Why are the Nets More Efficient?

Statistics can be a funny thing sometimes. Just when you expect them to say one thing, they paint a completely different picture and ruin everything.

I was all about doing a post today looking at the Nets pace factor and offensive efficiency since John Loyer interim coached against the Philadelphia 76ers a few weeks back, because I was convinced that the recent turnaround by the Nets was connected to them picking up the pace with Loyer’s influence. I found it interesting that Loyer was (unsuccessfully) imploring his team to run against the Sixers that night. With so many poor/underachieving shooters on the roster, a run and gun style was the only way to hide the offensive flaws of this team – or so I thought.

In reality, in the past seven games, where the Nets have gone 3-4, and played relatively well in every contest except their blowout loss to Chicago last weekend, the team has an offensive efficiency of 106.6; well above their season average of 97.6 (last in the league), and a mark that would actually rank the team 11th in the entire NBA in the category if they maintained that mark for an entire season.  Seven games isn’t a huge sample size, but the differentiation is so significant, I can’t ignore it.

But here’s where things get a little crazy for me. While I was suspecting to see that the team’s pace had increased, it’s actually decreased in the past seven games. The Nets are averaging 89.4 possessions during that time period, down from their season average of 93.6. So if the Nets are becoming more offensively efficient with a slower pace, it must mean their halfcourt game is improving, right? Well, no. Not at all. For the season, the Nets are shooting 42.6 percent from the field, last in the NBA. In the past seven games, they are shooting 41 percent.

So what gives? Here’s where the stats start telling a story. In the past seven games, the Nets have done a phenomenal job protecting the ball and distributing it. During that stretch, they are averaging 22.4 assists per game, which would rank 5th in the league based on current season totals, and they are averaging 10.1 turnovers, which would be the best mark in the league.

And that explains a lot for me. The Nets are becoming a more efficient team offensively because they’re turning the ball over less and making more passes that lead to baskets.  As I mentioned in my “Thoughts on the Game” yesterday, a lot of that has to do with the huge improvement of Terrence Williams, who may be better at distributing the ball than Devin Harris. With Williams running the point forward effectively, it takes the pressure off Devo as a ball handler and opens up the offense more.

So despite the fact that my original thesis was completely debunked, these are very positive developments for this organization as it heads into the final two weeks. It’s hard for me to say if the better play is reflective of an organizational shift in philosophy from Kiki or Loyer, or rather just an embodiment of some individual performances having a huge impact on the entire team. Either way, it bodes well for next season when the Nets are certain to have more talent on their roster that their current crop of “keepers” are learning how to play efficiently on the offensive end.