Everyone who’s watched the Nets these past five games knows that the team has looked different. Whether it be the return of Anthony Morrow (as Danny so beautifully detailed earlier today), the end of the Carmelo Anthony trade talk saga, or some other cosmic reason, there’s no doubt that we’ve been looking at two completely different basketball teams.
I was curious about the exact difference, so I went back and looked at the Nets before the homestand and during it to really dig into the statistical difference. Here’s what I found, in chart form, below.
Right away, you can see the difference. The Nets have shot better from everywhere, while completely shutting down their opponents. The most staggering difference is from three, where the Nets shot 34-72 over the past five games. This is where Anthony Morrow’s difference has been, not only is he already one of the greatest percentage shooters from 3 in NBA history, but his shooting touch opens up the floor for everyone else, too. The Nets have also had a much more focused defensive effort in these past five games, and the numbers show that, too; forcing opponents into shooting under 40% from the field and under 33% from deep.
Again, the difference here is staggering. The Nets have averaged almost two more blocks+steals per game. While opposing defenses have had more steals per game, the Nets have actually cut their turnovers, meaning that they’ve sharply cut down on their unforced offensive errors. The most significant number to me, however, is assists; the Nets are averaging almost six more assists per game while opponents are averaging almost five less. In terms of pure passing, that’s a minimum difference of 22 points per game. That figure is emblematic of the newly spread floor that the Nets have been working in, which is another huge plus brought to the Nets by Morrow & a general shift in focus.
But all that stuff is gravy. At the end of the day, only one thing matters:
While the pre-homestand Nets averaged a -7.3 in efficiency, those numbers essentially reversed during the five-game stretch. Scoring an above-average 105.3 points per 100 possessions while only allowing 98.9, the Nets looked like a high-caliber team that they haven’t seen in years. A +6.3 difference would put them in the same category of a team like the 31-14 Chicago Bulls, who are +6.4.
While the Nets almost surely aren’t going to perform at this high a level for the remainder of the season, this is a friendly reminder that this is the team we can expect right now: a young team with growing pains & the potential to set off a high-octane stretch at any moment. There are going to be bumps along the way, stupid mistakes that occur against even the worst of teams, and nights when Brook Lopez only grabs one rebound and turns the ball over anyway. But this is a team that’s moving forward, a very young team that’s working out those kinks along the way.
While it would be nice to have an instant 50-win team, one of the bigger joys in my basketball observation is the ability to watch a young team grow before my very eyes. Brook Lopez destroying smaller defenders on the low block. Derrick Favors darting under defenders for easy dunks. Anthony Morrow shooting beautiful threes from the corners. Sasha Vujacic annoying the crap out of any opposing shooting guard. Maybe it’s just me, but I eat this stuff up. I hate losing – don’t get me wrong – but I love looking at the light at the end of the tunnel.
If these charts tell us anything, it’s that there’s a lot of potential on this Nets team and similarly a lot of room left to grow. That’s precisely the point. The process is what we’re watching now. It continues tonight against Indiana, tomorrow against Milwaukee, and so on and so forth as the days and weeks pass by. The outcome is still in the distance, shining at the end of that tunnel. It’ll get there. In time.