The Nets have the ninth-best offense in the league, and as interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo noted to reporters in the team’s first postseason practice, their playbook isn’t too extensive. Here’s a breakdown of their most commonly-used set this year:
One of the Nets’ most common actions you’ll see is a UCLA-style flex set. The Nets set up in a 1-4 high set — with Deron Williams bringing the ball up and his four teammates lined up parallel to one another at the free throw line extended — the two bigs at the elbows, and the two wings outside the three-point line.
The Nets have a few looks they get out of this. Williams initiates the action by passing to one of the wings — usually the one on the opposite side of Brook Lopez — and cutting off a down screen from the big man at the ball-side elbow. This is the first look for the Nets: if Williams’s man gets caught on the down-screen and the big man defender doesn’t slide down, the wing can hit Williams for an open layup:
That’s the easiest look the Nets get out of this set, but since it’s also the easiest to defend, it’s the least common. More often than not, Williams doesn’t get or use the screen solidly enough, and he’ll instead cut back up to the weak-side elbow to set a screen for Lopez, which Lopez uses to get good position in the post.
This is a common look for the Nets out of the set for a few reasons. Firstly, and most obviously, Lopez is one of the most talented post scorers in the game. The Nets want the ball in his hands in the post. But this look is particularly good for the Nets because Lopez has struggled throughout his career to consistently establish good post position. Ex-coach Avery Johnson stressed repeatedly that one of his major criticisms for Lopez is his desire to post up 14-18 feet from the basket, and this action is set up to get him better position. Even if the screen isn’t particularly successful, cutting from the weak side gives Lopez much closer position to the basket when he receives a pass. (Mike Prada from SB Nation wrote more smart things about how the Nets do this from multiple sets.)
If the ball doesn’t go into Lopez — or it does and he can’t get a look — the play often resets, swinging back out to Johnson, Williams, Wallace (or Bogans, Watson, Stackhouse, or Brooks, if they’re in the game). From there, the offense gets a little more open, depending on who has the ball: Williams & Watson can spot up, call for a simple pick-and-roll, reset the action, or isolate; Johnson often isolates or spots up; Wallace is usually left somewhat unguarded thanks to his inconsistent shooting and often slashes & kicks; Bogans and Stackhouse usually either swing the ball or nestle into the corner, and no one is ever really sure what’s going through MarShon Brooks’s head.
Some additional thoughts:
- Looking at NBA splits before and after the All-Star break is normally an arbitrary timeline, but in Deron Williams’s case, it’s a very real timeframe: heading into the break, Williams sat the final two games for rest before undergoing multiple forms of treatment, including platelet-rich plasma therapy, cortisone shots on both ankles, and a detoxifying juice cleanse to lose excess body fat. After the treatment, Williams’s play and performance changed drastically: he’s more comfortable creating in “semi-transition,” his shots at the rim per game have doubled, and he’s shooting from three-point range at the best rate of his career.
- Reggie Evans has never been known as an offensive player, but has put together career offensive nights as a starter with the Nets in creative ways: both in offensive rebounds, and, shockingly, as a post player. The Nets have spent a couple of possessions in most first quarters establishing Evans as a threat, and while that often does more harm than good — Evans led the league in percentage of shots blocked this year — he does occasionally get some shots to fall. One thing to watch: despite being right-handed, Evans is more comfortable using his left hand around the basket.
- Three-point shooters to watch: Williams, Johnson, Watson, Bogans. Three-point shooters that need to prove they can shoot: Wallace, Teletovic, Brooks. People I hope never to see beyond the arc: Blatche.
- Speaking of Blatche, the wildly talented (emphasis on wildly) has perhaps the most diverse array of post moves and fakes I’ve ever seen from a backup center. His combination of spins, dribble moves, scoop shots, reverses, and step backs make every Andray Blatche possession a Coney Island roller-coaster ride. When he touches the ball, I quite literally have no idea what’s going to happen. He’s very effective attacking the offensive glass and scoring through contact at the rim, but he’s also supremely talented at creating a shot (not necessarily a good one) for himself.Also: when Andray Blatche dribbles once while still in the backcourt, #PointBlatche is engaged. He is the greatest show in sports.
Devin Kharpertian is the managing editor/showrunner/awkwardly tall leader of The Brooklyn Game, covering the Brooklyn Nets and their impact on the borough.