Through four games, one of the chief maladies that has hampered the Brooklyn Nets’ offense is a meager supply of three-point shooting.
Lionel Hollins’ crew has made a grand total of 14 triples on 57 attempts, good for 25 percent and a spot near the league’s long-distance cellar. Their season started off ominously with an 0-of-9 performance from beyond the arc against the Chicago Bulls, and things haven’t picked up much since then.
If they want to be competitive, or even just respectable in the Eastern Conference, the Nets must take and make a higher dose of three-pointers. Brooklyn can’t expect to exceed 100 points per 100 possessions this season if it sinks just 3-5 triples per night.
Nets having trouble from the wing pic.twitter.com/ltGenvolzf
— Daniel O'Brien (@DanO_Bball) November 3, 2015
There are several factors that have contributed to the squad’s anemic production from long distance, and they can only fix some of them.
Firstly, the roster isn’t well stocked with sharpshooters. Only four players (Joe Johnson, Bojan Bogdanovic, Wayne Ellington and Andrea Bargnani) have career three-point marks north of 35 percent. And of those four, only Johnson and Bargnani shoot better than 37 percent.
But that relative lack of efficient weapons still doesn’t excuse the Nets’ abysmal output thus far. They should still generate a higher rate of opportunities for their top shooters, along with more open looks for some of the less talented or unproven options like Shane Larkin or Thaddeus Young.
Only 15 percent of the club’s field-goal attempts have come from three-land, which is the lowest ratio in the league. This is partially due to the roster’s inclination toward mid-range shooting, and it’s also because they’ve done a lackluster job of dynamically creating three-point chances.
The mid-range volume hasn’t been detrimental yet, because the Nets have shot 62 percent between 16 feet and the three-point line. But in the long run, they can’t rely on so many long twos and so few threes. In this era of versatile defenders, offenses aren’t sustainable when nearly 85 percent of field-goal attempts are long-twos.
Brooklyn has had trouble consistently generating threes via drive-and-dish, thanks to a mediocre cast of slashers in the backcourt. Tim Bontemps of the New York Post explains:
Because they lack the ability to break defenses down off the dribble — Jack and Johnson are both on the wrong side of 30, and Larkin, while very fast with the ball, often seems to be going almost too fast once he gets into the lane — it makes the process of getting open looks on the perimeter that much harder.
There’s only so much Hollins and Co. can do to address this issue, but they must continue to try to free up Jack and Larkin heading into the paint. They need to collapse the defense in order to find open shooters.
One area that’s definitely correctable is the weakside activity. All too often, I’ve seen the Nets’ run a pick and roll or post up on one side, and there’s no action on the weak side. When you run a weak side pin-down or curl screen, it keeps the help defenders busy (unavailable to rotate quickly) and also creates catch-and-shoot opportunities if the strong side action doesn’t pan out.
During the following sequence, Bargnani and Johnson are open on the weak side, but they’re standing still. It allows Giannis Antetokounmpo to help Jerryd Bayless slow down Jack; meanwhile, Khris Middleton is in perfect position to help or close out on Johnson if he needs to:
A simple down screen would have opened up more room for Jack, and it would have likely created a less-defensible triple opportunity for Johnson or Bargs.
The Nets’ three-point percentage will likely improve in the coming weeks. It’s hard to imagine Johnson, Bogdanovic and Ellington all shooting 30 percent or worse (which is the case right now) for an extended stretch.
However, if Brooklyn doesn’t get creative and add a couple additional three-point attempts per quarter, it will remain in the bottom tier of the league offensively. The Nets don’t have the firepower or interior depth to overcome poor spacing and a lack of production from downtown.