HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Who’s the only undefeated NBA team in 2013?
It’s the Brooklyn Nets, who are 4-0 in January and 6-1 under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo.
As it looks more and more like the Nets won’t be hiring a new coach any time soon, it’s looking more and more like Carlesimo deserves an extended stay on the bench anyway.
Five of the Nets’ six wins have come against teams — Charlotte, Cleveland, Washington, Sacramento and Philadelphia — with a combined record of 51-126. But their 17-point win in Oklahoma City pretty much legitimizes the run under Carlesimo.
The run has been mostly fueled by offense. The Nets have scored 109.5 points per 100 possessions under Carlesimo, the league’s second-best mark in the time he’s been coach.
Nets efficiency, 2012-13
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
There’s been a slight uptick in pace, a change that was needed and seems to be helping the offense. But it’s not like the Nets are flourishing on the break. They’re averaging 9.0 fast break points per game under Carlesimo after averaging 8.9 under Johnson.
They’ve had a bigger increase in second-chance points (14.1 to 15.9) because they’ve rebounded better. Increased minutes for Reggie Evans has played a part, but so has a more aggressive Brook Lopez. The center had an offensive rebounding percentage of 9.5 percent (2.4 offensive boards per game) under Johnson, but has pushed that up to 15.2 percent (3.3 offensive boards per game).
An additional offensive board per game isn’t a huge increase, but the little things can mean a lot, especially when they add up. In addition to rebounding better, the Nets are also getting to the rim a little more, getting to the line a little more and shooting a little better from the perimeter.
The improved shooting has come from the starting backcourt. Joe Johnson and Deron Williams have combined to take 2/3 of their shots from outside the paint this season. That’s not a good ratio, but both have improved dramatically from outside the paint under Carlesimo.
Joe Johnson shooting from outside the paint
EFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
Deron Williams shooting from outside the paint
Williams’ career effective field goal percentage from outside the paint (47.4 percent) is right in the middle of the two marks above. So an improvement had to come at some point. Johnson’s career mark (46.8 percent) is much more in line with what he was shooting under Avery Johnson.
The good news is that the Nets are actually playing well with Williams on the floor. When they were 14-14, he was a minus-37 and they were much better defensively when he was on the bench. Under Carlesimo, the Nets are a plus-55 with Williams on the floor and are actually better defensively with him on the floor.
And here’s the issue with the Nets’ defensive improvement. They have rebounded a little better under Carlesimo and they’ve forced an extra 0.4 turnovers per 100 possessions. But they’ve also allowed their opponents to shoot better and get to the line more.
So how are they allowing 1.4 fewer points per 100 possessions? Well, their opponents are shooting just 68 percent from the free throw line against the Nets under Carlesimo after shooting 75 percent (the league average) against the Johnson-coached Nets.
Another concern from the Nets is the increased turnovers they’re committing. They’ve committed 16.4 under Carlesimo, the fourth-highest rate in the league in the two weeks he’s been coached.
Things are going well right now and with all the offensive talent the Nets have, they should be a top-five team on that end. But some of the ways the Nets are improving aren’t so sustainable, and more answers must be found on both ends of the floor.