Wednesday, November 20, 2013

10 Games Defensive Stats: A Breakdown of the Nets Defensive Breakdowns

The Brooklyn Nets have struggled defensively so far

The Brooklyn Nets have started off the season below nearly all of the expectations that fans had. Neither the optimists nor the realists nor even the pessimists were prepared for the atrocious start that the Nets have had. Ten games into the season, the Nets currently sit at 3-7, good for... third worst in the Eastern Conference.

The NBA hasn't been very predictable thus far. The Sixers, who were supposed to the worst in the league and competing for the worst record in league history, sit at 5-7 which sits them at 4th in the Eastern Conference. The Charlotte Bobcats, who have always been the joke of the league, are at around .500 for the season.

With that being said, let's breakdown how the Brooklyn Nets have been doing and why their performance has been so below average, on the defensive end this time. For the offensive breakdown, click here.

With the addition of Kevin Garnett, a majority of fans believed our defensive problems would be cured. Lawrence Frank in himself is a defensive-minded coach, and Garnett practically is the defense. Coming into preseason, coach Kidd and others stated that the team was focusing more on defense then they were on offense. After all, defense wins championships, right? But if this is the case, why is this team allowing opposing teams to score 102.4 points per game, 8th most in the league?

Let's break it down.

Opposing FG% and Points Per Game
To win games, you have to force the opposing team to score less points that you. As of now, the Brooklyn Nets offense is scoring 97.1 points per game and are giving up 102.4 points per game. That's over a five point difference, and as a result they are currently one of the worst teams in the league record-wise.

When you take a look at the teams the Nets faced, five of their seven losses came from teams that played at a faster pace than them, one factor that makes the Nets seem inept at defense if you look solely at points per game. Another, and more important factor, is the efficiency of teams when they play against the Brooklyn Nets. Teams are shooting 45.8% against the Brooklyn Nets, who rank 20th in that subject. The league average for FG% on offense is 44.8%. Overall, the Nets are allowing .91 points per play, which places them at 27th in the league.

So where exactly do the Nets deficiencies come from? Is it in the paint? From the corners? From beyond the arc?

Through the use of NBA Stats and 82games, here's what we get:

In the restricted area, the Brooklyn Nets defense allows a shooting percentage of just 56.7%, good for 8th best in the league. From within the non-RA paint area, the Brooklyn Nets end up struggling, allowing opponents to shoot 41.7% from the field, which is sixth-worst in the league. When you look at the Nets style of play, we realize that Brook Lopez has been improving on his defense and is one of the top shot blockers in the league (third in the league in blocks per game). A likely reason for this discrepency that occurs in zones just a couple of feet away from each other could be his lack of willingness to stray from the hoop. Now, this segment is speculative, but its something to look into. Take into account now that 23% of the opposing team's shot attempts come from within this area.

From mid-range, the Brooklyn Nets fall apart even more. Ten games into the season, the team is allowing opponents to shoot 43.4%! That's more than the percentage the Nets give up from within the paint. With the third-worst mid-range defense in the league, its not hard to see why this team is failing to slow down opponents.

The Nets have played sub-par offensively from three on offense, and when you look at their defense they fall short once again. They are allowing opponents to shoot 39% from the field, which is the second-worst percentage in the league. To put that into comparison, here are some PLAYERS who are shooting around that mark.
Let's not forget that Kevin Durant, considered one of the best shooters in the league, shot 41% from three last season and his career 3PT% is 37.3%.

If the Nets keep letting opponents shoot this high of a percentage from one of the toughest shots in the game, there's no hope for a solid defense. 

Turnovers caused and Steals per game
We've concluded that the Nets are not the best in limiting offensive efficiency from the other team, but its also worth looking into how many takeaways the Nets have game in and game out.

Again, the Nets fail to perform at even the average level. At just 7.5 steals per game, the Nets place themselves at 18th in the league in this category. The small amount of steals in addition to the lack of young and athletic players correlate to them having few fast-break opportunities and points per game.

If they don't steal the ball often, do they at least force turnovers? Nope. The Brooklyn Nets force just 15.4 turnovers a game, placing them 21st in the NBA.

Ten games into the season, the Nets have won three games and lost seven. Let's see how the defensive turns up in each category.

Wins and Losses
When the Nets win they allow opponents to score just 95.3 points per game on 42.5% shooting, both below the league average. We also see a dip in opponent's 3PT FG%, as the Nets hold their opponents to 35% from beyond the arc, once again below the league average.

As for creating turnovers, the Brooklyn Nets are creating 18.3 TO per win, three more turnovers than their average and if consistent would tie them with the Miami Heat in creating the most amount of turnovers per game.

When the Nets lose, however, they allow their opponents to average 105.3 points per game on an 47.1% from the field and 40.1% from beyond the arc! When the team is giving up that many points so often on such high efficiency, its not hard to imagine why this team is in the Eastern Conference cellar.

In addition to failing to close out on players, the Brooklyn Nets fail to create turnovers as well. They force on 14.1 turnovers a game, which if held consistent over all games would place them in bottom five in the league for that category.

The Nets defense's worst nightmares
There a plethora of different ways that a team can score. They can use the P&R, utilizing both the ball handler or the roll man to score. They can create iso plays where the offensive players takes on the defender one-on-one. There are post-ups, spot up shots, cutters, off-screen plays and so much more depending on the players on the court. For the Nets, three plays/looks specifically have hurt the team the most.
  • P&R Ball Handler
  • Spot-Up Jumpers
  • Transition
Unfortunately for the Nets, opposing teams have figured this out and these three means of getting a shot off have been the most commonly used against the Brooklyn Nets. 

With the Pick & Roll, the player with the ball has two options: to come off the screen and keep it to himself
or pass it off to the big man whose rolling to the basket. The Nets have done a good job in defending roller, allowing 0.93 point per play (11th in the league). However, when the ball-handler comes off the screen and keep its, its another issue. MySynergy states that on a P&R Ball Handler situation that ends in a FGA, TO or FTA, the Nets are giving up 0.92 points per play, dead-last in the league.

On plays that end in spot-up jump shots, the Brooklyn Nets have done a bad job closing out (which correlates to them having a bad mid-range defense). As a result, teams are scoring 1.09 points per play in these situations. This is the 29th worst in the league, and a problem the Nets have to figure out soon. Of all the plays being run against the Nets, this is the most common result (19.9% of the time). It's early in the season and if this defense could be improved, teams will have to look at other means of scoring and therefore have teams re-evaluate the Nets.

In transition situations, its a commonly believed that the Nets don't have the athleticism or youth to settle back on defense fast enough. The numbers back this up. The Nets defense find themselves in transition situations resulting in a FGA, TO or FTA 11.6% of the time. Opposing teams are able to score 1.16 points per play in these situations. While the Nets are not near the bottom in transition defense, they still in the bottom half of the league.

Teams know that Nets have not been able to handle these situations as a result, these three plays are popping up 48.5% of the time. In other situations, the Nets actually perform relatively well. In isolation situations they place first in points allowed per play. On post-ups, they rank eighth. But those plays are run a lot less often than the three described above.

Miscellaneous Stats
Defense is a lot harder to look at compared to offense. There's so many factors and there's a lot of pieces that have to be looked at if you really want to get into the holes of the defense. For one, a player's individual defense can be looked at and how each position stacks up against that of the other teams. For now though, here's a brief look at some other miscellaneous team and individual statistics.
  • Defensive Rating: 107.6 (26th in the league)
  • Defensive Rebound Percentage: 73.7% (17th in the league)
  • Offensive Rebounds Allowed Per Game: 11.3 (16th in the league)
  • Blocks/Foul: 0.48
  • Opponent Points in the Paint: 37.8 (5th best in the league)
  • Opponent eFG%: 50.5% (18th in the league)
The Brooklyn Nets offense has been far from great as viewers can see by just watching. Aside from defense in the restricted area, the Nets defense as been sub-par. The mid-range and three-point range especially have been killing the Nets in the first ten games. The Nets will have to work as a unit for their defense to succeed, and so far that's where they seem to fall apart. On plays where multiple players have to work together, problems tend to rise. When the defender is left to guard one-on-one (isolation, post-ups) we see much better results. It's up to both Lawrence Frank and Jason Kidd to figure out how to get the players to work together to create a network on defense, one that will help them become one of the top defenses in the league.

If you wish to see something specific, mention it in the comments below and, if possible, it will be added either to this piece or the next one.

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