Opening Statements 19: Wizards at Nets — Trap Game? No Such Thing for Washington | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements 19: Wizards at Nets — Trap Game? No Such Thing for Washington

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Updated: December 5, 2016

Washington Wizards vs Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets can be as bad as they want to be and it doesn’t matter. Because of the bridge-to-nowhere to acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in July 2013, the Boston Celtics have the option to switch first round draft picks with the Nets this summer. Brooklyn can’t even rebuild, really. Not through the draft—their 2018 first rounder is also going to Boston, straight up. So first-year head coach Kenny Atkinson and first-year GM Sean Marks are trying to create a culture from scratch. Brooklyn’s most veteran player (10 years): Randy Foye, once acquired by the Wizards with Mike Miller for a fifth overall draft pick.

The Nets otherwise are anchored by gold medalist Luis Scola (9-year vet), one-time All-Star Brook Lopez (8-year vet), and known Wizards-killer Jeremy Lin and ex-Wizard Trevor Booker (each 6-year vets). After that, the Nets’ so-called most experienced player is 2013’s No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Bennett, with Bojan Bogdanovic close behind and followed a collection of eight other players with no more than two years of NBA experience. Brooklyn has nothing to lose against any team but especially against a team like the Wizards. On top of it, Lin will be out (hamstring injury, he’s missed the last 13 games) and Booker will be questionable (illness, missed the last game) for Monday’s matchup.

The Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, and Phoenix Suns, whom Washington beat in an ugly affair at in D.C. (while they had no alibi in Philly), were expected to be the worst teams in the NBA coming into 2016-17. At least according to Las Vegas oddsmakers—the folks at Bovada LV gave each team 350/1 odds to win the title just prior to the start of the season; the Wizards were given 100/1 odds, tied for 18th with Milwaukee, Utah, Dallas, and Portland. In odds updated on Dec. 1, each the Nets, Suns, and Sixers are at 1000/1, while the Wizards are tied at 19th at 200/1 with Miami, Milwaukee, and Minnesota.

This isn’t a trap game for the Wizards because at 6-12, they’re already in a trap. The Nets scrapped their way to a 4-5 record to start the season but since they’ve lost 9 of 10 games, and seven in a row before somehow beating the Clippers in Brooklyn last Tuesday (in double-OT; L.A. was without Blake Griffin).

Like Phoenix, Brooklyn likes to get out and run—their 103.9 pace is ranked second in the NBA to the Suns; Washington’s 98.8 pace ranks 17th. Like both Phoenix (39.2%, 2nd-most) and Washington (37.9%, 3rd-most), Brooklyn has trouble defending the 3-point line, allowing opponents to shoot 37% from there (ranked 4th-worst). The Wizards, at least, have gotten better at making 3-pointers lately, currently ranked 17th-best at 35%. Since Nov. 17, when Bradley Beal returned from a hamstring injury, appearing in the last eight games, Washington’s 3-point percentage ranks 8th in the league at 38.5, while their 3-point defense (37.3%) is now ranked 17th-lowest.

Most recently, since Nov. 20, Kenny Atkinson has found success in Brooklyn featuring a three-guard lineup of rookie Isaiah Whitehead (6-4 PG), Sean Kilpatrick (6-4 SG), Joe Harris (6-6 SG), Booker, and Lopez. This crew is plus-18 over 30 total minutes during the past two weeks, while most other Brooklyn lineups are minus when on the court. Otherwise, the Nets like to feature 6-foot-8 distance shooter Bogdanovic at the 3, or even Bogdanovic and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson as a tall 3-4 combo alongside Whitehead, Booker, and Lopez.

Speaking of Lopez, he’s averaging six 3-point attempts per game this season and is a 37.3 percent shooter from deep. His 3-point totals over eight NBA seasons prior: 3-for-31. So yet another big man Marcin Gortat will have to worry about pulling him away from the basket. Lopez has even fired 11 3s during one game versus the Lakers this season (making four) and over Brooklyn’s last four games Lopez has attempted 33 3-pointers, making 13. Talk about volume. According to Basketball-Reference.com, here are the center-type players who have attempted 11 or more 3s during a single game in NBA history: Lopez, Manute Bol, Meyers Leonard, and Byron Mullens.

The Wizards will likely have their hands full this evening, come hell or high water. Or they could blow Brooklyn out—the Nets’ average margin of loss in losing 9 of 10 has been 18 points (giving up 119.9 and scoring 101.9). As usual, there will be interesting insight to glean from a team coming off two heartbreaking (gut-wrenching?) losses in Oklahoma City and San Antonio and still desperate to not completely waste the current campaign.

Stats to Chew.

  • Brooklyn is second in the NBA in contested shots per game at 69.6; the Warriors are first at 72.3 while the Wizards ranked 20th at 60.3. Of course, this does not factor pace and opponent attempts allowed, much less the overall affect that contested shots have on opposing shooting percentages.
  • Spot-up shot attempts represent 25% of Brooklyn’s play types, per stats.NBA.com, a frequency which leads the league. Of course, they score on those plays just 34.4% of the time, second-lowest after the Heat. Washington gets spot-up shots on 16.6% of their plays, tied for third-fewest with Indiana and Phoenix, while scoring 39% of the time, ranked 13th-most.
  • One obvious key: the Wizards should attack, attack, attack. Brooklyn allows opponents to shoot 64.2% within six feet of the basket, second-highest after the 68.4% of the Lakers. The Wizards are no crown jewel, however, allowing 61.2% in that range, ranked 10th-most in the league.
    While John Wall and Bradley Beal have increased their free throw attempts per game to 5.9 from 4.5 and to 4.5 from 3.2, respectively, the Wizards as a team are down to 21.6 free throw attempts (16.6 makes) per game this year from 22.5 attempts and 16.5 makes per games last season.
  • Of course, Brooklyn will attack as well, which is a general formula to give a team like Washington trouble. The Nets average 34.2 drives per game, ranked second-most after Miami’s 38.2; the Suns rank third at 33.4. The Wizards are tied with the Lakers at 26.7 drives per game, ranked 17th.
  • Finally, according to InPredictable.com, Washington’s defense gives up an average 1.03 points after they make shot, tied with the Rockets for 8th-most; Brooklyn gives 1.09 points, ranked third. So there are major issues with the Wizards’ defense even with a chance to get set. After they missed a shot (and defensive rebound), the Wizards give up 1.10 points (tied for 5th-most) and after a turnover, the Wizards give up 1.28 points (11th-most). So there are mid-major issues, Washington’s defense still isn’t that great—and likely something only solved by personnel maneuverings.
  • Oh yeah, prized free agent acquisition, backup center Ian Mahinmi, will miss his fourth straight game this evening, per the Post’s Candace Buckner, with what I guess is soreness in his right knee, the one he didn’t have surgery on prior to the season. He’s played 14 total minutes over 18 games to date.

Things That Happened Last Year.

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.