Brooklyn Nets reach rock bottom from the perimeter

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Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie

There isn’t a team in the NBA shooting the three-pointer worse than the Brooklyn Nets right now. What gives?

The Brooklyn Nets employ an offensive scheme predicated on the heavy use of analytics to maximize efficiency. To put that in layman’s terms, they shoot plenty of three-point shots. Why? Because analytics say to do so. However, over their past 20 contests, the Nets are shooting a measly 31.1% beyond the arc—last in the NBA. What is the reasoning behind their woes from distance?

It’s too easy to place blame on a shooting slump, every team has such. After all, teams will never shoot lights out from three-point land every game. But there is more context here because it’s not quite that simple.

Spencer Dinwiddie has done a marvelous job of orchestrating the Nets’ offense out of the choppy waters that were the opening three weeks of the 2019-20 campaign. When things appeared bleak—given a lackluster start and injuries rearing their ugly head—he took over the reins and led Brooklyn back to respectability.

Though his stats are impressive, in fact, they may just be enough to warrant an All-Star selection, his offensive abilities have not been enough to compensate for a lack of others. He is an exceptional downhill player. He can create for himself or others using dribble-drive penetrations.

However, this shorthanded Nets squad really doesn’t have many shot creators outside of Dinwiddie. Whether he’s attacking the rim for his own look or kicking out to open shooters, the Nets are relying heavily on Dinwiddie to break down defenses.

The Nets don’t have enough creators

It is at this time I’d like to note that with Caris LeVert and Kyrie Irving in the lineup, the Nets were fifth in the NBA in terms of three-point percentage (37.8%). A huge reason as to why was their variance in those who could attack the basket and put pressure on opposing defenses. Dinwiddie is currently third in the NBA in drives (18.8); Irving is 13th (16.0), and LeVert 20th (13.9).

Though this isn’t the sole indicator as to why the Nets have struggled mightily from distance, it sure provides a little perspective. The Nets have a gaping hole on the offensive end without LeVert and Irving.

Joe Harris and Taurean Prince are fourth and fifth on the Nets roster in drives per contest. Meanwhile, their roles are best suited as beneficiaries from kick-out passes not the benefactors of such actions. Multiple instances—such the games against the Pacers and Raptors—have shown that opponents’ scouting reports are centered around running either off the line and making them beat them with their live dribble.

Though Harris and Prince are capable of doing so, this isn’t the most effective use of either player. They are the Nets’ best catch-and-shoot perimeter threats. Their shooting gravities are what makes Atkinson’s motion spread offensive dangerous. This isn’t to say they are one-dimensional players, but would you not want to put them into situations to maximize their efficiency? Kind of makes sense in the type of offensive scheme Atkinson runs, doesn’t it?

With LeVert and Irving playing, Harris shot 48.9% on catch and shoot triples, Prince shot 45.8%. Smaller sample size, sure, but the analytics are aligned with saying the Nets offense ran better with them in the lineup.

In fact, Harris and Prince both shot above 50% from three when receiving passes from Irving, which doesn’t necessarily suit a certain narrative, does it? Oh well.

We know that Kenny Atkinson likes the perimeter shot. The Nets have never been lower than fifth in the NBA in three-point attempts during the span of a full season. Do not expect that trend to come to a screeching halt in 2020. What we can expect, however, is efficiency to increase once LeVert and Irving are incorporated back into the roster.

I mean, it can’t get much worse than rock bottom, can it?

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