Kirilenko, KG Help Nets Take Key Defensive Step Forward

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – “Defense wins championships” may feel like a cliché, but there’s a lot of truth to it.

Of the 24 teams to make The Finals over the last 12 years, 23 ranked in the top 10 in defensive efficiency during the regular season, and the 24th – the 2006 Dallas Mavericks – ranked 11th. Over the same span, six teams that ranked 13th or lower in offensive efficiency made The Finals.

The San Antonio Spurs improved from 11th in defensive efficiency in 2011-12 to third last season, a big reason why they came just a few seconds from their fifth championship. The Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies got themselves into the conference finals with the two best defenses in the league.

The Brooklyn Nets? They weren’t getting anywhere close to The Finals with the league’s 19th best D. In fact, they couldn’t get to the conference semis because they played some of the most atrocious defense you’ll ever see and allowed the injury-depleted Bulls to score 62 points in the first half of Game 7 of the first round.

Since the Nets had no way of getting Dwight Howard or Andre Iguodala this summer, about the best thing they could do was add Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko. At this point, Paul Pierce is almost an after-thought acquisition because of how important KG and AK-47 will be.

Garnett is the best defender of the last decade. In fact, of the 275 players who have logged at least 5,000 minutes over the last six seasons, none has had a lower on-court DefRtg than Garnett. Over his six years in Boston, the Celtics allowed just 96.0 points per 100 possessions with Garnett on the floor and 101.4 with him on the bench.

Lowest on-court DefRtg, last six seasons

Player MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg
Kevin Garnett 12,266 106.8 96.0 +10.9
Tony Allen 8,278 102.6 96.4 +6.2
Taj Gibson 6,690 102.9 97.0 +5.9
Paul Pierce 15,744 106.6 98.3 +8.3
Paul George 6,194 103.7 98.4 +5.3

Minimum 5,000 minutes played
OffRtg = Team points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Team points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Team point differential per 100 possessions

(Curious who’s at the bottom of this list? The answer: Charlie Villanueva (109.8), Andrea Bargnani (109.5) and Ryan Gomes (109.2).)

Of course, though Garnett continued to have a big defensive impact last season, he is now 37 years old and limited to 30 minutes per game, maybe less. That’s why landing Kirilenko with their tax payer’s mid-level exception on Thursday was so huge for Brooklyn.

(By the way, the MLE only became available when the Nets couldn’t reach a buyout agreement with Bojan Bogdanovic – whom they drafted in 2011 – and his Turkish team. Whoever that GM is in Turkey, he shouldn’t ever have to buy a drink in Park Slope or Fort Greene.)

Kirilenko doesn’t have nearly the same on-court numbers as Garnett (his teams have allowed 103.3 points per 100 possessions with him on the court over the last six years), because the Jazz were more of a middle-of-the-pack defensive team while he was there and last year’s Timberwolves were same. But both were better defensively with Kirilenko on the floor. He has all the tools – length, athleticism and instincts – of a great defender.

Plus, the Nets have added a great defender for when Garnett rests. In fact, if Kirilenko plays the same 32 minutes per game that he played last year, he can spell both KG and Pierce at the two forward spots and the Nets won’t have to rely on Reggie Evans nearly as much as they did last season.

Even if Pierce or Garnett are out with an injury, the Nets have fill-in starters in Kirilenko and Evans. Joe Johnson is able to slide over the the three, Mason Plumlee is a rookie who looks ready to contribute and Mirza Teletovic as a stretch four. Though Kirilenko will take some of his minutes, Teletovic’s ability to recover from a rough rookie season and spread the floor will still be important.

When the Nets committed $313 million to Deron Williams, Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez a year ago, many of us thought they were locked into that group for years to come. But we should have never underestimated the power of owner Mikhail Prokhorov‘s deep pockets. They’ve managed to add Pierce, Garnett, Kirilenko and Jason Terry, while retaining Andray Blatche, who gave them big production off the bench last season. Luxury tax be damned, this is the best top eight in the league.

Blatche, of course, is mostly getting paid by the Wizards. But while Kirilenko is a bargain at $3.1 million per year, he’s really costing the Nets upwards of $15 million when you factor in the additional luxury tax they will have to pay.

So Prokhorov is clearly all-in for a championship in the next two seasons. You never know what’s going to happen over the next 11 months, but Prokhorov and GM Billy King have done everything they can to put their team into position to compete for a championship. And it starts with what should be a much improved defense.

19 Comments

  1. You really know the stuff… Maintain the good work!”
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  2. Edvino says:

    Feel sorry for Dwight Howard.No ring for him in houston

  3. Edvino says:

    Go neeeeeeeeeeeeets

  4. Raymond Manning says:

    This team could very well win it all this season…but the moves could also backfire…Garnett has maybe 1-2 more years left as do Pierce…Joe Johnson has had problems staying healthy as well….the Nets traded some decent talent in order to go for it all in the very short term with older veteran players…their window is 2 seasons…if they cant get it done by season after next this team will be a bottomfeeder for a few years.

  5. Akeem says:

    Yes, this team is built to win it ALL!!! Jason Kidd is a rookie coach, but he couldn’t be in a better situation. He and three of his players HAVE won it all b4. No one really has anything to prove except for J Kidd. The bulk of their players are all proven stars. Go Brooklyn !!! So glad for JJ that he got away from the unappreciative haters in Atlanta.

  6. chitown says:

    Getting Kirilenko is HUGE for the Nets. Despite the age, Kirilenko is still a versatile player who can play either forward position. That can be helpful especially when the Nets play the Knicks four times with Carmelo Anthony. Kevin Garnett is still a great defender with long arms and the intensity. KG and Kirilenko can both be on the court whenever there is a small lineup out on the court. If the Nets are having trouble defending in the frontcourt, they could just bring in Kirilenko Reggie Evans and KG for defensive purposes. If the Nets want more scoring, they go to a lineup of Paul Pierce, Andray Blatche, and Brook Lopez. With Kirilenko on board, the Nets can make many lineup combinations. A good mix of scoring and defense will really help the Nets win games against tough opponents this season.

  7. wink says:

    I agree the nets should be in the front of the pack against the heat but I see it as pacers bulls and nets next year I feel sorry for ak47 though walking away from 10 million for 3 million the wolves will be good next year also but thank-you ak for a good year in Minnesota stay healthy in Brooklyn kg and paul will help the nets succeed next year a celtic fan always wink

    • Akeem says:

      AK47 will be just fine. I am sure that his $13-$16 billion dollar fellow countryman will FIND a way to make it up to him. I bet there is a newly created multi-million dollar trust account somewhere out there that AK can access in the not to distant future.

  8. Ray Ray says:

    Lebron is still lebron…. It’s all up to wade and bosh to step up….. As usual the nets will just choke and be gone….. Heat v Bulls for the conf finals and heat for the 3peat…

  9. Drago says:

    The Nets are not like the Lakers they have a more balanced team and some extremely focused professionals that know what it takes to win.My main concern about them is who will lead and who will follow and injuries.

  10. amitpal says:

    All these veterans and a rookie head coach? This doesnt mix well. Winning a championship needs experience even for the coach, as we learned with thunder against heat. Scott brook was completely outcoached by eric spolstra. Jason kidd might be a great coach some day and he might be good right away but when it comes to playoffs and scheming, he is going to be well behind. This team will not win a championship. If they had gotten a veteran coach with finals experience tbey could have won.

  11. hapihenri says:

    Hope KG and Pierce would blend with D.Will and could finish the conference injured free so they teach ray allen a lesson for bailing out on them in Boston! Beat the Heat! :)

  12. JOhn says:

    Evans was traded tp the celtics

  13. pain18 says:

    this line up looks even scarier than the lakers last season..
    If they click, heat will have a hard time with their 3peat campaign..

  14. Kenny says:

    My point is proven in my last message! SMH geeeeez

  15. johnny aces says:

    if they can find neccessary chemistry,i belive they should be very serious contenders,but same was said for lakers last year:)but they sure have depth now…and also,those guys came to compete and win something in this last two years,AK came for bargain,this SHOULD be one of most interesting seasonsso far ;))))