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For the Nets under Kenny Atkinson, the difference is quite clear

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NBA: Indiana Pacers at Brooklyn Nets Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Dowsett writes about the work Kenny Atkinson is doing with the Nets, noting how the Nets rookie coach has borrowed from his mentors in places like Houston, New York and Atlanta. Despite the team’s recent losses to the Knicks, Clippers and Lakers (all without Jeremy Lin), Dowsett thinks that “through roughly an eighth of the season, Atkinson has this group playing, well, real basketball.”

He isn’t, of course, the first to note how Atkinson has taken a group of supposedly untalented players and turned them into a competitive TEAM. But Dowsett offers and encyclopedic set of stats, drawn from analytic sites to show just how much Atkinson has changed the Nets...

—They sit 18th in the league in per-possession net scoring, despite having the seventh-toughest schedule in the league to this point and already missing Lopez and Jeremy Lin for a couple early games.

—Six guys are taking at least seven shots a night, and five different Nets in the rotation are using over the league average of 20 percent of team possessions while on the floor. No one on the team is over Bojan Bogdanović’s 28.3 minutes per game.

—The Nets are playing at the second-fastest offensive pace in the league, per, pushing any little edge in transition and looking for early chances to catch the defense off guard.

—They’re attempting the fourth-highest percentage in the NBA of shots “early” in the shot clock, per SportVU figures (15-18 seconds), and the 10th-highest percentage of “very early” shots (18-22 seconds).

—The Nets generated 15 open or wide open threes per game last season (no defender within four feet); they’ve more than doubled that so far this year, and lead the entire league in these attempts by a decent margin.

—Brook Lopez is decimals from the highest percentage at the rim he’s shot in his career, and his entire shooting profile from within 10 feet has actually improved markedly.

—The 39.1 percent opponents are shooting at the rim while Lopez is nearby ranks fourth-stingiest among 53 guys defending at least five per game, mere points behind Hassan Whiteside and actually decimals ahead of Rudy Gobert.

—Trying fewer mid-range shots than anyone but Morey’s Rockets (they’re hitting theirs at a much higher rate than Houston), and trailing only the vaunted Cavaliers in corner three-point attempts and only the Rockets again in above-the-break attempts.

—The Nets finished a play from the post on 10 percent of their possessions last year, one of the five highest rates in the league; they’re down under seven percent for this year, now in the league’s bottom half.


Dowsett also offers some film study to further prove his point that Atkinson has completely re-ordered the Nets, employing a “star-less” system based on what he and Mike Budenholzer ran in Atlanta. Fewer iso plays, more opportunities.

Atkinson, of course, has also become the master of adjustment, shuffling his offense to hide its lack of experienced (or in one game, any) point guards.

There are issues, of coruse, as Brian Lewis points out Thursday, that is rebounding. Lewis’ compendium of data isn’t as long as Dowsett ... or as positive. In fact, it is, as the headline notes, glaring:

—As of Wednesday, they had allowed the third-most rebounds in the NBA at an average of 48.1 per game, and fifth-most offensive boards at 11.7.

Atkinson realizes he has to do something. So do his rebounders.

“It’s deflating when you get a stop and then you can’t grab the rebound. I’ve said this before; we have to do it by committee. I think our guards [have to rebound]. In Phoenix we had a great rebounding game from our guards. It has to be a collective approach, and we’ll keep working on it.”