After getting a win in Cleveland last night, the Golden State Warriors (28-35) will try to earn a second consecutive road win when they play the New Jersey Nets (19-43) tonight. The Nets were selected to play two regular season games in London against the Raptors this past weekend and were able to win both match ups. How will they do at home against the Warriors though?
On offense, the Nets score 94.0 points per game (28th in the NBA) on 44.1% field goal shooting (26th in the league). This New Jersey team has trouble scoring because their players are not quality scorers. Kris Humphries (also known as Kim Kardashian’s main squeeze; ever heard of her?) and Brook Lopez are the only players remotely close to making half of their shots. The rest of the roster shoots somewhere in between the low and mid 40% range. Needless to say, it’s tough to get points when players have a hard time making shots all alone.
However, the team has been better offensively ever since it acquired Deron Williams in a trade on February 23rd. Granted, the sample size is fairly small (five games), but Williams’ superior point guard play has helped the Nets put on a lot of points on the board. Indeed, since his arrival in Jersey, the Nets are averaging 112.0 points per game on 46.2% field goal shooting. Mind you, before we peg the former Illinois star as the next Magic Johnson, it’s worth noting that during that stretch his opposition was the Spurs, Rockets, Suns and the Raptors twice. Not the best defensive teams around, but then again, neither are the Warriors.
Stars often get too much credit and also get too much of the blame, but in the case of Deron Williams, he’s the biggest reason why this team is scoring more. Prior to his acquisition, New Jersey was converting a mere 59.5% of their shot attempts at the rim, which is 28th in the NBA. However, in the five games since his arrival, the team is converting 63.8% of their attempts at the basket. The improvement is not huge, but it is there nonetheless. Given the fact that the team as a whole has trouble converting in the paint against bigger players, it’s important to find Nets players the moment they become open underneath the basket, and Williams helps them a lot with that.
But the biggest contribution that Williams has made on the team is simply sharing the ball. He does such a terrific job of actively setting up his teammates that they look to do the same in return. On the season, the Nets are averaging 20.4 assists per game (21st in the league); however the team has averaged 28.2 assists ever since the trade. The biggest winner of these changes? Brook Lopez. Prior to the trade, far too often it seemed as though his teammates completely forgot about his existence on the team and basically went several stretches without giving him the ball; opting instead to fire away perimeter jumpers. Have a look at his production prior to the trade:
Ever since Williams joined the team, there is no forgetting the team’s starting center; have a look at his production once Williams came on board:
As we can see, Lopez’s game has benefited from the presence of a pure point guard on the team.
With that said, the perimeter players on the team have too much of a hard time scoring given their inability to convert from the field. They are far too reliant of their jump shooting and yet they are not even great shooters.
On defense, the Nets surrender 99.9 points per game (16th in the NBA) on 45.7% field goal shooting (17th in the league). The Nets big men do a good job of battling for post position and keeping big men out of the paint as much as they can. Consequently, opposing frontline players tend to have to score from further out than they are accustomed to, thus reducing their efficiency.
The Nets biggest area of concern though is their perimeter defense. They get beat off the dribble far too easily and thus force their big men to pick up fouls by defending the basket. Indeed, New Jersey yields 27.0 free throw attempts per game (27th in the NBA). Further complicating matters for their defense, when they get exposed off the bounce, the weak side perimeter players usually try to provide some type of help defense at the basket to prevent an easy score; however they struggle to recover back to their man if the ball goes their way and thus surrender open perimeter jump shots as evidenced by their 37.0% three point shooting allowed.
Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis should be able to repeatedly get into the lane and create scoring opportunities from themselves or their teammates.
New Jersey game notes: Deron Williams will miss the next two games due to the birth of his child.
Golden State game notes: David Lee has been on a tear in his last five games, averaging 16.4 points and 13.4 rebounds on 47.8% field goal shooting.