The Brooklyn Nets 2013-14 season was basically a tale of two halves. There was the 2013 part where they went just 10-21. Then, there was the 2014 part where they went 34-17 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
Missing for most of the season was star center Brook Lopez. Even before December 20th, Lopez had already missed nine games. Then, on that day versus the Philadelphia 76ers, Lopez broke his foot and was lost for the season. To that point, Lopez had appeared in just 17 games. In those 17 games, the Nets were just 7-10 with Lopez. The Nets were 10-16 following their overtime loss to the Sixers that night.
The Nets entered the season practically a whole new team. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were among the many new additions that were having difficulty getting acclimated with their new teammates. The Nets offense convoluted as players seemingly could not get out of each other’s way. Spacing and ball movement were awful as Pierce, Garnett, Lopez, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams were unsure of how to play with each other and the Nets were suffering a series of injuries to key players. Nobody seemed to know when to shoot or if they should look for their teammates. The Nets were a disappointing 10-16 and a change was needed.
After eventually falling to 10-21, coach Jason Kidd eventually found a system that worked and turned Brooklyn’s season around. Inserting Shaun Livingston into the lineup in place of the injured Lopez changed how the Nets started to play. Kidd went with a small-ball, or big-guard, lineup that allowed for better spacing and created mismatches all over the court. Livingston was the primary ball handler with Williams playing more off the ball. Pierce and Johnson were the primary scorers on the wings. Garnett played primarily in the middle of the offensive end setting screens, shooting mid-range jump shots and attacking the boards on both ends of the court. Livingston, Pierce and Johnson all spent significant time in the post depending on who had the mismatch that night.
The Nets were very successful with this type of offense. Now, as the Nets have many questions surrounding their roster this season, it’s wonder to see what kind of vision Kidd has for his offense next season.
However, if the team returns mostly intact, it will be interesting to see if the Nets can maintain that same level of success with Lopez back in the lineup.
Lopez is a highly skilled offensive player who has averaged 18.0 points on 51.1% shooting from the field for his career. He can hit the mid-range shot or score in the post in a variety of ways. As you can see from the shot chart below, courtesy of NBA.com, Lopez is mostly effective from about 15 feet and in.
Part of the problem with Lopez is that he has a tendency to hold the ball for a long time. Sometimes he is able to create a quality shot or draw a foul. Other times it kills the shot clock for the Nets and the team ends up not getting anything going on the offensive end leading to a bad shot with the clock expiring.
For Brooklyn to have more success with Lopez in the lineup, Kidd will likely need to preach quicker decision making to Lopez. Lopez has the size and offensive ability to be able to command a double-team against most opponents, creating more open shots for his teammates. Should the Nets return Livingston, Williams, Pierce and Garnett or players of similar style, Kidd should consider starting Lopez in place of the position where Garnett was and playing a smaller style around him.
Of course, it all starts with who is on the roster next season.