Nets

Nets’ Defense Not the Concern Many Believe It to Be

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Is the Brooklyn Nets’ defense a cause for concern, or are media outlets reaching in hopes of dimming the bright lights cast upon the Brooklyn Big 3?

Is there a reason why both things can’t be true? Brooklyn features three of the most criticized superstars in this era. Kevin Durant‘s decision to team up with the Warriors, James Harden‘s style of play, and Kyrie Irving‘s disdain for the media have all been Pulitzer Prize material for NBA writers over the years.

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Put them all together, add some adversity to the mix, and enjoy what is sure to be a media carousel headquartered in Brooklyn, New York.

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Who Needs Defense?

Since acquiring Harden, the Nets are as prolific as any team in the history of the game. Having three elite talents who can create their shot at all three levels makes their offense as dynamic as any other in the league. The Nets lead the league in scoring. Additionally, they bolster the highest field-goal percentage in the league and the second-highest three-point percentage. The only issue is that their defense is as historical as their offense, but for all the wrong reasons.

While the Nets may feature the most entertaining show on the hardwood, their defense leaves a lot to be desired. And while the defensive struggles are worth noting, they aren’t as problematic as the stats would lead you to believe.

Pace And Space ≠ No Defense

Mike D’Antoni used to coach the Phoenix Suns. There, he popularized the pace-and-space philosophy. The prominent fixture of the offense was two-time league MVP, Steve Nash. Both individuals are currently coaching the Brooklyn Nets and embodying the same philosophy both realized tremendous success pioneering. 

One of the central tenets of the pace-and-space philosophy is generating more shots for both teams. The ball is going to go in the hoop more since shots are flying at elevated paces. It’s easy to box-score watch, and assume no defense is being played. In reality, the Nets’ schematic approach places an additional burden on their opponents to keep pace with their unlimited arsenal. Moreover, relying on rudimentary point-per-game stats will tell you little to nothing about how Brooklyn is performing defensively.

When They Need Stops, They Will Play Defense

While no one will ever confuse Harden, Irving or Durant as Defensive Player of the Year candidates, they aren’t the slouches on that end of the court that many casuals think they are. For instance, would it surprise you to know that JAMES HARDEN has a defensive highlight tape in his brief stint in Brooklyn? Take a look at the compilation of defensive plays made by The Beard in just seven games with the Nets. 

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It might surprise some people that The Beard led the league in steals last year and was top five in deflections, and loose balls recovered. Additionally, he was a Top 15 player in defensive win shares last year.

And while Harden’s seamless fit with the Nets offensively has garnered all the headlines, he also features defensive versatility, which Nets fans should be excited to continue to see.

Then with Durant, you have a 7’0 versatile defender with lateral quickness on par with guards. Is his focus on that end of the court always premium? No, but the point is, when they need him to lock in on that end of the court, he has all the physical tools to do so. Now, game 23 of a regular season is one thing, but it’s safe to assume that throughout the playoffs, he will be locked in much like he was when the Nets played the Clippers, and he guarded Kawhi Leonard for most of the night. 

And while Kyrie may be the least impactful of the three on that end of the court, Uncle Drew works his tail off and routinely makes hustle plays. It’s easy to assume someone as graceful as Kyrie wouldn’t dare do the dirty work such as hustling for loose balls. I challenge you to give box-score watching a break and tune in to a Nets game. I guarantee you’ll see Kyrie make numerous hustle plays that belie his offensive grace.

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Elite Offense > Great Defense

Writers need to write about something and right now, the Nets’ defense is the only chink in their armor. And while their defense will never be a strength, it won’t be the cause for concern some pundits swear it will be. Sure, they will never be able to routinely get stops the way the Clippers, Lakers or Bucks can, but the Nets feature something none of these other teams do. Having three closers all but guarantees that in any tight game, the Nets have the edge.

Scary Hours

It’s truly a Nets World. The rest of the NBA is just living in it. Even with the defensive woes, look for Brooklyn’s Big 3 to continue to gel on the court and become scarier than they presently are.

About Vincent Jackson

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