The first year in Brooklyn has gotten off to a pretty good start for the Brooklyn Nets. After 7 games, they have a 5-2 record, which is about where they should be. They have played 5 games at home and 2 on the road and they will now begin a 3-game western conference road trip. In this article, I will talk about what the Nets have done well so far and what they still need to work on.
First, let’s recap their first 7 games:
@Brooklyn 107, Toronto 100.
Minnesota 107, @Brooklyn 96.
@Miami 103, Brooklyn 73.
Brooklyn 107, @Orlando 68.
@Brooklyn 82, Orlando 74.
@Brooklyn 114, Cleveland 101.
@Brooklyn 102, Boston 97.
2nd quarter success, 3rd quarter struggles:
The Brooklyn Nets have been a tale of two halves early on in the season. Actually, a tale of two quarters. Most Brooklyn Nets games so far have started off with a close, contested, entertaining first quarter with lots of offense. Then, in the second quarter, the bench players come in, play good defense, and the Nets jump out to a big lead, often scoring 60 or more points in the first half. Then, in the third quarter, they lose their 10+ point lead. This happened in the Minnesota, Orlando, Cleveland, and Boston games. Although they managed to win 3/4 of those games, they can’t let teams come back into the games like that because when they play better teams, they will lose.
Let’s look at some stats. In the second quarters of games so far this year, Brooklyn has outscored their opponents 192-134, or an average of 27-19. That is exceptional. If they kept that pace up the entire game, they would win by 32 points. However, in the third quarters of games, they have been outscored 178-137 for an average of 25-20 per third quarter. If they kept that pace up for the whole game, they would lose by 20.
So what is going on with the Nets? Some of the blame has to go to Avery Johnson. His halftime speeches are clearly not having a positive effect on the team because they are playing much better before halftime than after halftime. The biggest issue for the third quarter Nets has been their ball movement on offense. The offense usually looks great in the first half and when the Nets have a comfortable lead, they get less hungry to get good looks on offense. This leads to a lot of dribbling by Deron Williams and Joe Johnson and forced shots at the end of the shot clock. The Nets need to continue to stay aggressive on offense for the entire game. That is a trait that comes with a veteran team.
Crunch time situations and closing out games:
With the exception of the Minnesota game, the Nets have been able to put teams away in the fourth quarter. When it really matters, Joe Johnson has been able to get off a good shot, especially in the last two games, and Deron Williams has made his clutch foul shots in the fourth quarter. However, the Nets have not yet played a wire-to-wire close game with lots of lead changes yet. It will be interesting to see how they handle either a situation like that or a situation where they have to come from behind. The only game they were trailing throughout the night was the Miami game, and they didn’t have any chance to come back in that one.
The Joe Johnson situation:
All Nets fans have noticed how poorly Joe Johnson has been shooting early on in the season. He is only shooting 38% from the field, which is much lower than his good 45% shooting last season. He has missed open shots and even some layups. Avery Johnson has also gone to Iso-Joe plays in interesting situations like in the 4th quarter. To me, that doesn’t make sense. The Nets are at their best on offense in the first half, when they are moving the ball well and feeding Brook Lopez in the paint. Joe Johnson iso’s definitely don’t help get Lopez easy looks, nor do they allow Deron Williams to touch the ball. This might be a good play for the Nets to run if they have, say, Jerry Stackhouse, Andray Blatche, and Reggie Evans along with Johnson in the game. But if you have two great offensive players like Deron Williams and Brook Lopez alongside you, Iso-Joe is not the way to go.
I expect Johnson’s field goal percentage to increase as the season goes along. He has just been in a little bit of a slump recently and he will figure it out. He is still getting adjusted to playing with new players after being in Atlanta for the last 6 seasons.
The two-sided Brook Lopez:
Brook Lopez has definitely been the most interesting Net early on this season. In my opinion, he is the most important offensive player to the Nets team this year. When he is rolling, the Nets’ offense is nearly unstoppable. He is at his best when he is catching passes from Deron Williams near the basket and either getting an easy layup, drawing a foul, or doing both. He has also made a good amount of “jump” shots (because he doesn’t actually jump on them) and is shooting nearly 57% from the field. All of this is great and needs to continue.
However, Brook’s defense and rebounding are awful. He is consistently out-rebounded by Kris Humphries, who is a good 3 inches shorter than Lopez, and is also out-rebounded by opposing centers. Just look at what Anderson Varejao did to Brook. 35 points and 18 rebounds. And he isn’t even a good offensive player! Right now, I think that rebounding is more important for Brook than defense and he needs to improve it immediately. At his size, he should be able to get 10 rebounds every game. Let’s try to do that, Brook.
The Bench Mob and who will be in the rotation:
First of all, I hope that the Nets don’t decide to call their bench the “bench mob”. There are much more creative names and many teams have already used this nickname for their bench in the past, including the Bulls with C.J. Watson last season.
Of the players coming off the bench for the Nets, Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans, and C.J. Watson have been getting the most minutes. Keith Bogans has been starting since the Gerald Wallace injury and I’m not sure what his role will be when Wallace comes back. Josh Childress and Marshon Brooks have been getting a little bit of playing time, too, but neither of them has played very well this year. Jerry Stackhouse has surprisingly gotten lots of playing time, but I don’t expect that to last because I don’t think his body can handle it. The three rookies, Tyshawn Taylor, Mirza Teletovic, and Toko Shengelia are officially out of the rotation, at least for now.
I would like to see Tyshawn Taylor get some minutes. From what I’ve seen from him, he is pretty talented and does not have the fear of most rookies. He is aggressive. I like that. Mirza had a spot in the rotation during training camp, I think, but has lost it because of how poorly he has shot 3′s. When injuries start piling up, I expect to see Mirza get more minutes and maybe prove to people that he is NBA-ready.
Do you have any questions about the Brooklyn Nets that were not answered here? Post them in the comments section below.