Surprise! Nets pick-and-rolls often go nowhere

In the follow-up to a comprehensive, brilliant piece by Zach Lowe of Grantland on the data gleaned from optical tracking SportVU cameras and analyzed by the Toronto Raptors analytics department, the Brooklyn Nets get an ignominious mention, after the cameras analyzed how effectively (or ineffectively) Brooklyn uses its pick-and-rolls:

The Raptors have also started looking at which teams are best at using particular offensive plays to finish possessions. In other words, everyone runs a bunch of pick-and-rolls, but which teams most often gain an advantage via the pick-and-roll that actually leads to a shot — and not the resetting of the offense for some other action?

Golden State, for instance, runs relatively few pick-and-rolls in raw terms, but a whopping 67 percent of those pick-and-rolls start a cascade of events that lead to the end of a possession — the highest “conversion” rate in the league. Brooklyn ranks at the bottom of that list, meaning Nets’ pick-and-rolls are more likely than those of any other team to go nowhere and lead to the resetting of the offense.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing; Miami’s way down there, as well. But unlike the Nets, the Heat are ridiculously efficient on possessions where a pick-and-roll does lead to a conclusive event.

The data for the Nets is incomplete — they haven’t installed the SportVU cameras, which cost about $75,000-$100,00 to install — in Barclays Center, meaning any SportVU data comes from the fifteen arenas where the cameras exist, and all Nets information comes when they’re on the road.

But it’s also not a stretch to imagine that even with further data, the Nets would still rank as the most lethargic pick-and-roll team in the league, or certainly very low. I’ve bemoaned the Nets for their isolation-heavy offense in this space before, but some of that is a function of the failures that precede it — run Lopez to the top of the key, set a screen for the ballhandling Williams, Williams darts perpendicular to the basket, rinse, lather, repeat, ISO!

Then again, much of that may be a function of Deron Williams’s hesitance to attack the rim for the past two years, which seems to be behind him after his platelet-rich plasma therapy/cortisone shot/detoxifying juice cleanse/exorcism before and during the All-Star break. I have no idea what the data would show for the minor sample size since the All-Star break, but I’d venture a guess that the numbers have changed slightly.

There’s about a dozen unbelievably informative bullet points from this piece, but one more tidbit that might affect the Nets:

Most pick-and-rolls involving two wing players or guards — the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook or LeBron James-Dwyane Wade versions, for instance — are devastatingly effective, according to Toronto’s data. This is partly because teams are using them judiciously, Rucker says, reserving them for elite player combinations. Should teams perhaps broaden their use of this type of play, given its effectiveness around the NBA so far?

Hmm. Do the Nets have an elite guard combination with size and skill that a two-guard pick-and-roll could be utilized more often with? Any ideas?

Read More: The SportVU Follow-up: Answering the Most Common Questions and More Ghost Raptors