in 3-point attempts. Lopez even hit a three off the dribble against Minnesota on Tuesday.

The Nets haven’t shot particularly well from beyond the arc. At 31.5 percent, they rank 25th in the league in 3-point percentage.

The combination of high volume and erratic shooting creates some volatility in the Nets’ offense from game to game and quarter to quarter. On Tuesday, they shot 5-for-8 from 3-point range in the second quarter and 1-for-9 in the third.

Shooting is a skill, one that Atkinson’s team is working on. As the season goes on, he’s hoping for better results.

“If [the shots] are open, we like that process,” he said Tuesday. “We work hard on our catch-and-shoot game, so we look at it like, eventually, if we continue to improve our skill at that particular facet of the game, that we’ll get more consistent.”

Despite the poor shooting from beyond the arc, the Nets’ have still seen an increase in effective field goal percentage, because they’ve shot better inside the 3-point line. Their floor spacing (often five guys on the perimeter) stretches the defense and creates driving lanes.

It’s really ideal for a *north-south attacker like Jeremy Lin, one of the league’s best guards at getting to the rim and to the free throw line. The Nets have won two of the three games that Lin has missed (or missed the finish of) with his hamstring injury, but they’ve still been better offensively with him on the floor (scoring 107 points per 100 possessions) than with him on the bench (100).

* Credit goes to Celtics play-by-play man Mike Gorman for describing Lin as “a north-south” player in the preseason. On point.

No. 2

Brooklyn leads the league with 333 passes per game, up from 292 (20th) last season.

Most of that is an increase in pace. No team has increased its pace than the Nets, who are averaging 6.2 more possessions per 48 minutes than they did last season (when they ranked 21st at 97.4 per 48). They’ve only seen a slight increase in passes per possession, from 3.0 last season to 3.1 this year. And they’ve assisted only 54.3 percent of their field goals, down from 58.3 percent last season.

They do move the ball really well on a lot of possessions, but still have many where Lin calls his own number off the dribble or where Lopez gets the ball in the post and keeps it there.

No. 3

Opponents have shot 27.3 percent at the rim when Lopez has been there to protect it.

That’s the lowest mark against 59 players who have defended at least five shots at the rim per game this season.

Last season, the Nets ranked last in opponent effective field goal percentage. This year, they rank 16th, and the biggest improvement has been at the rim, where they’ve allowed a lower volume and a lower percentage.

We shouldn’t react too strongly to opponent shooting numbers after seven games. But the early signs are encouraging and the Nets have played six of their seven games against teams that currently stand above the league average in offensive efficiency, including games against the No. 1 ranked Celtics and No. 3 ranked Bulls.

The Nets have allowed 5.1 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season. Only the Clippers (-10.6), Thunder (-8.4) and Hornets (-7.7) have seen a bigger improvement in defensive efficiency.

Even when you take the league’s overall drop *(-1.2), the Nets have improved more defensively than offensively (+1.7). Their opponents have not only shot worse, but turned the ball over more than they did last season.

* League-wide efficiency typically increases as the season goes on. The league average through Tuesday (102.7 points scored per 100 possessions) is much higher than it was at this point last year (100.6).

The scoring looks great at times, but the raw, points-per-game numbers are as much about pace as they are about efficiency.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions

DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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