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The Month in Review - December 2015

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Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

When Mikhail Prokhorov was asked Monday when he started think about making the moves he ultimately carried out this weekend, he answered, "I started thinking maybe one month and a half."

That would around the start of December.. The team's 0-7 start didn't do it.  The team's frustrating December did it.

Coming off of the difficult November, the  Nets came into December trying to climb in the standings and get closer to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. It got ugly fast. We recount it all.

The numbers

Let's check it

2015-2016

October/November 2015

December 2015

Record

4-13

5-10

Pace

98.74

96.64

Offensive Efficiency

96.6

101.1

Defensive Efficiency

103.1

107.3

Turnover rate

15.3

15.3

Assist rate

15.7

17.3

Offensive Rebounding rate

24.6

25.5

Rebound rate

50.7

50.6

Free throw rate

22.7

22.3

Effective field goal percentage

46.7

49.3

Opponent's effective field goal percentage

51.5

53.3

"Better" is such a relative term. The Nets had a better record in December, but is there much to celebrate when your winning percent goes from 23 to 33 percent? They ended 2015 with the third worst record in the NBA and nine games behind the eighth seeded Indiana Pacers.

The offense took a step forward. Their efficiency increased by five points per 100 possessions and they shot better from the field. That improvement came primarily from the three point line as they shot 34 percent (on 17 attempts a night) in December as compared to 31 percent (on 16 attempts a game) in November. Even with the five point improvement, the team's offense was still fairly stagnant. There were too many instances where the team didn't move enough on offense, could only generate contested midrange jumpers, or go through extended stretches when Brook Lopez wouldn't get a shot up. Some of that is on the players, but that's also something that falls on Lionel Hollins. As the Nets drift further and further away from contention, he has to put his players in situations where they can develop and succeed.

One terrible moment the team experienced was the loss of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. RHJ had been one of the team's better players and its best perimeter defender. He got injured in practice the day after the Knicks game and was later diagnosed with a right ankle fracture that required surgery. Before he went out, the Nets were allowing 102.8 points per 100 possessions. Since the injury? 108.4 per 100 in 13 December games. In fact, Brooklyn only held their opponents under 100 points twice in 15 games.

It sounds all bad, but there's always a bright side if you look hard enough. Alex Siquig of Vice Sports likens the Brooklyn experiment to (really, REALLY) expensive performance art and writes:

To the naked eye, the Nets appear to be a maudlin team that has steadfastly refused to admit the wretchedness of the abyss into which they are gazing. In a league that rewards only full heads of hair or baldness obtained honestly, they continue to show the world a comb-over. In doing so, they're creating something unique, something mangled yet undeniably human, something neo-Dada. Transforming a team that twice made the NBA Finals in the previous decade into an exhibition of absurd futility would have satisfied Francis Picabia, the Dada pioneer who once said, "Wherever art appears, life disappears." The Nets are giving the finger to art and embracing the paralyzing truths of humanity, and they're doing it one goofy theme song and doomed 23-second isolation play at a time.

There's something for everybody.

There was some good news for the Nets off the court. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov purchased the remaining portion of the team + Barclays Center and owns everything. It'll be interesting to see what his next move is. Jack Moore of Vocativ isn't a fan of the way Prokhorov and other owners like him have conducted business. He wrote:

The literal least we could demand from these billionaires is that they at least field entertaining teams with all of the public money that’s being directed straight into their pockets. But as long as the revenue structure of the NBA remains as is—where winning doesn’t matter a lick for profitability—there’s no reason financial titans like Prokhorov shouldn’t look to sports for their next big investment. It’s free money, and they would be idiots not to take it.

Gaining some good press and restoring goodwill amongst Nets fans will be of the utmost importance for Nets management this summer. With the roster and draft pick situation being a LOL worthy catastrophe, they're going to need to improve almost exclusively through free agency. The early contenders are DeMar DeRozan of Toronto, Nicolas Batum of Charlotte, and Mike Conley of Memphis, but we're a lifetime away from free agency so it's not worth thinking too deeply about right now. There were inklings that the team might look into bringing in current Kentucky and former New Jersey Nets coach John Calipari into the organization and provide him with a prominent role. That's a LONG way away from happening, but it'll be interesting to see if anything comes of that.

Best performance: December 28 at Miami

The Nets have been horrendous on the road, going 3-13 away from Barclays Center over the first two months of the season, third worst in the league. They went into Miami and were facing one of the better teams in the East this season. It looked like it was going to be another long night for Brooklyn as they were down 14 points at halftime. However, the Nets managed to surprise everyone watching by holding the Heat to only 35.7 percent shooting from the field.

Worst performance: December 4th at Knicks

When you're making your only national television appearance of the season and it's against the team you're trying to catch in popularity/the standings, it's imperative you make a good showing and play competitively. Unfortunately for the Nets, that wasn't the case at all and they got stomped out by 17 points. They were down by as much as 30 points and were never competitive. Blowout losses are never pretty, and when it happens when everybody's watching + against your rival, it makes things a little worse.

Best player: Thaddeus Young

There was a one week lull, but Thad continued to play well for Brooklyn. Young averaged 15 points and nine rebounds a game while shooting 51 percent from the field and was tied for fourth in the NBA in double-doubles. Young hit the best shot of the month for Brooklyn, a game tying three pointer that sent the game against the Mavericks into overtime. The Nets wound up losing that game on a contested Jarrett Jack jumper. In an ugly season, he, Brook Lopez, and RHJ have been the only bright spots. My colleague Anthony Puccio put his great start in perspective:

Thad's stellar season hasn't been highlighted due to Brooklyn's poor record, but during a season when people say ‘all is lost' or ‘there's nobody fun to watch,' I suggest you keep a close eye on Thaddeus Young. He's come a long way to get where he's at today and hopefully one day, he'll be recognized and rewarded with a good Brooklyn Nets team.

Thad is a nice player to have on your roster, and should be someone the Nets hang to as they try to climb out of the hole.

Worst player: Joe Johnson

Despite his best efforts, it was more of the same for Johnson. Johnson has been having the worst season of his career and it appears that all of the minutes he's played throughout his 15 year career have taken its toll. Although he continued to lead the team in minutes per game, he only shot 35.6 percent from the field and 33.9 percent from three point range. In 15 games, he only shot above 40 percent from the field three times. Johnson barely gets to the free throw line and isn't a consistent option for the team from three point range. Johnson probably should be moved to the bench, but it seems unlikely and JJ will be given every opportunity to get his game back on track.

Highlight of the month

Thomas Robinson had a nice month for the Nets, and he + Willie Reed are players that might be two reliable bench players for Brooklyn in the future.

Key games

  • January 13th vs Knicks

The Knicks dominated the first meeting at MSG in early December (see above) and the Nets will be looking for some payback. I didn't expect them to compete for a playoff spot this year, but New York has looked great at times and figure to be close to the eighth seed when March comes around. They've got an intriguing roster, headlined by rookies Jerian Grant and Kristaps Porzingis along with the old man Carmelo Anthony. Making Knicks jokes is still fun, but they deserve props for turning things around.

  • January 26 vs Heat

This is the last night of a four game homestand and the Nets' final home game in January. Brooklyn hasn't been able to defend their home court this year, and the last time Miami was in town, a sizable "Let's Go Heat!" chant broke out at Barclays. We're not to the point of the team selling reversible jerseys again, but if Brooklyn continues to play terribly at home, they might as well.

  • January 30 at New Orleans

It's the last game of the month and the Nets will be seeing one of the league's best players and a possible future MVP. Anthony Davis has had a decent season, but he and the rest of the Pelicans have struggled in adjusting to new coach Alvin Gentry's scheme. Although they're currently 11-24, they're only 4.5 games behind the eighth seed Utah Jazz. If everyone is back healthy and they figure things out, they might have enough to make a big second half run.

Player to watch: Bojan Bogdanovic

With RHJ out, Bogdanovic was the person chosen to replace him in the starting lineup. That lasted a month before he was replaced in the lineup by Markel Brown on Saturday night. He started off horribly, but did pretty well in December, averaging 12 points and making 42 percent of his three pointers. Bogdanovic told us in December that minutes aren't as important to him as being aggressive when he's on the court. As Johnson continues to decline, the Nets need Bogdanovic to pick up the slack and become the team's best perimeter scorer. The Brooklyn offense is severely lacking in good jump shooters, and if Bogdanovic isn't able to create some space for Lopez to work on the inside, things are only going to get even uglier.