Brooklyn Nets: Are surprising defensive numbers here to stay?

Nicolas Claxton Blake Griffin (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Nicolas Claxton Blake Griffin (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

Don’t look now, but the Brooklyn Nets are currently a top 10 defense in the NBA. After Sunday’s 117-91 victory over the Detroit Pistons, Brooklyn’s defensive rating of 104.1 is the 10th-best in the league.

Of course, seven games is a small sample size, but considering where the Nets finished defensively last season, it’s an encouraging stat. At the end of their 72-game season in 2021, Brooklyn was 23rd in the league in defensive rating at 113.8 points allowed per 100 possessions.

Last season, the Nets only held their opponents to fewer than 91 points three times. Sunday’s win marked the second time they’ve done so already this year. They still have another meeting with Detroit on Friday to try to do so again.

Looking at the raw stats, Brooklyn is in the top 10 in defensive rebounds (4th) and blocks (7th) per game and is holding opponents to 42.0% shooting from the field (3rd). Holding opponents to poor shooting nights has been the most important factor in the Nets being able to make up for their otherwise defensively troubled roster.

Getting Bruce Brown back to his usual minutes has also boosted the Nets defensively, as they were particularly struggling against guard play in the early going. Brown is currently averaging two steals and a block per 36 minutes, both career-high marks.

Despite his limited mobility on the perimeter, LaMarcus Aldridge is leading the team in blocks per game at 1.2 despite coming off the bench. James Harden is also averaging one block per game for the first time in his NBA career while Nicolas Claxton is also pitching in one.

Are the early defensive returns for the Brooklyn Nets here to stay?

Considering this roster and the quality of competition the team has faced so far, I don’t see the Nets’ defense hovering around the top 10 for much longer. As they did last season, they’re likely going to rely on being a top offensive team in the league to help secure a top seed in the Eastern Conference.

If Aldridge can keep up his inspired play and the Nets can continue to limit possessions, anything is possible. I just don’t see it happening as the team is currently constructed.

Of course, that’s why they play the game, so I could be entirely wrong. But it’ll take improved defense from certain guys and about three players to grow a few inches for me to believe this could be a top-half defensive team.