Web Site: http://www.alltimehoops.com
Bio: Ian Parfrey is the author of Ten Thousand Minutes: Pro Player Rankings 1952-2012. His next project is a history of Brooklyn basketball. He's also an avid rec softball player who gets at least 500 at bats a year. He was born in East Flushing, Queens, and now lives in Greenpoint with his wife and daughter.
Posts by :
by Ian Parfrey
Lionel Hollins, in his introductory press conference, mentioned something about letting the strengths of his roster determine their style of play. If he meant it, those are encouraging words, since the Nets are not exactly set up to play the style of smash-mouth big ball that Hollins used in Memphis.
The Nets were very successful with small lineups last year. This was due, in part, to the versatility of Paul Pierce, Shaun Livingston, and Alan Anderson; and a necessary move to hide the indifferent backcourt defense of Joe Johnson and Deron Williams. With some of their best small-ball players hitting free agency (and Livingston already gone to the Warriors), Hollins may have to find yet another style of play, perhaps one that can successfully incorporate a healthy Brook Lopez.
Lionel Hollins’ first full season in Memphis, 2010, was a success by the then-low standards of the Grizzlies organization. The team won 40 games, a 16-game improvement from the previous year, but came nowhere near playoff contention. The nucleus of the team’s future success was already in place– Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, and Mike Conley. If Hollins has a crowning achievement as a head coach, it’s the rehabilitation of Zach Randolph’s career. Randolph was perceived as a one-dimensional knucklehead, to the point where the Grizzlies were able to obtain him straight up for Quentin Richardson.
In Memphis, Randolph displayed a commitment to defense and team basketball that no one had ever seen from him before. It almost makes you wish the Nets were keeping Andray Blatche.
The next piece of the Memphis puzzle was Tony Allen. He arrived in free agency and took significant minutes from O.J. Mayo. The Grizzlies’ defense improved from 19th to 9th, and the Grizzlies stunned the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.
Since then, Memphis has consistently been a top-10 defense. The Memphis front office apparently believed that lead assistant Dave Joerger was responsible for the turnaround, and Joerger replaced Hollins as head coach for the 2014 season. The on-court product didn’t suffer, which is inconclusive– just because Joerger can coach doesn’t mean that Lionel Hollins can’t.
Knowing what little we know about the future, it seems the Hollins hire will be good for Brook Lopez. Lopez is willing to play defense, but not always particularly able, and Hollins may be able to help him develop a more well-rounded game. Hollins praised the Nets’ outside shooting, but some of that may have been a function of the emphasis on small lineups (it’s hard to imagine Lopez-Garnett or especially Lopez-Kirilenko lineups generating much spacing). That will be a challenge, and one that may determine the Nets’ playoff seeding next year– how Lopez is re-integrated into a Nets team that developed an identity without him.
By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
In the Nets’ second year in Brooklyn, they continued to make positive strides, as they added a couple of veteran Hall of Famers, and won a playoff series. For the amount of preseason hype, and money spent on the team, maybe this wasn’t enough, and you have to squint pretty hard to see a championship contender in this roster. But there’s no reason the Nets can’t maintain this level of performance for the next few seasons. Given what basketball in New York City’s been like during James Dolan’s misrule of the Knicks, the Nets represent a breath of fresh air.
First, the Nets are waiting on the future plans of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Pierce is a free agent, and if he wants to play a few more seasons, I’m sure the Nets will be happy to have him. All signs point towards Pierce signing a more team-friendly contract (like Tim Duncan’s in San Antonio). Garnett, on the other hand, looks like a player near the end of the line, and he’s also owed $12 million for 2015. Garnett did help the Nets get past Toronto in the first round… but… in 2008, when Garnett won his title with the Celtics, they signed a nearly-washed-up P.J. Brown to back up Garnett for the stretch run. Garnett is basically now 2008 P.J. Brown.
Remember, the Nets are expecting to have Brook Lopez back next season, and there doesn’t seem to be enough big man minutes for him, Garnett, Plumlee, Blatche, Kirilenko, and Teletovic. More on that in a minute.
Pierce and Garnett don’t really affect the Nets’ salary cap, since shedding both of their contracts wouldn’t bring the Nets anywhere near the cap, and probably wouldn’t even get them under the luxury tax. And since when does Prokhorov care about that?
Currently the Nets have 8 players under guaranteed contracts for next season: Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Kevin Garnett, Marcus Thornton, Mirza Teletovic, Mason Plumlee, and Marquis Teague.
They do not have any picks, first or second round, in the upcoming draft.
They have three players with contract options: Andrei Kirilenko, Andray Blatche, and Alan Anderson. I expect Kirilenko to opt in, and the other two to opt out. Here’s why. Kirilenko did not have a particularly good season, and he doesn’t have any kind of Bird rights with the Nets. Anderson also doesn’t have Bird rights, but his option is for $1.06 million, and his newfound abilities as a defensive stopper are worth more than that on the open market.
Blatche is the toughest call of the three. He gained Early Bird rights with the Nets this season, meaning that he’s eligible for a contract extension in the neighborhood of $5 to $6 million annually. He will opt out and try to get that money, no doubt. Should the Nets give it to him? Blatche remains an enigma. He is a supremely gifted offensive player– a beast in the post who can also knock down open 20-footers, and he’s a pretty good passer for a big, too. Trouble is, he isn’t a very good defender, and he plays out of control most of the time. Jason Kidd seemed less inclined to put up with his mistakes than P.J. Carlesimo, and Blatche will be 28 years old at the start of next season. If he was going to “get it,” it probably would have happened by now.
This is a decision that the “crosstown rival” Knicks have blown twice in recent years, once in letting Jeremy Lin go, and once in keeping J.R. Smith.
If the Nets do walk away from Blatche, they don’t have $6 million to spend on another player. They have only a mid-level exception, worth a little more than $3 million, which may be needed to retain Shaun Livingston and/or Alan Anderson. I recommend keeping Blatche, but the fact that Jason Kidd buried him on the bench several times during the season (including a scoreless, 4-minute outing in the final playoff game), should also be considered.
I have a slightly radical solution to the mid-level exception problem. Kirk Hinrich. Defensively, he’s an absolute pain in the ass, and he can cover the roles of both Livingston and Anderson. He’ll be a free agent, after averaging 9.1 points and 3.9 assists for the Bulls last year. One of the Nets’ playoff problems was the 11-man rotation that Kidd tried to juggle– some consolidation of player roles will be a good thing.
The Nets could also target a defensive wing for future meetings with LeBron James, but those are hard to find. Anyone who can stop him effectively is out of the Nets’ price range, and maybe not better than a healthy Andrei Kirilenko, anyway.
Jorge Gutierrez has a non-guaranteed deal for next season, and he showed some promise in the minutes he got. Expect him to make next year’s roster.
Then there’s the trade market. It’s the only way the Nets can make another major splash, and due to their cap situation, any trade has to be for nearly-equal salary amounts, and the Nets cannot deal a first-round pick until 2020’s, or a second-round pick until 2018’s.
One possible trade candidate is Deron Williams. There have been rumors– we don’t yet know how accurate– that D-Will has asked for a trade. A good friend of mine suggested swapping Williams to Detroit for Josh Smith (and Brandon Jennings?), and that’s about what you can expect to get for D-Will. Someone else’s underachievers.
One of the best things the Nets have going forward is Jason Kidd. I thought he did a tremendous job in turning the team around after a terrible start, and finding a combination of players that worked after Brook Lopez’s season ended. He wasn’t perfect, as lots of folks will tell you, but he could be a very good coach in this league for years to come.
By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
Keep the Heat role players off the scoreboard
In game 1, Ray Allen, Shane Battier, and Mario Chalmers combined for 39 points and shot 58%. In game 2, they had 27 points on 56% shooting. In the Nets’ excellent game 3 effort, those three guys had 14 points between them, shot 31%, and Ray Allen got so frustrated that he picked a fight with Alan Anderson. The Nets stuck to the Miami shooters, and Miami’s offense devolved into isolation plays. The Nets will need to keep doing this.
More Alan Anderson!
I’m not sure how or when this happened, but Anderson has become the Nets’ perimeter stopper. His work on Kyle Lowry allowed the Nets to survive the first round, and Jason Kidd shouldn’t hesitate to pull Shaun Livingston for Anderson if the team doesn’t start well.
Move the ball
The Nets’ passing in game 3 was a thing of beauty. They finished with 26 assists on 38 baskets, and shot 15-for-25 from downtown. The whole team was involved, and the Heat defenders were scrambling to catch up all night. Deron Williams rebounded from his scoreless game 2 to record 11 assists, and Joe Johnson and Shaun Livingston combined for 11 more.
Use the size advantage
The Heat are a small team, especially with Birdman limited by a bad knee. That’s how Andray Blatche had 15 points and 10 rebounds in 20 minutes of play Saturday night, and that’s how the Nets got away with playing Andrei Kirilenko at center. Blatche could end up being a key to this series, since the Heat have no one who can guard him when he’s on the low block. As long as he remembers not to settle for long jumpers, try to make highlight passes, or foul out in 10 minutes, that is.
Tell Mirza not to change his socks
Or whatever’s got him shooting this hot– 11 of 19 from downtown in this series. Eat the same pre-game meal. Do the same warmup routine. Don’t mess with this.
By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
The Nets played three and a half quarters of very good basketball in Miami tonight, but couldn’t close it out, and ultimately lost, 94-82, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semis.
After a fast break layup by Marcus Thornton cut the Heat’s lead to 79-77 with just under 7 minutes remaining, the Nets managed one field goal (by unlikely hero Mirza Teletovic) the rest of the way, and the Heat got two big threes from Mario Chalmers and several key offensive rebounds down the stretch.
Early on, it looked like the Nets might steal one in Miami. They held the Heat to 15 first quarter points, and got five first-half three-pointers from Mirza Teletovic (who finished with 20 points). They led by as many as 7 points, but a late flurry from LeBron James brought Miami within 46-45 at the half.
The Nets won the battle of the boards, and held the Heat to six offensive rebounds. Unfortunately, three of them came on the same late-fourth-quarter possession, which allowed the Heat to bleed 80 seconds off of the clock.
Other than Teletovic’s shooting, and a strong game from Shaun Livingston (15 points, 6-9 FG), the Nets didn’t get much in the way of offensive contributions. Deron Williams went scoreless, and missed all nine of his shot attempts. The Nets’ centers combined for 6 points on 3-10 shooting. Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce had 13 points apiece, on a night when the Nets really needed someone to step up.
The Heat, after a slow start, ended up shooting 49% and committing only 8 turnovers. LeBron James led them with 22 points, Chris Bosh added 18, and, on a night when his shot wasn’t falling, Dwyane Wade contributed 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. The Nets lost track of Ray Allen a few too many times, and he finished with 13 points on 5-8 FG.
If the Nets intend to make this a long series, they’re going to have to improve on both ends of the floor, and play the full 48 minutes as well.
By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
While the Nets won all four of their regular-season games against the Miami Heat, it’s worth noting that Dwyane Wade only suited up for two of them, and three of the games were decided by one point, with the fourth game going into two overtimes.
November 1, Brooklyn: The Nets nearly blow a 12-point lead over the game’s final 2:30, but hold on to win 101-100 after a key FT miss from Ray Allen. LeBron James has 26 points, but the Nets force him into 5 turnovers. Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson lead the Nets with 19 apiece.
January 10, Brooklyn: The Nets win, 104-95, in double overtime. Paul Pierce misses two potential game-winners, but LeBron fouls out in the first overtime, and the Nets run off 11 straight points to open the second OT. The Heat are without Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers, and the Nets are without Deron Williams. LeBron scores 36, but Joe Johnson almost matches him with 32.
March 12, Miami: Joe Johnson steals the ball from Chris Bosh on the Heat’s final possession, and the Nets hang on, 96-95. Paul Pierce drops 29 points on the Heat, and the Nets hold LeBron to 19 points (and 13 shots), and 5 turnovers.
April 8, Miami: Mason Plumlee blocks LeBron’s last-second dunk attempt, and the Nets win, 88-87. LeBron has his best all-around game against the Nets, with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists. The Heat are once again without Dwyane Wade. Joe Johnson paces the Nets with 19 points.
These are two of the worst rebounding teams in the league, in large part due to their reliance on small lineups. The Nets won the battle of the boards in each of the regular season contests, which was a significant factor in their four close wins. Both teams also force a lot of turnovers, and are somewhat turnover-prone themselves. If the Heat have a statistical edge, it’s in their ability to get to the free throw line. The Nets defense will have their hands full with Miami’s talented scorers.
Here’s how the lineups and bench break down:
Center: Kevin Garnett looked revitalized in the Toronto series, playing heavier minutes, and giving the Nets some timely buckets. Between Garnett and Chris Bosh, you have a matchup between two of the league’s premier jump-shooting bigs. Bosh has added a three-point shot to his arsenal, making 9 of 13 against Charlotte. Bosh isn’t very strong on the boards, but he does have a knack for big hustle plays. The matchup seems to favor the Heat, but if Garnett can build on his play in the Toronto series, it might be closer than you’d think. Advantage: Heat.
Power Forward: The Heat will start Udonis Haslem, but will often go small with Shane Battier at the 4. Paul Pierce saved the Toronto series with a last-second block on Kyle Lowry; he was also the Nets’ third-leading scorer. Haslem and Battier are veterans playing on nothing but their veteran know-how; Pierce still has enough left in the tank to carry the Nets at times. Advantage: Nets.
Small Forward: Joe Johnson averaged 21.6 points on 52% shooting against the Raptors, and was completely unguardable for most of the series. Against anyone else, Johnson would have a clear advantage, but his inside game will be neutralized by LeBron James. Advantage: Heat.
Shooting Guard: With Shaun Livingston struggling, the Nets turned to Alan Anderson, and his solid play was a big part of their victories in games six and seven. He’ll have a tougher task here, chasing around Dwyane Wade. Wade averaged 17.5 points on 49% shooting in the first round, and he appears to be as healthy as he’s been all year. Advantage: Heat.
Point Guard: Deron Williams was more aggressive in the first round than he’d been in a while. He was the team’s second-leading scorer, and led the Nets in free throw attempts. His counterpart, Mario Chalmers, is a pest with a penchant for making big shots. The Heat also love to pressure opposing point guards– D-Will should be able to handle that (and the two-PG sets with him and Livingston may make a comeback), but Chalmers is capable of doing enough damage to keep this matchup relatively even. Advantage: Nets.
Bench: This is where the Heat have some trouble. Ray Allen and Shane Battier are showing their age. Michael Beasley and Greg Oden haven’t really worked out. Norris Cole is fast and fearless, but he’s not a particularly good basketball player. The Heat’s most consistent bench guy is Birdman. The Nets have an edge here. Expect Andrei Kirilenko to see more playing time, checking LeBron. Mirza Teletovic, Andray Blatche, and Marcus Thornton will provide instant offense. There isn’t too much of a step down from the Nets’ starters to their bench. The Heat used to be able to say that. Advantage: Nets.
Coaching: Erik Spoelstra isn’t a terrible coach. Still, his job is made a lot easier by his roster. Jason Kidd driving the Nets to 44 wins is probably more impressive than the Heat snoring their way to 54. Kidd got the best of Dwane Casey in the first round, and Kidd’s teams, both as a player and coach, have historically fared well against the Heat. Advantage: Nets by a little.
Intangibles: These are two veteran teams with future Hall of Famers and tons of playoff experience, so it’s hard to say if anyone has a real edge here. The Nets have the personnel to close out games; it’s probably in Miami’s best interest to make sure the games aren’t close. Advantage: Even.
In conclusion, while I wouldn’t pencil the Heat into the conference finals automatically, the Nets have their work cut out for them. I’d like to be wrong, but I see the Heat winning in six.
By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey Showcase Photo by @LolitaLens: Alan Anderson floats one up
The Nets’ dominant performance in Game 6 was no accident. It’s a sign of things to come. I’ll admit, I got a little down after Game 5, wondering how on earth the Nets were going to slow down Kyle Lowry. The answer, as it turned out, was Alan Anderson.
One thing separates Anderson from the Cartier Martins of the league. He is a very credible defender of point guards. And with Deron Williams operating at about 75%, and Shaun Livingston getting shredded, the Nets needed someone to step up. Anderson had a modest stat line, with 9 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists in 31 minutes, but the true measure of his effectiveness was in the opponent’s boxscore.
Kyle Lowry and Greivis Vasquez, who had terrorized the Nets for five games, shot 8-of-26 combined, and totaled 6 assists and 5 turnovers.
Dwane Casey, who has not had a particularly good series so far (way too much Terrence Ross and John Salmons), had no counter for the Nets’ lineup change, and was lured into playing bigger lineups of his own.
Casey stuck with his starters past the 4-minute mark of the first quarter, and let them dig a 23-14 hole. When he went to the bench, it was for Patrick Patterson and John Salmons. Patterson is a stretch-4 who’s given the Nets trouble. Salmons does not belong in the league. Greivis Vasquez remained on the bench. When he came in at 2:25, the Raptors were down 27-16. Lowry and Vasquez played out the rest of the quarter, and were an uncharacteristic -4.
Vasquez and Lowry did not play together again until there were 2 minutes left in the second, and the Raptors were in a 54-39 hole. Again, the results weren’t there. All told, the two point guards played 14 minutes together, and the Nets were +13 (in a game they won by 14) in that time.
How did this happen? The Raptors have been picking on Livingston defensively. Livingston only played 10 minutes last night, with 2 of them coming against the Lowry-Vasquez combo.
Kidd’s other adjustment was to drop Mason Plumlee from the rotation. The rookie center has looked like a deer in the headlights, and he can’t space the floor like Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche can.
By this point in the series, Kidd is deploying his players in an optimal way. Dwane Casey, on the other hand, is still messing around with John Salmons and Steve Novak. The Raptors simply aren’t deep enough in good NBA players, and Casey should have a much quicker hook with his underperforming “big” starting lineup. The Raptors’ best lineup has been super-small, with DeRozan, Lowry, Vasquez, Patterson, and Amir Johnson. If those guys play heavy minutes together, the Raptors have a fighting chance. If they don’t, it’ll be the Nets staying alive and heading to Miami.
By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
With the Nets missing a golden opportunity to take control of this series by making three baskets in the fourth quarter of Game 4 (and none in the final six minutes), it’s beginning to look like we’ll be in for the full seven games here, with neither team being able to establish a significant advantage.
Four games is a pretty small sample for lineup data, but here’s a brief rundown of what’s worked and what hasn’t, for each team.
The Nets’ most effective lineups have been starter-heavy. The starting lineup is +11 over 48 minutes, and it’s tended to dominate the Raptors’ starting lineup, with two important exceptions. One, over the last five quarters, this has not been true anymore; and two, the Raptors don’t close games with their starting lineup.
The Nets have also had success with Alan Anderson in for Shaun Livingston, and Mason Plumlee in for Kevin Garnett. Combined, these two lineups have been +15 over 22 minutes.
What hasn’t worked? Shaun Livingston as the only point guard. Jason Kidd changed his substitution patterns in Game 3, bringing Livingston in for Deron Williams near the end of the 1st and 3rd quarters. The team was better able to sustain its momentum that way. In Game 4, Williams got into foul trouble, and Livingston had to run the point for the last five minutes of the 3rd quarter. The Nets were only -3 in that span, but it included a momentum-killing 8-0 run near the end of the quarter.
With the exception of last night, Mirza Teletovic hasn’t shot the ball well at all, and lineups featuring him at power forward (even with Williams at PG) have been largely unsuccessful. That said, Kidd’s decision to sub out Teletovic at the midway point of the fourth quarter (after Teletovic had scored the Nets’ last 8 points) was probably something he’d like to take back.
The Raptors present a matchup problem for the Nets, because they can also play very small, skilled lineups. Dwane Casey tried to go big in Game 1, but every game since then has featured long stretches with Amir Johnson and Patrick Patterson playing together, and the Raptors’ best lineup (by far) has been Johnson-Patterson-DeRozan-Lowry-Vasquez. They’re plus-15 in only 11 minutes. The Raptors are easily winning the battle of the two-point-guard lineups. When Lowry and Vasquez play together, the team is an astonishing plus-39.
The Raptors have been very successful when Jonas Valanciunas on the bench. The big Lithuanian has had some good statistical games, but the Raptors are -22 with him on the floor, and they’ve had better luck with smaller, more mobile “centers” like Johnson, Tyler Hansbrough, and Chuck Hayes.
Terrence Ross has also been a complete non-factor, though this just means the Raptors can use more of Patterson and Vasquez off the bench.
Dwane Casey doesn’t seem to have settled on a rotation yet, beyond his five starters and two key bench guys. Hansbrough and Hayes have received inconsistent minutes, and John Salmons and Landry Fields have each gotten minutes at small forward, without either one playing well enough to cement their position.
All in all, this might be a positive for the Nets. Toronto has murdered them every time they’ve used a small lineup, but Dwane Casey hasn’t really committed to going small at all times. The series could swing on Toronto’s failure to take full advantage of this. Kidd already made adjustments in Game 3, and in Game 4, the starters put them in a big hole, and then D-Will’s foul trouble forced the Nets into a less-than-optimal rotation.