I’m not sure anyone expected for the Brooklyn Nets to start out the season 0-7, but they have and look rather unimpressive. Being a Nets fan I knew that they weren’t going to have ridiculous success this season, but 40-45 wins and a low seed playoff spot didn’t seem like a stretch, especially in a very weak Eastern Conference. After seeing these first seven games, the thought of that happening has began to fade.
A seven game losing streak is the longest the Nets have had to open a season since 2009-10. That same season they started off 0-18 and finished 12-70, the worst winning percentage in franchise history. What’s good about sports is that you can’t pin poor team performance on one player, if that was the case you’d sit that player and not let him affect the team. For this year’s Brooklyn Nets team, they struggle on offense. And they struggle very severely.
They appear in the bottom-10 teams in numerous offensive categories: Points per game, 3 point % & 3 point FGM (30th), points (22nd) and total rebounds (21st). Fortunately their defense isn’t as bad as their offense, but it’s still not great. The biggest issue is that the Nets have a hard time stopping the three-point shot and opponents are shooting about 40% against them (28th in the league). It only adds to the fact that NBA players are becoming more and more comfortable shooting from behind the arc and if the Nets don’t rectify this, they’re going to be shot out of the season very quickly.
*Quick Stat: Of the 210 NBA games played so far this season, there have been 49 where a team has shot over 40% from three.*
The team as a whole is struggling, but Joe Johnson seems to be having the biggest issue. Since his arrival to Brooklyn a few years ago, Nets fans have become accustomed to seeing a decent amount of JJ in the offense. He’s not dominant by any means, but there were many fourth quarters last year were he seemed to take your breath away. Him dancing on a defender followed by a splash from a fall-away jumpshot made him a fan favorite. This season is a complete 180 and Johnson is on pace to have his worst scoring season yet. His PPG average (10.3) would be the worst since his sophomore season and his FG% of 33% and 3PM% of 17% would be his worst ever by more than 10% each. JJ must notice his scoring is off because we’re seeing an increased number of rebounds and assists, so he’s making a conscience effort to contribute without scoring; he’s limiting his shot attempts and his 11.3 FGA/GM is fourth on the team behind Lopez, Young and Jack. If JJ decides to attack the basket more he should get out of his slump. He’s never shot a FT% over 85% in a season and is hovering around the 90% mark now. Adding to that, a more aggressive Johnson will open up the offense a lot more, giving Lopez a better post presence and allowing better pick plays because the defender won’t be able to leave JJ open.
I, along with countless other Nets fans, don’t want to see another 12-70 season and we know that the roster is capable of playing better. Before I conclude I want to shed light on some positives that Nets players are having, starting with Jarrett Jack who has stepped into the role of starting PG and has turned into a good playmaker. His 6.5 APG would be a career high and I can see him as a 15 PPG scorer if he picks up his percentage from the field.
Thaddeus Young has become the second consistent rebounder for the Nets and Brook Lopez has some pressure alleviated for being a guy who needs to grab 10+ boards every night. Young has also increased his points and shot attempts over the last four games while maintaining a good percentage so he seems to be settling in to an increased role on Lionel Hollins’ squad. Perhaps the Nets should consider running more pick-and-pops with Thad and Jack, after all he’s a mid-range shooter that defenses need to respect.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who was received in the Mason Plumlee trade, is about as energetic a rookie can get and looks like the right guy to replace Plumlee on the roster (even though I do miss him). RHJ is still raw on offense, but can defend three or four positions and uses his 7’2″ wingspan to play the passing lane; the former Wildcat has already had three games with more than two steals. With his limited minutes the stats aren’t as eye-popping as they should be, but his per 36 minutes stats have RHJ as a guy who can go out and grab 10 boards and three steals.
The season still has a lot of games left and a poor with the level of competition being as low as it is in the East, the Nets can turn their season around and might challenge for a playoff spot.
*All stats via basketball-reference.com*
*Featured photo by Michael Tipton / Flickr*