The Brooklyn Nets were supposed to be one of the worst in the NBA but instead are one of the surprise teams early in the NBA season. The Nets cleaned house last season from the front office to the coaching staff and it is paying early rewards. They brought in Sean Marks from the San Antonio Spurs to be their general manager who in turn hired Kenny Atkinson to coach during the rebuild. After just nine games the Nets already have their fourth win, it took them eight games last year to get their first win. Slowly but surely the Nets are improving.
The Nets were aggressive in free agency and missed out on a few restricted free agents but were able to bring Jeremy Lin back to the Big Apple on a three-year deal. Besides that, they preserved a ton of cap space for next summer’s free agent class. They also have an asset in Brook Lopez who they could trade to replenish their asset cupboard that the last regime foolishly emptied.
Despite going into nearly every game with a talent deficit, coach Atkinson has the Nets playing hard and with pace. Last season under Lionel Hollins and interim coach Tony Brown the Nets played a slower game and averaged 95 possessions per game according to basketball-reference.com. This season that number is up to 104 per game and is second in the NBA. The Nets are also attempting nearly double the amount of threes than they did last at 34.2 a game this year up from 18 last season. Although they are not connecting at high rate, Atkinson is showing that he is aware of where the game is going and trying to help the Nets to get there.
In their recent game against the New York Knicks the Nets ran a great side out of bounds play. It started with a Sean Kilpatrick receiving the inbound pass after he came off a zipper cut. The in bounder Rondea Hollis-Jefferson came off an Iverson cut which was a diversion for the actual action, which is for Lopez. As Hollis-Jefferson came off the screens, Justin Hamilton set a screen on Joakim Noah to free Lopez, which confused the defense and gave him a lane to the rim. The ability to draw up a play to get his team a good look always earns a coach the respect of his players.
Later in the same game, the Nets ran a double highball screen in transition for Kilpatrick. One big popped to three and the other rolled to the rim, just as it appeared Kilpatrick was going to hit Lopez he founds Hollis-Jefferson wide open in the corner. Hollis-Jefferson drove baseline forcing the defense to collapse on him, so he passes to an open Kilpatrick for three.
The Nets do not have the names and talent that the Knicks do but they have a higher points per possession at 1.08 points and a better net rating at plus 0.5. Despite being chosen by ESPN’s team forecast to finish last in the East, the Brooklyn Nets might end being the best team in New York.