After struggling with a 12 win season last year, Nets fans are feeling good about their current situation. A much improved roster, a successful coach, and an owner willing to spend has fans thinking about the playoffs. We here think that the playoffs are a possibility but not a guarantee. Over the next two weeks, we are going to look at four things that need to happen for the Nets to make the playoffs.
The Nets Will Make The Playoffs If...Avery Johnson can get the Nets to play solid team defense
Why Is It Important?
In my opinion, defense is just as important as offense when it comes to winning basketball games. It can get you through cold stretches on the offensive end, and if you play good defense, it helps set a tone. Given Avery Johnson's reputation as a defensive minded coach, you know he is going to hold players accountable on the defensive end, however it is going to be a challenge. This is because of the personnel that he has. As four of the five projected starters (Harris, Morrow, Outlaw, Murphy, and Lopez) can be considered a defensive liability individually.
On the perimeter, we already know about Devin's tendency to reach and get lazy, allowing for his man to get by him. Anthony Morrow is just as bad, if not worse on the defensive end. According to 82games.com, Morrow allowed opposing SGs to put up 23.3 points/48 and post a PER of 17.8 (average is 15). On the inside, while Troy Murphy does pull down defensive rebounds, he is a pretty weak defender. Murphy allowed opposing PFs to put up a PER of 21.5, and when he was on the court the Pacers' defense allowed 4.1 more points per 100 possessions than when he was off the court. Brook Lopez is a decent one on one defender, but his poor foot speed and lateral movement is a concern, especially when pairing him with Murphy, who doesn't have the quickest feet.
Nets' fans saw how much a poor defensive team hurt the momentum of the Nets game in and game out. With a new coach, a new system, and a ton of new players the Nets might not start off too hot on the offensive end, which is why defense will be so important.
Can It Happen?
Despite all of the flaws on the defensive end, the Nets can still be a solid defensive team, and this is where Avery Johnson and the rest of the Nets' coaching staff come into play. Avery Johnson needs to install a concept of team defense where everyone has each others' back. If someone gets by Devin or Morrow, a big helps, while the rest of the team rotates correctly. On the pick and roll, the Nets are going to have to use a team defense concept to stop the offense.
In my opinion, it can happen, but Avery Johnson needs to get this team trusting each other. We saw last year how a lack of trust can hurt a team on the defensive end. There was poor communication, people switching while everyone else was staying home, and rotations were off. Eventually the team started looking out for themselves rather than the team, and that doesn't work on the defensive end.
Johnson has a reputation of holding players accountable, and I think this accountability will force each and every player on the Nets to trust his teammates on the defensive end, and in conclusion be a pretty solid defensive team.