Breaking Down The Nets Defense

After reading ESPN’s John Hollinger’s individual profiles on the Nets (Insider), Hollinger makes one thing glaringly clear — the Nets, as individual defenders, leave a lot to be desired.

I decided to go to Synergy and take a look at video to see if Hollinger perhaps missed the boat and had been mistaken and the Nets were actually a stellar defensive unit.

SPOILER ALERT!! He was right. But, I still would like you to see for yourself, so to quote Warner Wolf, “Let’s go to the videotape!”

Deron Williams


“Has ability to defend well, but plus-minus numbers are consistently terrible…” “…he hasn’t been terribly engaged on that end (defensive) the past two years and the numbers back it up.”

My Take: After Hollinger suggested Williams isn’t engaged on the defensive end, I decided to look for video evidence. Most of the issues I see involve Deron guarding pick and rolls. Now this changes depending on the Nets strategy for defending such plays, but Deron has a habit of either running directly into the screen or simply going under. We can’t say for certain if this is because of strategy or Williams’s lack of urgency to fight over the top of the screen, but as you’ll see in the video, there are times it seems D-Will isn’t exerting maximum effort to contain the dribbler.

Going under screens is usually in an effort to keep the ballhandler from driving, but in some cases Deron opts to go under and still gives up the drive. Now obviously Williams is our main offensive contributor and a lot of his energy is expended on that end, but we should watch him a little closer this year defensively.


Anthony Morrow


“Terrible defensive player. Limited laterally, athletically. Low energy level.” “…He can’t guard good 2’s at all; big ones devour him on post-ups, and small ones dribble by him.”

My Take: In the video clips below you really get a chance to see the revolving door that is Anthony Morrow’s defense. As Hollinger noted, there really isn’t any type of player that is a good matchup for Morrow defensively. At 6’5″, he’s not quite strong enough to handle two-guards or small forwards in either the post or on drives. But, put him on someone smaller and he simply does not have the agility to stay in front. Even when Morrow resorts to sloughing way off his man, almost daring him to shoot a jump shot, he still cannot stay in front.

According to, Anthony Morrow ranks dead last amongst shooting guards who have played at least 30 minutes per game in their stat called Defensive Plays (charges + steals + blocks), with just 0.5 per game. While this stat is not a tell-all for a defensive player, it speaks to the lack of energy and activity level Morrow shows on defense.


Travis Outlaw


“…His lack of coordination leads to near-comic sequences chasing players through screens off the ball and his lack of strength means he can’t play four’s more regularly. Synergy rated him among the league’s worst defenders, and his plus-minus supports that.”

My Take: Normally, we bash Outlaw’s house building bricks on this site, so it’s about time to address his defense. For a guy who seemingly has the physical tools to defend well (size, length, athleticism), he certainly does not use them to his advantage.

On most nights, it seems like opposing team’s offenses could consist entirely of sending whoever Outlaw is guarding off of screens. He has a hard time negotiating through even the simplest of screening actions such as a down screen, let alone if he has to go around multiple screens and/or deal with misdirection.

In all of the clips you’ll see below, Outlaw is guarding off the ball and you will see he simply does not possess the instincts and anticipatory skills necessary to get around most screens.


Brook Lopez


“Blocks shots, but a bad defender. Can’t guard floor-spacers at all. Won’t rebound.” “…defensively, the dude was worthless.” “…he’s a bad pick and roll defender, often leaving his guard hanging out to dry and against a pick and pop center, he can’t stay in the same zip code.”

My Take: Look, we all know what we are getting and not getting from Brook Lopez when he steps on a basketball floor. At this point in his career, Lopez personifies a big, plodding center. Unlike his offensive game, the further Lopez strays from the basket on defense, the less equipped he is to be effective. If I was an opposing coach, I’d force Lopez into guarding a ball screen on nearly every trip.

When forced to hedge — the only time he will — if he does manage to get out to the screen, he can’t contain the dribbler. If he doesn’t hedge, he’ll stay in the paint and try to contain, which usually amounts to him backpedaling as the ballhandler drives. In the clips you’ll see Brook attempting to defend a number of pick and rolls and pick and pops to little success.


Johan Petro


“Very poor basketball instincts. Really has no clue how to play.” “Has fast hands, but fouls like crazy.” “…NBA’s second-worst foul rate at 7.97 per 40 minutes.”

My Take: Like Outlaw, Petro is a guy who has the physical tools to be a good defender, but a paint brush and an easel don’t make you an artist. Petro’s defense (and I’m hesitant to call it that) consists of him being in bad position and then fouling as the player’s shooting. It almost looks to me that Petro’s fouls come as a result of him not knowing how to deal with certain offensive maneuvers such as driving and shooting.


As of right now, addressing the bigs is a priority in free agency, but adding capable defensive players at all positions is a major concern.

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