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At the 5, an efficient duo helps the Nets

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NBA: Detroit Pistons at Brooklyn Nets Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s any position where the Nets new thinking —performance, sports science, analytics, development— has produced big dividends, it’s the 5, the center position.

Brook Lopez and Justin Hamilton are an efficient duo, producing big numbers while balancing production with rest.

Here’s some data points that Greg Logan and Brian Lewis highlight Friday, as the Nets set off for a four-game west coast road trip in Phoenix, Los Angeles and Oklahoma City.

—Resting Lopez had produced results, particularly since Jeremy Lin went down. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Lopez ranks ninth in the NBA in points per 48 minutes at 38.9 points, which is an efficiency percentage of .810 for the 20.6 points per game Lopez has averaged in 25.4 minutes. Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook leads with a .920 percentage and Lopez ranks just behind the Warriors’ Kevin Durant and ahead of the Warriors’ Steph Curry.

—Through the first four games, Lopez started three and averaged just 15 points on 44.4 percent shooting. But in the four games since Lin went down, Lopez has averaged 24.8 points on 56.1 percent shooting. He’s also shot 38.5 percent from beyond the arc, 10-of-26.

—One key to keeping Lopez fresh has been Hamilton, a stretch five who has logged nearly as many minutes at 23.6 per game. Hamilton is averaging 9.8 points on torrid 45.5 percent shooting from deep, the best of any Nets regular and the best of his career. As Kenny Atkinson notes, “Great find by Sean [Marks]. The guy was playing in Valencia last year in [Spain]. I’m glad we have him on our side.”

—The Nets rim protection is getting better too, Atkinson says, and the stats do show it. As John Schuhmann reported before the Knicks game,

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...

Hamilton, too, has contributed there. Said Atkinson, “I don’t think people see his defense; he protects the rim pretty good, pretty good pick-and-roll defender for a 6-11 guy who can step out and shoot it. We’re just thrilled with his play.”

Road trips, particularly to the west coast, have a way of ruining strategies. The Nets will play four games in six days, including a back-to-back in L.A. Will the Nets rest Lopez in one of them? Will the duo be as efficient?

Lopez has “no idea” how he will be used in those games, he told Logan, but he’s made the most of every minute of playing time, becoming more efficient.

“A lot of it is scientific. I don’t think it can be completely scientific. It has to be feel, obviously. But it definitely has [helped]. I feel very fresh when I’m out there playing. I feel good and crisp.”