It’s becoming more and more evident that a change at the four-spot must be made. Currently, Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo has been sticking with 11-year veteran, Reggie Evans; a lifelong bench player whose ability to rebound and go after a loose ball is arguably unmatched in today’s NBA.
Reggie Evans is not a bad player; he is valuable, and simply fits better with the Nets' second unit. What many people often confuse is the idea that the Nets need a “starting caliber PF,” when in fact they don’t. They need a PF that plays well with the starters, whether or not he is a starting caliber PF in the NBA is essentially meaningless.
Over the last four games before Friday night, the Nets averaged 15.7 turnovers per game. Their season average is 13.8 per game, which slots them as the 9th best team in that department. In the last two third quarters vs. the Miami Heat, the Nets have turned the ball over 14 times. Seven of those 14 belong to Deron Williams. Twelve of those 14 belong to Joe Johnson, Deron Williams or Brook Lopez while the other two were committed by none other than Reggie Evans. But why? Why so many turnovers?
The turnover problem is result of floor congestion, in lack of floor spacing. When Reggie Evans plays with the starting unit, there is very little for him to do on the offensive end other than set screens. This then allows for opposing teams to double team the Nets’ “big three” in an effort to force the ball out of their hands. Below is a compilation of every Nets turnover in the third quarter against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night:
6 of the 8 turnovers the Nets had in that quarter were the result of double-teams on one of the Nets’ big three. (The other two turnovers were simply careless.)
You can complain about the Nets' lack of defense in this game (rightfully), but defense leads to offense. In this case, the Nets turning the ball over leads to points for the Heat. The Heat scored 12 points off of the Nets' 8 turnovers that quarter.
The answer to this problem does not lie within a trade (or at least not yet). The answer is Mirza Teletovic.
With a Nets starting unit that carries three players that opposing teams want to double almost every time they try to go one-on-one, Teletovic can space the floor, knock down open threes, and most importantly draw defensive pressure. Not only do I believe that Mirza may alleviate the chronic turnover problem, but the astounding numbers certainly back up the thought that Mirza playing with the starting unit will work.
With Teletovic in the game, the Nets turn the ball over the least. The margin is actually quite wide. With Mirza in the game, they turn it over just 14% of the time as opposed to 16% with him out of the game. The next best player on the Nets in this category is Brook Lopez, the Nets turn it over 15% of the time with him in as opposed to 16.6% of the time with him out.
In fact, when Lopez & Teletovic play together, the team turns it over just 9% of the time; the least of any two-man combo.
When Lopez has played with Teletovic this season (46 minutes), he has turned it over ZERO(!) times. When he has played with Blatche, Evans or Humphries he turns it over an average of .072 times per minute (.062 TO’s/min. for the season). When Lopez plays with Teletovic, his FG% is 82.4% (!). When he plays with Evans, it’s 50.2%, with Blatche, it’s 45.8%, and with Humphries, it’s 52.7%.
When Joe Johnson plays with Teletovic, he turns it over just .026 times per minute compared to an average of .046 with Blatche, Reggie, or Humphries. In fact, he turns the ball over exactly twice as much per minute when he’s playing with Humphries (.052) rather than Teletovic (.026).
For Deron Williams, the same trend continues. Even though his turnovers are actually highest with Teletovic on the court (76 minutes), his other numbers are astonishing. With Mirza on the court he shoots 48% FG, 45.5% from three, and is a +19 in plus/minus. With Evans, he shoots 37.4% FG, 31.9% from three, and is a -68(!). With Blatche, he shoots 39.1% FG, 28.2% from three, and is a -45. With Humphries, he shoots 47.7% FG, 38.5% from three, and is a +28.
The numbers don’t lie here. The biggest difference between the four PF’s is simply floor spacing and keeping the defense honest. Here’s a video from the Heat game of when Teletovic and Williams were on the floor together. We can see Deron driving to the hoop, one-on-one with Shane Battier and finishing an and-1. You can also see Teletovic’s man unable to double Deron or help on the drive because he needs to stay home on the shooter.
The numbers and tape speak for themselves. I'm not sure if Mirza is a long-term solution for the starting PF, but what we do know is that a change must be made and there’s only one way to find out if it works. Let’s just hope it’s sooner rather than later.
With contributions from Devin Kharpertian. Statistical support for this story provided by NBA.com.