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Have Nets OVER-achieved?

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NBA: Indiana Pacers at Brooklyn Nets Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

In his piece on the Nets season, the Times’ Victor Mather notes an interesting stat.

The Nets have won 59 percent of their games against the point spread, second only to the Celtics. Yes, if you had bet blindly on the Nets, of all teams, this season, you would be making a profit. (It probably comes as no surprise that the Cavaliers have been the league’s worst bet.)

What that means is the betting public and the sports books have had little faith in the Nets this season, that their 20 wins and many, many close losses add up to “overachievement, any way you look at it.”

Mather in fact argues that with all their issues: injuries, inexperience, mix-and-match lineups and turnover (23 players, one fewer than last year), 20 wins thus far should be seen as a positive.

Look at the team’s personnel. The Nets’ most productive player this season has been Spencer Dinwiddie, an unheralded third-year point guard out of Colorado. Never a regular starter before this season, Dinwiddie is averaging 13 points a game, but shoots only 39 percent and isn’t known for smothering defense.

At 31, forward DeMarre Carroll is on his seventh team. Guys like Allen Crabbe, Tyler Zeller and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are playing key roles. Meanwhile, Jeremy Lin was lost for the season in the opening game.

He’s not dissing the individual players’ lack of talent as much as he’s saying there’s not a lot of it.

Does that sound like a team that can win even the 20 games that the Nets already have? It sounds more like the makeshift 76ers of two years ago that barely managed to win 10.

He also delves into where the players were drafted —and of course, the lack of picks, again arguing it suggests overahievement.

The Nets played 10 players against the N.B.A. champions on Tuesday. Along with Russell, a former No. 2 overall pick by the Lakers, they included no one chosen higher than No. 20. Despite some poor seasons, the Nets have not drafted better than No. 22 since 2010, and that player, No. 3 selection Derrick Favors, was gone before a full season.

So how have they won, you might ask Mather? He cites that comeback vs. the Warriors ... and some interesting stats, including the Nets propensity to throw up a three any chance they get. They may not make a lot of them, but those “extra points add up.”

So why aren’t the Nets worse? Start with the shots they are choosing. Brooklyn is taking 41 percent of its shots from 3-point range, second only to the mad-bombing Rockets. They are not shooting the 3’s all that well, but they are hitting enough, 796 so far, that the extra points are adding up. Along the same lines, they are avoiding that most dreaded of shots, the long 2, taking only seven percent of their shots from that inefficient range, second again to the Rockets.

He notes as well that the Nets are 12th in the NBA is getting to the line and the same rank in limiting opponents effective shooting percentage. Then, there’s the unquantifiable element, simply playing hard.

“I really enjoyed playing against those guys,” Kevin Durant of the Warriors said on the YES network after Tuesday’s game. “They’ve got a bright future.”

Mather somewhat agrees and cites D’Angelo Russell’s possibilities as a franchise player and likes what he sees from Dinwiddie, Allen Crabbe and Jarrett Allen. He concludes...

“If you are a Nets fan, it is tough to see a silver lining from another lost season. Without a lottery pick to compensate for the poor play, the Nets may not get a whole lot better next season either,” Mather writes. “But look a little deeper and there are some promising signs. And it sure could be a whole lot worse.”