On December 31st, 2013, the Nets got blown out by the San Antonio Spurs, dropping them to 10-21 on the year and near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. They were a complete mess. Kevin Garnett looked finished, Deron Williams could barely stay on the floor, Brook Lopez had gone down for the season, Andrei Kirilenko missed all but five games, and the Nets were staring down a present they didn’t plan on, with a future they’d mortgaged.
Fast-forward 31 games later, and almost everything has changed. The Nets still have very few draft picks, and might as well fly a black-and-white helicopter around Kevin Durant’s home in Oklahoma City with a banner that says “WE HAVE CAP SPACE IN 2016,” but they’ve reverted to tangible, winning ways in 2014 that they just couldn’t muster in 2013.
How have they done it? Let’s look at a few things: firstly, a straight comparison between the Nets in 2013 and the Nets in 2014.
|95.8||Points per game||98.2|
|101.4||Points allowed per game||94.7|
|101.9||Points scored per 100 possessions||104.4|
|106.7||Points allowed per 100 possessions||101.1|
|94.6||Possessions per game||93.5|
|20.4||Assists per game||20.8|
|6.9||Steals per game||10.3|
|44.4%||Field goal percentage||45.9%|
|19.7||Three-point attempts per game||24.9|
|49.1%||Effective field goal percentage||51.7%|
|75.9%||Free throw percentage||76.6%|
|15.0%||Opponent turnover percentage||19.2%|
|Brook Lopez (20.7 PPG)||Top scorer||Deron Williams (15.5 PPG)|
Note: It’s important to note that the distinction between 2013 and 2014 is mildly arbitrary: Brook Lopez’s injury is really what keyed changes in the Nets rotation, and that happened ten days before the new year. But there’s no denying that date is significant: they went from losing to the 2013 Western Conference champions to close 2013 to beating the 2012 Western Conference champions to start 2014.
Their biggest change is on the defensive end. But how have they done that?