Ever since Jason Kidd was hired as the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets on June 12th, his focus has been on defense. As he’s stated multiple times; you cannot achieve success in the playoffs without defense. Last season, the Nets ranked 18th overall in defensive efficiency despite former head coach Avery Johnson’s request that his team rank in the top 10.
The Nets had neither the personnel nor the proper schemes to be a top 10 defense last season, and the Nets did their diligence. GM Billy King acquired two of the best defenders in the NBA in Kevin Garnett & Andrei Kirilenko, and Kidd pushed for Lawrence Frank, one of the best defensive minds in the NBA, as his de facto defensive coordinator.
So defense must be their new identity, right? Perhaps, but perhaps not.
Though being a top defense is a near mandatory caveat of a successful playoff team, the Nets may just wind up establishing their identity on the other end of the floor this season. King not only brought in some great defenders, but he acquired Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry, two primarily offensive players. Garnett and Kirilenko can also fill up a stat sheet on the offensive end. Throw in Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and All-star center Brook Lopez, add Andray Blatche and Shaun Livingston off the bench, and you have an offensive juggernaut on paper.
Last season the Nets ranked 9th overall in offensive efficiency, an amazing feat considering their supposed issues with floor spacing and lack of ball movement. Not to mention they had two of the worst offensive players in the NBA in their starting lineup.
Simplistically, replacing Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans with Pierce and Garnett will have a profound effect on the spacing and ball movement that was lacking a season ago.
It should also catapult their offense into the top five — at the least. Though the Nets’ defense will certainly improve, it’s the team’s offensive firepower that will define them this season.
“We’ve got so many guys that can fill it up. Brook is a tremendous scorer, Joe, Andray Blatche, Deron,” Paul Pierce said after Tuesday night’s win over the Boston Celtics. “We’re still trying to figure it out. The good thing is that I don’t have the offensive load that I have to carry out here.”
“It’s a process,” added Kidd after last night’s game.
With so many top-level scorers, shooters, and passers, the Nets will be near impossible to defend on the good nights. One team they’re hoping to emulate: the Miami Heat ranked number one overall in offensive efficiency and number seven overall in defensive efficiency last season. Worked out for the NBA champions.
With Miami having so many options on the floor all at once, it allowed them to wreak havoc on defenses who didn’t know when or who to double team and where to send help.
If the Nets stay healthy — which at this point is the biggest “if” — and they continue what we’ve seen from the starters in the preseason so far (ball movement, spacing, unselfishness), they will dominate teams on the offensive end.
As Paul Pierce put it, the identity will be established once the Nets get to full strength and get a chance to gel. “We don’t know what our full potential will be. We won’t know our full potential until [Deron] gets healthy. He’s going to be the engine that drives this; he’s the point guard and an All-star in this league.”
And though the team has more work to do on the defensive end, their identity starts with putting the ball in the basket.
(Quotes c/o Devin Kharpertian)