FanPost

The Month in Review: November

Now that we've wrapped up the first month of the season, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look back at the best and worst of November for the Brooklyn Nets.

Before we look at the Nets in the present day, I thought it would be a good idea to take a step back and look at how this Nets team is compared to their play in the 2011-2012 lockout shortened season.

Brooklyn Nets 2012-2013

New Jersey Nets 2011-2012

Record

11-4

-

Offensive Efficiency

104.4 99.7

Defensive Efficiency

101.5 106.9

Pace

87.8 93.1

Turnover Rate

12.8 14.33

Free Throw Rate

29.3 26.9

Assist Rate

20.82 18.88

Offensive Rebounding %

30.36 27.82

Effective Field Goal %

48.8 47.28

Opponent effective Field Goal %

48.1 51.31

Maybe it was the name. I don't think I need to remind anyone of how bad last season was, but I'll do it anyway. The Nets were really, really, really bad, especially on defense. As a point of reference, the Charlotte Bobcats, they of the worst season (by winning %) in NBA history, had a defensive efficiency of 107.8, good for worst in the league and six points higher than the league average. The Nets, at various points late in the year, were worse defensively than one of the worst teams in league history. A lot of their struggles could be due to injuries that Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, & Gerald Wallace (when he got here) suffered. But when we look at the roster for the majority of the season, no one outside of DeShawn Stevenson is what we would profile as a good defender. As such, the defense struggled everywhere on the court, as teams were able to get to the basket at will (27 shots per game at the rim, third highest in the Association) and have major success from downtown (37.4 percent from three point range, second highest mark in the NBA after Denver).

The offense wasn't much better. They continued their trend of not converting at the basket, as they shot a league worst 56.7 percent at the rim. With Lopez out of the picture, the Nets (especially Deron WIlliams) over-relied on the three point shot. The remarkable thing about the Nets is that they played at a very slow pace, played 16 fewer games than they did the year before, and outside of Anthony Morrow didn't feature an above average three point shooter. And yet, they still ended up being third in the NBA in total attempts from downtown while being only 18th in percentage. But the most amazing part about this was the Nets ended up taking 144 more three pointers than the year before despite 16 less games to play with.

Now let's take a look-see as to how this Nets team compares to the rest of the league this season:

Brooklyn Nets

League Average

Record

11-4

-

Offensive Efficiency

104.4 101.5

Defensive Efficiency

101.5 101.5

Pace

87.8 92

Turnover Rate

13.13 14.1

Free Throw Rate

29.3 28.2

Assist Rate

20.82 19.98

Offensive Rebounding %

30.36 27.02

Effective Field Goal %

48.96 48.7

Opponent effective Field Goal %

48.26 48.7

*as of 11/25/12

I think the general expectation was for Brooklyn to have a great offense, and they've lived up to that. As of this writing, they're seventh in offensive efficiency.

So what's been the main cause for the offensive resurgence? For once, the Nets are consistently converting on their shot opportunities at the rim. After being in the bottom 10 of the league at the rim each year (including three consecutive Bottom 2 ranks) since 2006, the Nets were one of he best at converting their rim opportunities during November. As a team, they converted on 67 percent of their at the rim attempts, which was good for seventh best in the NBA. A lot of that success was due to Brook Lopez, who I'll get to later.

One of the nice things about the Nets this year is the ball control. Up until the second half against the Miami Heat on 12/1, the Nets had been doing a very good job of limiting the turnovers, as they coughed it up on only 13 percent of their possessions. Something that hasn't been so nice is the three point shooting. Due to Brook Lopez being back and dominating, you would've thought Brooklyn would trim down the long range attempts. But surprisingly that hasn't been the case. The Nets are still taking twenty-two shots from deep a game, except this year the Nets are shooting only 33.5 percent, down from the 34.2 percent they banked on last season.

For a while, the Nets defense was looking pretty terrible. But as of late, they've been putting the clamps on their opponents. Coming into the year, I thought the Nets were going to be thoroughly mediocre on defense. That feeling got stronger after the first quarter on Opening Night against the Raptors. But the Nets have been respectable on the whole this year, and have stepped up in the last ten games. In those games, the Nets have held opponents under 100 points eight times. And if you're saying to yourself, "That sounds nice, but who'd they play," that'd be a fair critique. But, in that ten game stretch, they played good-great defense against some of the league's best offensive teams (the Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the New York Knicks).

Best game: Win vs. the Los Angeles Clippers on 11/23/12

The "right answer is probably the Knicks game, but I'll go with this one since the Clippers are the better team right now. The Nets had a really poor second quarter, but they turned it on in the second half and shut down one of the best teams in the Western Conference. The Clippers have been one of the better offensive units in the league this year, and they only made 10 shots the entire second half. Brook Lopez had a dominant game on the inside as he converted 10 field goals at the rim. Joe Johnson had a good game as well, scoring an efficient 19 points on 8-12 from the field.

Worst game: at Miami on 11/7/12

This was an early season test for the new look Nets, and they flunked. The Minnesota collapse was more catastrophic, but not being competitive against the Heat stung. It was close early on, but then the Heat put the clamps on the Nets, got hot on offense and ended up winning by double digits (sound familiar?). Even though it was garbage time, Marshon Brooks (remember him?) had a nice game shooting the ball, scoring 12 points on 5-7 from the field. To be fair, the Nets didn't have Gerald Wallace in this matchup so maybe he would've given the Nets a better shot at pulling off the upset.

Best player of the month: Brook Lopez

Metric

Brook Lopez

Other Centers

Minutes per game

29.7 20

True Shooting %

55.5 53.9

Usage rate

28.6 17.47

Turnover rate

9.3 15.40

Rebound rate

13.3 13.8

Assist rate

4.33 10.05

PER

24

15

Win Shares per 48

.178

.099

Wins Produced per 48

.096 .099

Lopez has been outstanding, especially on the offensive end. On the surface, 13 field goal attempts would seem to be on the low side. But, Lopez leads the team and is 10th in the league in usage rate so he's definitely getting a good amount of touches. I wanna go back to something I said about Lopez back in May:

Remember how I mentioned earlier about Brook getting further and further away from the rim? That's something that should probably be curtailed a bit. It's a benefit to have a big that can hit a 20 footer as it provides more options on offense and can open up the floor a little bit. But when your big is taking fewer shots at the rim (& shooting it at a worse % too), it creates a problem. I think it would be in the Nets best interests to get him the ball in the paint earlier in the shot clock.

So far, the Nets have been doing just that and it has been wildly successful. Lopez averaged close to seven shots a game at the rim in November, and shot a career high 77.5 percent at the basket. This represents a break from the past two seasons, where Lopez spent more time outside of the paint than a good amount of Nets fans would've liked. In his last full season (2010-2011), 58 percent of Lopez's offense came via jumpers vs. 42 percent coming near the basket. To be fair to Lopez, he did spend the season dealing with the after effects of mononucleosis. But at the same time, Lopez played all 82 games at 35 minutes a night and was Top 20 in the NBA in Usage Rate, and when you're on the court every night playing all of those minutes and receiving a ton of shot opportunities, it isn't unreasonable to expect a high level of production in return.

But to get back to the present, something that's been surprising is his lack of success at the free throw line in the early going. He's shooting only 63.8 percent at the line this year after shooting 62.5 percent in his five game run last year. I don't think it's something to be overly concerned about since he's a career 79 percent shooter and has been drawing fouls 13 percent of the time, but I'm hoping he picks it up when he comes back from injury.

Something that's been a consistent criticism of Lopez throughout his career is his lack of rebounding. He still isn't one of the elite rebounders in the league, but he's back to the level of rebounding he displayed in his sophomore season. His defensive rebounding rate is 17, which is slightly below the 18.3 other Centers have amassed this season. A consistent defense of Brook's lack of rebounding this season is "the Nets have Kris Humphries/Reggie Evans on the team, so who cares if Lopez isn't a great rebounder?" Now in theory, that makes sense seeing as how they employ two players that are Top 10 rebounders in the league (Reggie Evans at 2, Hump at 7). But in actuality, the Nets haven't been a good defensive rebounding team on the whole or when Lopez has been on the court. Brooklyn has been the fifth worst defensive rebounding team in the league, grabbing only 71 percent of the defensive rebounds that were available to them. With Lopez, they fared even worse, snatching up only 69 percent of available defensive rebounds. Lopez has put up 2.5 blocks per game & the Nets have improved defensively when he's on the court compared to previous seasons so the lack of team rebounding hasn't been fatal.

Honorable mentions: Jerry Stackhouse & Reggie Evans

For a dude who was just recently an analyst on NBATV (and a decent one I must say), Stack has surprised the hell out of mostly everyone. He's been hitting practically every shot he's taken this year, has played good defense and has surprised not employed by the Nets.

Is he a flopper? Yeah. Is he a deadspot on offense? Pretty much. But has he been very productive as a member of the Nets so far? Absolutely. Up to this point, he's been the best rebounder in the league, collecting 25 percent of the rebounds available while he was on the court. The big benefit Evans provides is on the defensive side of the ball. The Nets have a defensive rating of 100.9, which is respectable and a big step up from past seasons. With Evans on the floor? 93.5. Without looking, I'm almost certain that's one of the best individual marks in the NBA this year.

Worst player of the month: Joe Johnson

To me, this one's easy. When you've been brought in to be the second star along with Williams, you've gotta do better than shooting 41% from the field. To be fair, he has begun to turn it around, as he did have great shooting games vs. Boston and Orlando recently. But on the whole, his shooting has been extremely disappointing. Minus a short burst in the Heat game on 12/1, December isn't off to a good start for JJ. At some point he's gonna put it all together right?

Runner up: C.J. Watson

I just learned something: C.J.'s nickname "Quiet Storm" came from his sister. Here I had been thinking he got the name from that badass Mobb Deep song. Oh well.

Moving on, he's gotten plenty of opportunities, but he hasn't been helping much. He's been shooting poorly from three, as he's only converted on 32.7 percent of his long range bombs, despite taking almost four per game in his 20 minutes of game action. To make matters worse, the Nets have been demonstrably worse with him on the court defensively. The Nets are allowing close to 107 points with him on the court vs. 97.3 with him out of the game.

Showcase Games for December:

vs. Oklahoma City on December 4

After playing the NBA Champion Miami Heat on Saturday, the Nets get to match up Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook & the defending Western Conference Champions on National TV (well, NBATV counts as National TV I suppose). As usual with OKC, they've made their living at the free throw line, as they're second in team free throw rate and are shooting a league leading 83.7 percent from the charity stripe. The Harden trade hasn't hindered their success, as Kevin Martin has stepped in and done an excellent job coming off the bench. He's having a career year shooting the ball, as he's put up a True Shooting percentage of 65.6, thanks in large part to shooting a career high 48.8 percent from deep. He's never been one to get off his own shot, and that trend has continued into this year as he's been assisted on 75 percent of his makes.

But I, and perhaps a bunch of others who'll be watching, am very excited to see the point guard matchup between Williams & Westbrook. To warm you up for that matchup, here's a comparison post between the Team USA point guards I cooked up in the summer.

Check them out: Welcome to Loud CIty

vs. New York on December 11 & @ New York on December 19

Rounds II & III of the "Battle for New York" takes place in Brooklyn and then heads to MSG. This might be the last time we see the Knicks as currently constituted, as Amare Stoudemire is shooting for a Christmas Day return & Iman Shumpert not far behind him. I would imagine we'd see Jason Kidd this time, as he's hoping to make his return against the Heat on 12/6.

One would assume that Raymond Felton won't miss 16 shots again or Melo miss 6 FTA again, but you never know. The games promise to be physical, as the first matchup was a physical affair and with the fans deep into this matchup (along with the ESPN audience watching at home), the players will be out there looking to put on a show.

Check them out: Posting and Toasting

vs. Boston on Christmas Day

I don't even remember the last time the Nets played on Christmas. The Nets are looking to clinch the season series vs. Boston. When last we saw the defending Atlantic Division champions, this happened

Piercelol_medium

That scuffle happened too, but who cares about that? Boston's been a disappointment so far, as they've been very underwhelming on defense, an area they have dominated in the past five years. Two guard Avery Bradley might make an appearance, as he's apparently very close to returning from shoulder surgery. Rajon Rondo will be here, and look for him to be very aggressive as he'll try to avenge getting ejected after his donnybrook with Kris Humphries. For Boston, Jeff Green's been a major disappointment after signing his 4 year contract in the summer.

Check them out: CelticsBlog

at San Antonio on New Year's Eve

This'll be the last game of the calendar year, and it's a tough one. The Spurs are once again near the top of the league and promise to make another deep run in the Playoffs come April. Tim Duncan is undergoing a bit of a renaissance this year, as he's putting up a career high (?!) True Shooting percentage of 58.5. Brook is shooting an excellent 77.5 percent at the rim, and TD is right there with him, shooting a very swanky 76.1 percent at the basket. He's still got the bank shot of his going, and it's helped him to shoot 43 percent from deep two point range.

The popular narrative w/r/t the Spurs these days is that their defense isn't what it once was. And while that is true, Matthew Tynan of Pounding the Rock has this to say about the Spurs defense even as Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson are out with injury:

Leonard and Green are arguably the Spurs' best perimeter defenders, but Jackson is the guy Pop likes to stick on the bigger offensive wing threats in the league. After losing Kawhi and Jack during a single three-game homestand, the biggest worry for this team was defense and rebounding, two areas San Antonio was working hard to improve. Not only are Leonard and Jack two of the best the Spurs have in each category, they also possess great perimeter size. Since then it's been a real group effort to play defense and rebound, and to the surprise of many given the personnel available, San Antonio has been fantastic defensively. The Spurs rank No. 2 in the NBA in adjusted defensive efficiency (an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions adjusted for strength of opponent offense; they're also ranked in the top 5 in terms of adjusted margin of victory and adjusted offensive rating). So despite missing two of the team's best defenders, the Spurs have actually improved defensively since they lost the two to injury.

Check them out: Pounding the Rock

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