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Brooklyn Nets Month in Review - January 2016

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A picture's worth a thousand words...
A picture's worth a thousand words...
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The first two months had been disastrous for the Brooklyn Nets, and January brought major changes to the organization and how they'll do business in the future. But at 3-13, it was also the worst month of basketball for the Nets, in New Jersey or Brooklyn since February 2010 when they went 2-11, on their way to 12-70.

It was that bad.

The month

This won't be pretty

2015-2016

October/November 2015

December 2015

January 2016

Record

4-13

5-10

3-13

Pace

98.74

96.64

94.29

Offensive Efficiency

96.6

101.1

97.8

Defensive Efficiency

103.1

107.3

108

Turnover rate

15.3

15.3

15.1

Assist rate

15.7

17.3

16.7

Offensive Rebounding rate

24.6

25.5

21.8

Rebound rate

50.7

50.6

47.7

Free throw rate

22.7

22.3

23.5

Effective field goal percentage

46.7

49.3

48

Opponent's effective field goal percentage

51.5

53.3

52.5

We have to start at the top. On January tenth, the Nets fired head coach Lionel Hollins and reassigned General Manager Billy King. It marked the end of Hollins' year and a half tenure with Brooklyn and King's six years with the club. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov came to Brooklyn the next day and held a press conference in which he assured Nets fans that this would be a "small reset" and that he still had championship dreams for the team. The team has been linked to a wide variety of candidates for both positions, and as the process intensifies, we'll keep you updated.

If you believe the reports out there, the players didn't like Hollins or his coaching... at all. In fact, let Thaddeus Young tell you that:

"When your coach is not panicking and he's staying positive and he's continued to motivate us, it's huge  for us as far as an energy standpoint. It makes us want to continue to go out there and continue to play, and it doesn't keep us thinking about what's happening before as much.

"With us, I think our tendencies before was we were harping on the fact that we were going up leads ans harping on the fact that we have some plays where we turned the ball over. But Tony's mentality is, forget what happened before this, and let's try to push and try to win this game. That's huge for us as a team. it says a lot that he believes in us, that he wants us to compete, he believes that we can continue to win the game at any point."

And Young was regarded as a player who got along well with Hollins.

There was another big loss for the team. On January 2, Jarrett Jack suffered a knee injury that required him to be helped off the court. We found out the next day that it was a torn ACL that required surgery and ended his season. Although Jack had his issues with shot selection and running the offense, he finished his season sixth in assists per game. Also, he didn't back down from a fight and stood up for Brook Lopez after he was flagrantly fouled in the Boston game.

When we look at the team's play on the court, it was more of the same. The Nets defense had been bad despite Rondae Hollis-Jefferson's best efforts when he was on the court. He's been gone since early December and this month everything went to hell on that side of the ball. The Nets allowed 108 points per 100 possessions, fifth worst in the NBA in January. They've had trouble guarding ball handlers in pick and roll situations, and they continue to lead the league in points per possession against P&R ball handlers.

They might have the weakest point guard rotation in the NBA, and with the PG position at its best since the mid 1990s, they're always at a severe disadvantage. It's hard to win when you get next to nothing from your backcourt. More on that later.

Best performance: January 24th vs Oklahoma City

Coming into the game, the Thunder were one of the hottest teams in the NBA. They had won seven straight games and are one of the four legit title contenders this season (Golden State, San Antonio, and Cleveland are the other three). They were heavy favorites going into the game, but Brooklyn led from wire to wire and came away with their best win of the season.

Worst performance: January 16 in Atlanta

This was the second night of a back-to-back for both clubs with the only difference being the Hawks played an overtime game the night before while the Nets only played a regulation game. That didn't matter much as the Hawks used a dominant third quarter to cruise to a 28 point victory. The Nets have had their issues all season, but they manage to get worse as the game progresses. Some of those struggles can be attributed to the roster, but we can also point to lineup construction and coaching adjustments in the second half as well.

Highlight of the Month

Damian Lillard tried to put Lopez on a poster, but the big guy made sure that didn't happen.

Best player: Brook Lopez

In a dark season, Lopez has been one of the few shining lights. The big guy led the team in shot attempts and scoring, averaging 21.3 points on 16 field goal attempts (52 percent shooting) in 33 minutes a game. Lopez was dominant on the inside, converting on 65.4 percent of his shots inside of the restricted area. The amount of time he spent near the basket helped him get to the free throw line almost six times a night. For as good as he was, Tony Brown can get even more out of him with a few changes. There would be too many instances where Lopez would not be featured in the offense in the fourth quarter and the Nets would suffer as a result. That's been a consistent problem with this team, and it's one that figures to stay with them for at least the rest of the year. Also, Brook's minutes allocation could be a bit cleaner. The team has protections in case Lopez suffers another foot injury, so playing him close to 40 minutes would be foolish. That said, Brown could limit his minutes early so he can be fully energized and rested for the fourth quarters of close games. Brown is in a tough spot because the bench is a dumpster fire, but maybe he can work around them with a few tweaks.

Worst player (tie): Wayne Ellington and Bojan Bogdanovic

Ellington was moved into the starting five on the eleventh vs the Spurs, and hasn't done anything to show why he should remain there. In eleven games as the starter, he only shot 38.6 percent from the field and 32.6 percent from three point range. The Nets looked to him to space the floor, but outside of the occasional big game (at New Orleans on January 30 and at Miami on December 28), hasn't been able to consistently provide Brooklyn with good three point shooting.

Going into January, I thought Bojan Bogdanovic would be a player to keep an eye on as he replaced Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the starting lineup. As it turns out, that didn't last long as he was benched in favor of Wayne Ellington on January 11. Besides that, he wasn't able to find his shot throughout the month. He shot a (NBA) career low 33.9 percent from the field and 31.1 percent from three point range. Bogdanovic is someone the Nets expected to be a solid scoring option after Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson, but has been underachieving for most of this season. They are going to need him to play well over the next three months as they go about making decisions as to who to build around.

Key games

  • February 10th vs Memphis

It's the last game of the first half and the Nets will be facing one of the more intriguing teams in the league this season. Memphis has suffered some catastrophic losses, but it hasn't hurt them too much as they find themselves fifth in the Western Conference standings. They've drifted away from the Grit n Grind style that's propelled them to the best run in franchise history to a style that's more amenable to today's NBA. They have some major decisions to make as we near the deadline, and this game might influence what they do.

Also,  we might get some more Mike Conley free agent talks. The Nets ARE in need of a PG this summer, and Conley is one of the better players at his position. Maybe they'll be a good match in July?

It's the first game of the second half, but more importantly, the day after the trading deadline. The team figures to be silent at the deadline as they're still looking for a permanent GM, but maybe they'll catch us by surprise and make a move or two. They open up against their crosstown neighbors, and New York's success has to eat at the Nets. The Knicks are still below .500, but they have an All Star in Carmelo Anthony, some nice young players in Langston Galloway and Jerian Grant, a potential superstar in Kristaps Porzingis, and a good chance at making the playoffs this year.

  • February 23 at Portland

This is the first night of their season lone eight game road trip. They had trouble defending Portland's Damian Lillard the first time they saw him this year, and they figure to be in trouble here as well. Portland wasn't expected to compete for a playoff spot after losing Lamarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum, but they've done well so far and will be competing with Houston, Sacramento, and Utah for the last two seeds.

Player to watch: Joe Johnson

After the worst start of his career, Johnson showed signs of breaking out of his slump. In 16 January games, Johnson averaged 13.5 points on 48.5/47/95.5 shooting from the field/three point line/free throw line. Johnson has picked his game up at the right time for the Nets. It's unlikely they move him at the trading deadline, but if he continues to play well and there's a team in need of help at the small forward position, there might be something there.