Tuesday, November 19, 2013

10 Games Offensive Stats: How Bad Have the Nets Really Been?

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 offensive side.

If you had to guess before the season started, you would say that the Nets would establish themselves as one of the top offensive teams. They may not be the fastest, or score the most points, but they'd be efficient to say the least. How can you not be, with players like Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez all getting attention (oh look, that's the whole starting lineup)?

But they haven't performed well, and the record says its not even close. So let's take a look.

Field Goal %
The FG% numbers that express efficiency varies per individual, but as a team, you can be compared to everyone else in the league. A high FG% either means the team is getting good looks in the paint, or are converting on open jumpers. For the Brooklyn Nets, the team's FG% this season has been...


For those who aren't familiar with team stats, this may seem okay. But its not. This conversion rate ranks the Nets 21st in FG% out of 30. Twenty-one out of thirty. Miami (of course) leads the league in FG% at 52.5%, nearly TEN percentage points higher than the Nets. If you think about the style that Miami plays, they have LeBron James attacking the paint (and he's extremely efficient in that area) or having it kicked out for open looks near the perimeter. Let's see how the Nets get their looks.

Ignoring the red, it seems as though the Nets have a fairly balanced attack on offense. When compared the Miami Heat's shot chart for shot frequency, its fairly similar. So then where does the problem lie?

When you look at the conversion in the paint, inside the arc, and from three-point range, you begin to see the problem.

Here you begin to see the underlying problems. In the paint, while not the best, has been where the Nets have excelled (no brainer). When in the paint but not the restricted area, the Nets rank 9th in the league in FG%. However, just 40% of their points come from the paint which puts them in bottom 10 in the league for that category. Just around 39 of their points come from within this area, which also places them near the bottom. With an offense force like Lopez and people who can attack the rim like Pierce and Deron, this shouldn't be the case.

But if they feel like they should take more shots from the outside, then that's doable, as long as their converting. Looking at the chart, one can see that its not the case. The mid-range game is not the worst, but its exceptionally mediocre compared the rest of the league. With the player the Nets have, they should be ranked 16th in the league in mid-range FG%. A large part of this has been Kevin Garnett's lack of offense to start the season. He's shot just 12-42 inside 16 feet and when you break it down further its even more depressing. Garnett is averaging just 6.9 points per game and from that, he's shooting just...
  • 38.46% from within the restricted area
  • 23.53% from within the paint but non-RA
  • 35.09% from mid-range
  • 0% from three-point range
While Garnett's impact on the team extends far beyond what he puts up statistically, its discouraging to see Garnett perform at such a low level. When you take out Garnett's last game where he started 6 for 6 and ended up 8 for 19, the numbers become uglier. Last season, when more attention was put on him, Garnett was putting up a near 50% conversion rate, something the fans were expecting more of from Garnett. 

The area that really, truly, brings down their offense is from beyond the arc, offensively and defensively (I'll get to that later). At just a 33% conversion rate, the Nets are one of THE worst three-point shooting teams in the league. Luckily for us, the team has noticed the deficiency from beyond the arc and average a very few amount of three per game (17.2 attempts). Of our players who've taken more than five three-pointers this season, here's how they stack up. Take into account the league average for 3P% last year was around 35.9% and this year it is at 36%. The number in parenthesis is the player's average 3P%
It's kind of funny how our top three-point shooters are the ones that are struggling whereas the ones' whose career averages are slightly below the league average (for this year) are the ones leading this team in that category. Disregarding Mirza Teletovic, who really needs to find his touch quick if he wants to get any minutes, our expected three-point shooting percentage should be much higher than it currently. It's early in the season and in the long run should more towards equilibrium and the expected values. When that happens, the Nets should be come out a much better offensive team.

Based on the age of their players and the general concern for health, its expected that the Nets didn't, and will not, play at a fast pace. Williams said before that they had intended to run but so far they haven't and I do not see that changing anytime soon.

When you look at the numbers, they back up that logic. The Nets have the tenth least number of possessions per 48 minutes (Pace as defined by NBA Stats) with 95.7 a game. But when matched with other teams, they cannot keep up. In their seven losses, five of them played at a faster pace. Only the Indiana Pacers and Sacremento Kings played at a slower pace, but one of them is the top team in the league. 

The Nets not only play at a slow pace, they fail to create many fast break opportunities. The Brooklyn Nets rank dead last in "Fast Break Points" per game at just 9.4. The league leaders, the Phoenix Suns, average 23.4 points off of fast breaks per game.

Just because the Nets play at a slow pace and they have a bad record does not mean they necessarily directly correlate. It's just that when playing at a slower pace, the penalty for turning the ball over increases and the need for efficiency increases. 

Free Throw %
Free throws have killed the Brooklyn Nets game in and game out. It's clear to whoever watches the game. For the season, the team is shooting just 75.6% from the charity stripe, which is slightly above the league average at 75%. 

With the Nets, its not a matter of attempting free throws, its more about converting those attempts. The Brooklyn Nets actually are sixth in the NBA in FTA rate (The amount of free throws a player or team shoots in comparison to the amount of shots that player or team shoots). Essentially, this stat shows who is good at drawing fouls and getting the line. The Nets are one of the best in the league during these past ten games. The only problem is converting on these opportunities. Once they fix this problem, they could be scoring at least a point a game more. At 27.9 free throw attempts per game, the team has plenty of opportunities to capitalize on.

Over a third of the Nets' FTA come from Brook Lopez and Paul Pierce, who have both been efficient when it comes to making their free throws. Unfortunately, over 40% of the FTA come from Mason Plumlee, Reggie Evans, Andrei Kirilenko, and Andray Blatche, who combine for a FT% of 57.8%.

percentage of the team's total 
minutes the player was on the floor
+ net points of the team during this time
Miscellaneous Stats
There is a lot more that could be looked into (how each individual player is performing, which lineup is producing the most, are minutes being allocated correctly) but for now, here's just a brief look at other team and individual statistics.

Offensive Rating: 99.4 (21st in the league)
APG: 19.8 (21st in the league)
eFG%: 46.3% (25th in the league)
Offensive RPG: 11.0 (17th in the league)
Turnovers: 14.1 (7th-best in the league)
FG% at home: 45.3%
FG% away: 41.5%

The Brooklyn Nets biggest downfalls offensively have been from beyond the arc and at the free throw lines. As the season progresses, it is expected that both will rise based on player's past performances. In the end, however, its up to both the players to convert on their attempts and the coach to get the players the open looks. With a bunch of new players looking to find their rhythm and a first year coach, its hard to predict what will happen during the rest of the season based on just these first ten games. It's a small sample size, but it explains why the Nets have been explicitly poor on the offensive end.

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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