1. Fixing The Pick-And-Roll
Let’s get this out of the way: looking at the numbers, it’s reasonable to say that the Brooklyn Nets have the worst pick-and-roll offense of any team in the NBA.
A cursory look suggests this shouldn’t be the case. They’ve got an excellent point guard-center combination in Deron Williams & Brook Lopez; Williams can create off the dribble, and Lopez can finish near the rim and shoot off pick-and-pops as well as anyone. They’ve got a big, talented shooting guard in Joe Johnson, who can fill the role of both ballhandler and roll man in creative sets.
But the Nets finish plays with their pick-and-roll ballhandler — i.e. a shot gets up, a turnover occurs, or a foul gets drawn — just 6.6% of the time, the lowest in the NBA by a substantial margin. Only one other team (the Utah Jazz) is under 10%. Worse, the Nets have the lowest efficiency in the NBA in these sets, scoring just 0.648 points per possession. Only one other team (again the Jazz) is under 0.736. That’s a difference of about 9 points per 100 possessions just in these situations between the Nets and the 3rd-worset team in the NBA alone. Williams’s inability to create out of the pick-and-roll for himself and others since joining the Nets, particularly compared to his time in Utah, is staggering.
The Nets rank slightly better with their roll men (note: roll men includes pick-and-pops), but not by much. 4.7% of Nets plays end with the pick-and-roll roll man finishing the play, third-lowest in the NBA, and they score 0.915 points per possession, 23rd among all teams. The Nets made a concerted effort at the start of Carlesimo’s tenure to get Lopez involved in more pick-and-rolls, but that concern hasn’t translated to the floor: Lopez averages just 2.4 plays as the roll man per game, and that’s gone down slightly in recent weeks — 2.1 in the last 20 games, including eight games with either 0 or 1 pick-and-roll finishes.
Compounding the issue is the recent information reported on by Zach Lowe of Grantland exploring the Toronto Raptors’s use of optical tracking data via SportVU cameras; namely that the Brooklyn Nets pick-and-rolls are the least likely in the NBA to lead to a shot of any kind, and most often merely reset the offense.
Lowe notes that this by itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing — the Miami Heat are right there with them — but that’s because the Heat use the pick-and-roll at times when it’s most effective, and they’re able to spread the floor so effectively with a five-out offense. But the Nets aren’t the Heat; they seemingly use the pick-and-roll at random, without much in the way of attack, and with Gerald Wallace struggling from outside and Reggie Evans an offensive liability out of the paint, they’re unable to spread a defense completely like Miami’s juggernaut offense.
It’s these precise limitations — their inability to space the floor — coupled with their illogical inefficiency with such talented players that makes the idea of fixing this issue so maddening. They simply should be better. They should run the pick-and-roll with Williams and Lopez more, yet Williams can’t score out of it, and Lopez rarely sets the ball screen with an intent to score himself. It seems like a matter somewhere between effort and playcalling, because it certainly isn’t talent.
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