The Nets' defense is really bad. There is no other way to put it. Kevin Garnett was supposed to anchor a defense that was mediocre at best last season, while Lawrence Frank was supposed to use his defensive intelligence from the sidelines. Hasn't happened. In fact, there's a litany of stats that indicate the Nets have regressed.
Eleven games into the season, the Nets are among the worst in the league on the defensive end. They have been torched by two teams in the bottom half of the league in points per game, the Kings and Bobcats, who average 96 points and 89 points per game, respectively. "They look like swiss cheese!" Ian Eagle said Wednesday night in the midst of a Charlotte run. The Swiss should protest.
The Nets look lost on defense, moving under screens and allowing their opponent to take the uncontested three-point shot. The Nets have the third worst perimeter defense this season, allowing an average of nearly 39% of their opponents threes to go in. For a team that has so much length on the floor with the likes of Garnett and Joe Johnson, tall for their position, the Nets should not be allowing easy jump shots at any point in the game.
Not only have the Nets been burned on the perimeter, they've also been awful on the defensive glass. They get outworked in the paint; they have allowed their opponents to grab 130 offensive rebounds through 11 games. Even though Brook Lopez is not known his rebounding skills, Garnett is. The same goes for Reggie Evans. The Nets are not going to win when their opponent gets more opportunities; their defense can't make enough stops. Last night's game is a perfect example. The Nets lost 95-91, a two possesion game. They likely would have won if the Bobcats did not get 81 shot attempts to the Nets 67. A 14-shot differental is nearly impossible to overcome. It also doesn't help when the Nets allow their opponents to shoot an average of 45% from the floor, which is tenth worst in the league.
Looking at the big picture, not one stat spins their D in the positive direction. They have a defensive rating of 107.5, which is sixth worst in the entire league. The Nets made a lot of noise in training camp about wanting to be an outstanding defensive team, and with KG in the fold, they were expected to compete. They have have had decent but not so great players hit shots at will. Kemba Walker did it last night, Wesley Matthews Monday night, and Marcus Thornton last Wednesday.
It gets worse. The Nets have forced 169 turnovers this season, seventh worst in the league. Young, athletic clubs have exposed them for their lack of speed and the Nets have looked lethargic in comparison.
How much can be blamed on KG? He is not playing his best, and he appears slower than he's ever been. Still, he has a defensive rating of 98 this year, his sixth best in that category of his career. His offensive game has been worse than his defensive. His explosiveness has clearly declined, but the entire team --other than Mason Plumlee and Tyshawn Taylor-- is lacking in that department as well. The Nets only have 42 blocks this season, an average of not even four per game.
What about Andrei Kirilenko? He has been active for just four games, already missing seven and likely to miss the next two or more. He was supposed to boost the Nets' defense. Once he gets healthy, the Nets may improve, it is past individual performances.
The lack of defense has ruined some early offensive runs. In their past two games, the Nets have come out of the gate and shot 73% and 62%, respectively, in the first quarter. They could not build any sort of lead though because they allowed the Blazers to shoot 72% and the Bobcats 61%. The Nets offense has started strong, but it has not kept up its' torrid pace, which is natural. Of late, their opponent has and eventually won. When the Nets make a commitment to the team on defense, they should be able to go through dry spells on offense and not have to dig themselves out of a 10-point holes in the second half, as they've done repeatedly.
How do the Nets improve? It could start with more hustle, diving on the floor, fighting for loose balls. Hitting the glass will also reap benefits, too. As more than one wise man has said, "Defense wins championships."
All stats are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com