What We Learned From the Nets’ Season-Opener

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The Brooklyn Nets are undefeated in the 2020-21 season. While they have only played one game, it was an impressive victory. Their convincing clobbering of the Golden State Warriors combined with their two preseason wins has given a broader picture of gameplay to analyze. Here are some of the most interesting early takeaways. 


More Than a Dynamic Duo?

Arguably the biggest concern for the Nets coming into this season was the integration of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving into the offense. There were doubts that there would be enough possessions for them and the players already established on the roster. While the sample size is small, this is simply a non-issue so far.

The table uses data from each team’s first game of the season. 

Brooklyn’s duo takes a relatively small share of their team’s shots compared to some of their main competitors. They are not hesitating to pass the ball and give their teammates opportunities to score.

These specific numbers will change as more games are played, but they still give an idea of the team’s overall offensive philosophy. The Nets are blessed with depth and are taking advantage of that.

Growing Pains

There has still been some modification of the offense from last year. The two players facing the greatest changes are Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie. In some ways, they have swapped roles. LeVert has transitioned from a primary option in the starting lineup into the leader of the bench, while Dinwiddie has moved from a backup scorcher to a secondary distributor with the starters.

LeVert appears to be taking to his new position quicker than Dinwiddie. He played for 25 minutes against the Warriors during which he scored 20 points, grabbed nine rebounds and dished out five assists. He was also causing problems on the other side of the ball, where he snagged two steals and a block. While he may be coming off the bench, LeVert has starter talent and it shows. How many other teams in the league can boast a Sixth Man capable of dropping 50 points?

Dinwiddie played 20 minutes and put up nine points on 2-for-6 shooting. That does not look like anything special, but that is actually the point. He is sharing the majority of his minutes with at least one of Durant and Irving. Dinwiddie’s job is not to score–it is to enable his stars to perform. When viewing it through that lens, his five rebounds and four assists are far more decisive than a few missed shots.

Both of these players are immensely skilled and should perform even better as they become more adjusted and comfortable throughout the season.

Small Roles for Big Men

While we are discussing new jobs for old players, let us look at two returning characters in Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan. It was clear going into this season that the offensive burden would not be placed on the broad shoulders of Brooklyn’s big men, but that does not mean they do not have a critical duty.

The two combined for six shot attempts and 12 total points. Together they secured 18 rebounds while tallying two steals and three blocks. It may seem silly to combine their stats, but ultimately the role they fill is comparable regardless of who is actually on the court. They stretch the opponent’s defense by threatening the interior on offense and anchor the Nets’ defense from the paint. 

Obviously, there are differences between the two. Jordan is more defensive-focused while Allen is more effective offensively. Allen is a better passer and Jordan dominates the boards harder. These strengths and weaknesses will likely become more pronounced in a series as matchups become more influential. 

Their primary assignment will remain unchanged though: to stop the other team from scoring. Brooklyn’s offensive prowess is evident and many articles will inevitably be written about it this season. The deciding factor in how much this team accomplishes, however, will be the defense. In the preseason and season-opener, there was plenty to like on that end of the court. The Nets’ defense currently ranks first in opponent’s effective field goal percentage and third in opponent turnover percentage.

To be clear, the sample size is tiny, and these numbers will almost certainly change as the season progresses. This is not meant to be a prediction or a definitive statement on how the team will play going forward, but simply an analysis of what the coaching staff and players have shown us so far. As it stands now, there is a lot to like.