The Nets' Play Style and Identity

One of the main problems of the post-KMart Nets was a lack of identity. They didn't know who they were. Were they a running team? Were they a half court team? Part of this reason was perhaps a mismatch in terms of personnel. While Kidd and Jefferson were holdovers of the run and gun fast breaking teams, Carter and Krstic were more oriented towards a half court game.

The same possible situation is still well and alive right now.

Just what is the identity of the Nets? Do we know if this Nets team will run, or if it will be slow? Before the season started, we believed that Avery would try to get a high powered offense in, running all the time. Perhaps something akin to a Dallas offense. But in actual practice, the Nets were the slowest team in the NBA.


So what will be the identity of the Nets? I think a team's style, a team's identity, should first and foremost be built on the players you have. It should maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. If you have an incomplete team, decide on a style, and then get guys that fit it.


So, should the Nets run, or should the Nets slow down? In the golden era of the Nets, the personnel was perfectly tailored to the style they ran. Everyone fit perfectly. KMart was a fast, mobile big man who loved to run the break. Jefferson was an athletic guy who loved to run the break. Kerry Kittles was mobile and could hit shots outside. Jason Kidd could grab a rebound to start a fast break all by himself, and of course was the master class in how to run a fast break. Everything fit, it was harmony. They were 9th and 11th in pace during those 2 finals years. But 2003 onwards, they got slower. They became 18th, then 21st, then 18th, then 16th, until it all just blew up. 

So, what kind of personnel do we have?

Brook Lopez - Half court. He can run a bit, but his post game is best utilized in the half court. Not to mention he doesn't have the stamina to keep running all game.

Kris Humphries (assuming he stays) - Running. His speed and athleticism are best utilized running the break. From NAS:

When Hump did run in transition, not only did he provide intro video-worthy highlights, he was also extraordinarily efficient – he scored on nearly 80% of these possessions (often with dunks) and ranked 4th in the NBA in transition PPP.

Travis Outlaw - Neither. His poor shooting doesn't help you space the floor in the half court, and he wasn't good in transition last year either. From NAS:

despite the fact that most NBA players make a high percentage of their shots on the break, Outlaw found a way to buck that trend. He shot under 50% from the field and a pitiful 5-25 from beyond the arc. While there were a few instances of Outlaw shooting out of rhythm, for the most part his threes in the fast break were open and squared to the basket. Missing wide open shots at the very least means you’re getting open shots. I’d like to think that Outlaw just had an off-year, as he’s proven that he’s a better shooter in the past. I suppose we’ll see next year. As a slasher, though, Outlaw didn’t show much lift and wasn’t particularly strong towards the basket.

Anthony Morrow: Both. Morrow can hit threes, period. Whether in transition or in the half court, he does his job.From NAS once again:

Morrow is one of the most efficient transition guards in the NBA, scoring at a rate of 1.37 PPP in transition. His efficiency comes from his practice as a complimentary player in transition opportunities. Rather than handling the ball from end-to-end, Morrow is instead very skilled at slightly trailing the play or sliding out on either wing, and he’s often sneaky enough to do so without attracting defensive attention. He’s an excellent shooter, obviously, but it’s that shooting ability combined with his understanding of transition spacing help make him such a dangerous threat

Deron Williams: Half court. We know he can run a half court offense, he did it for years with Sloan. He wanted to speed up their offense there, because he thought they were way too predictable, but there are some numbers that Deron isn't all that great in transition. From NBA playbook:

Another reason why Sloan may not want to run is because Deron Williams isn’t a very good point guard in transition.  Williams is posting a PPP of 1.16 when in transition which is 164th in the NBA.  This is due mostly to turnovers as Williams is turning the ball over on 15.5% of his individual transition possessions which is good for a ranking of 246th.

Jordan Farmar: Running. His athleticism on the break is one of the reasons he was such a good sparkplug in LA.

Damion James: Running. James is not a proven enough shooter to be a factor in a half court offense, and his relentless motor will serve him better in a running game.


The Final Verdict: Half court. It is in my humble opinion that the Nets would maximize their talent if they focused on a slower, more precise, and more thought out half court game plan. What does being a half-court team entail in terms of personnel? Shooters. And lots of them. And just because I said shooters, that doesn't mean building an Orlando Magic team. Having shooters doesn't mean they don't have to defend. The Nets had 1 reliable perimeter shooter for the most part of last season. Morrow. Outlaw shot 30% from three, James barely played, Ross and Graham weren't factors, Devin was a shaky shooter. That can't happen if you're going to run a proper half court set.

It would also be nice to get some slashers, some guys who can make the defense collapse in order to get your shooters open. As San Antonio has evidenced in previous years, you can't have only 1 or 2 slashers on your team and have the rest be spot up jump shooters. Once Manu got injured, none of their role players could step outside of their spot up jump shooter role, stagnating their offense.

Of course, this is mainly dependent on the actual ability of your coach to run good half court schemes and plays. You can't have a successful half court offense if your coach is a complete dud. Does Avery have the offensive coaching ability in him for half court success? The Mavs were very slow under Avery, 27th, 28th, and 24th in pace during his 3 seasons, but racked up 178 wins. Can Avery replicate that even without a scoring dynamo like Dirk?

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