Analyzing the Surprise Teams Part III: New Jersey Nets

The third part of this series will focus on the New Jersey Nets, a team that hasn’t made the leaps that the first two teams have made but still is a surprise to many people. The Nets figure to be in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoffs race this season.

Offensively, they rank seventh in the NBA, scoring 109.7 points per 100 possessions. What’s surprising is that, despite being coached by Lawrence Frank, the Nets are the fourth worst defensive team in the league. Only the Wizards, Warriors, and Kings rank worse. Although the Nets do a good job of grabbing defensive rebounds, they simply foul too much. They allow 30 free throw attempts per 100 field goal attempts, second worst in the NBA.

New Jersey’s games probably aren’t the most fun to watch because not only do they foul a lot but they also draw a lot of fouls (more on this later). They’re solid in all of the offensive Four Factors, posting strong field goal percentages, offensive rebound numbers, and turnover rates.

The Nets feature a two-headed monster of a backcourt in Devin Harris and Vince Carter. Harris is arguably the most improved player in the league, and his ability to get to the free throw line is the biggest reason why. He’s posted an absurd free throw rate of 56%. To put that into perspective, Dwyane Wade is only at 38% and LeBron James is at 36%. Even better, when Harris gets to the line, he converts. His free throw percentage is over 84%. Thanks to the free throws, his true shot percentage is a very impressive 60.6%. Besides the shooting numbers, Harris is also a solid passer who has a respectable turnover rate of just 8.7%. Thanks to all these things, his PER of 26.4 is among the league’s leaders.

Vince Carter has experienced a renaissance of sorts this season, most likely thanks to the support of Harris. He’s always been a great perimeter shooter and this year is no different, as his three-point percentage is 39.2%. You’d be surprised to hear that Carter is great at not turning the ball over and has a miniscule turnover rate of 7.3%. Opposing backcourts must have nightmares the nights before they face the Nets.

Rookie Brook Lopez has been solid. He’s a good rebounder that shoots a lower percentage than you’d expect (he was like this in college, too). Besides Lopez, the Nets also have solid young big men in Ryan Anderson and Josh Boone. The big trade in the offseason was acquiring Yi Jianlian and so far he has disappointed. He has the low shooting percentage of Lopez but not the rebounding ability. In addition, his defense has never been anything to write home about. Sitting at the end of the bench is Sean Williams, a second-year player who showed promise last season but has seen limited time. I can think of a few teams that would be interested in his services.

Like many of the teams stuck in the middle of the Eastern Conference, the Nets have an expected win percentage lower than their actual winning percentage, so slight struggles are expected in the future. A trip to the playoffs is definitely not out of reach, however.

Information from the KnickerBlogger.Net stats page was used in this report.

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Christmas Day Picks
New Orleans at Orlando: Magic
San Antonio at Phoenix: Spurs
Boston at L.A. Lakers: Celtics
Washington at Cleveland: Cavaliers
Dallas at Portland: Trail Blazers

Prediction Record: 248-111

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