Examining the Nets Offense

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com recently wrote, as he often does, a supersmart piece about NBA offense’s using Woody Allen’s punchline, 80 percent of life is showing up.

Arnovitz theorizes that  NBA offenses that limit turnovers and protect the ball  effectively “showing up” for possessions and get an attempt at the rim are among the most efficient offenses in the NBA.

He spotlights the Chris Paul led Clippers and the Hawks of recent years as teams that run simplistic offenses, yet, by nature of their simplicity are protecting the ball and therefore getting attempts at the rim resulting in more efficient offenses. And while you could make the argument that even as simple as a ball-screen may be, when the handler is Chris Paul and the screener is Blake Griffin, the simple-ness of that play instantly turns complex when you factor Paul’s wizardry with the ball and Griffin’s shear ferocity with which he rolls to the rim, Arnovitz’s underlying point of – keep the ball, get shots, have a better offense – holds true.

Taking a look at the Nets, you can see how a simple case of limiting their turnovers and thus getting more attempts at the rim could help their offense.

The Nets currently rank 27th (of 30) in offensive efficiency (which measures points scored per 100 possessions). The only teams with worse offensive futility are the Wizards and the Detroit Pistons. There are many factors that have gone into this number: injuries, new players working under a new coach with limited practice time and cold-shooting are among the biggest. However, examining the Nets with the Arnovitz theory of ball-protection and you will see the Nets can improve in another, highly controllable area – turnovers.

The Nets haven’t been showing up for possessions and in fact they are among the most the NBA’s leaders in turnover rate (percentage of possessions that end in a turnover) at 15.12. Their biggest culprit? Our maestro and ball-dominator, Deron Williams who is leading the Nets and the entire NBA at 4.6 turnovers per game.

A lot of Deron’s turnovers can be due to the fact that he is being asked to burden such a large offensive role for the Nets. He is the best player on our team at creating a shot for himself while also doubling as the only player who can consistently create shots for his teammates. We need Deron to constantly be in attack mode, to constantly be probing opposing defenses because we’ve seen the results without him on the floor. Deron needs to take risks for the Nets to succeed, but it is coming at a cost and that cost is his turnover numbers.

And while I’m certainly not suggesting even in the slightest that Deron needs to have the ball less or should not be pressing as much, but even Williams would admit he’s not playing his best hoops of his career.

Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how the Nets offense evolves. Although lately the offense has clicked a little better, it still is not performing well. As we’ve stated earlier, aside from the low efficiency numbers, the Nets are 28th in points per game (87.0 ppg) and 25th in assists per game (17.8 apg).

When asked about the Nets offense, Avery Johnson stated:

We are a penetration team now, because we have limited post-up game. So when we penetrate and guys are open, we just have to do a better job of knocking down our shots. Our paint attack is not so much from post-ups but from penetration and because of that penetration, we’re going to get open shots. We just have to take them and make them.

– Avery Johnson

In the early going you can certainly see reflections of what Avery is talking about. Deron Williams has been getting himself into the paint at will and the shooters the Nets have acquired this off-season along with mainstay Anthony Morrow have spaced the perimeter. The Nets are attempting three-pointers at a rate of 31.0 per 100 possessions, a rate which is second only to the Knicks.

The shots just haven’t been going down, yet. As a team the Nets are making just 31.2% of those attempts.

But signs of that trend changing have appeared. Against Atlanta, the Nets scored a season-high 101 points and connected on half of their three-pointers. A welcome sign to say the least.

So the Nets formula for good offense is simple. “Show up” for possessions by limiting turnovers, keep the ball in Deron’s hands and allow him to do what he does best, create off penetration and feed shooters who need to make shots.

All stats courtesy of HoopData