Brooklyn Nets: Driving sets tone for improving offense

Brooklyn Nets Spencer Dinwiddie. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets Spencer Dinwiddie. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Brooklyn Nets have a reputation as a team that just fires up 3-pointers. The root of the system is closer to the rim, much closer in fact.

The gulf between perception and reality can be Grand Canyon-esque at times and one need look no further than the perception of the Brooklyn Nets as an offensive team and the reality of what drives the Nets on that end of the floor.

The perception that is most pervasive among NBA observers who don’t really observe the Nets is this is a 3-point-mad mob that fires away indiscriminately from long distance.

The reality is that the root of what drives the offense for Brooklyn is exactly that — drives.

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Only the Charlotte Hornets, with 52.5 drives per game, take the ball at the rim with more frequency than the Nets, who drive an average of 51.8 times a night.

And only the Dallas Mavericks have three players who average at least 10 forays per game into the paint off the bounce.

Spencer Dinwiddie is the most active driver for Brooklyn, averaging 13.1 per game. ranking 16th in the NBA. Caris LeVert was at 12.7 drives a game before he was injured last month and D’Angelo Russell goes to the basket an average of 11.3 times a night.

Per’s tracking statistics, Brooklyn is third in the NBA with 23.3 shots per game off drives and in the middle of the pack with 47 percent shooting off those drives.

But they are second in the NBA, just fractionally behind the Washington Wizards, generating 7.4 free throw attempts per game off drives and their 28.5 points per game off the bounce is also second in the league, behind only Charlotte.

Now here’s how that sets up everything else.

Brooklyn 15.8 passes per game off drives ranks fourth in the NBA and while their assists per game and assist percentage off the dribble don’t rank in the top 10, the drive-and-kick action often leads to a quick second pass to get the defense jumping and find an open shooter.

That’s where the jump shooters come into play. Allen Crabbe leads the Nets with 5.5 catch-and-shoot attempts per game, with Joe Harris at 4.3, Russell at 3.7 and DeMarre Carroll at 3.3.

Among players with at least three catch-and-shoot attempts per game, Harris ranks sixth in the NBA at 48.3 percent on those attempts, while his 47.4 percent mark from 3-point range is fifth in the league.

Of Harris’ 137 3-point attempts this season, a whopping 114 have been off catch-and-shoot opportunities.

Drive-and-kick action leading to catch-and-shoot opportunities — that is what’s at the core of the Brooklyn offense.

While the Nets are only 23rd in the NBA with 24.9 catch-and-shoot attempts per game, their 23.2 3-point attempts off the catch-and-shoot are 14th-most in the league and their 53.7 effective field goal percentage in catch-and-shoot situations ranks ninth.

Does it work? The Nets take 42.2 of their 88.8 shots per game from less than 10 feet away, 47.5 percent of their shots. They get 27.3 percent of their takes off catch-and-shoot opportunities.

It is how the pace-and-space system is designed to work and those opportunities comprise almost 70 percent of Brooklyn’s shot attempts.

Do the Nets take a lot of 3-pointers? Sure. At 34.1 attempts per game, Brooklyn attempts the fifth-most per game in the NBA, trailing only the Houston Rockets (41.3), Milwaukee Bucks (40.4), Boston Celtics (36.5) and Atlanta Hawks (35.6).

Their 12.1 makes per game is also fifth, while their 35.4 percent accuracy from deep ranks 12th.

The system has been improving of late. The Nets are 17th in the NBA, averaging 109.9 points per game and 15th in offensive efficiency at 109 points per 100 possessions.

But over their last 10 games, Brooklyn is averaging 110.8 points a game — 13th in the NBA  that span — even as their pace has slowed from 99.53 possessions per game on the season to 99.25 over the previous 10 games.

So when someone tries to convince you that all the Nets do is take 3-pointers, they’re really only telling part of the story.

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It starts, however, with the drive.