Thursday, March 8, 2012

New Jersey Nets: Injuries Cost the Front Line

The New Jersey Nets are a fortunate bunch.

They are currently 13-27, good for last in the Atlantic Division.  They have the worst defense in the entire league.  And they lead the league in total games missed: 11 players have missed 123 games as of this past Tuesday, and that number is sure to grow with Brook Lopez still out with another leg injury.    

Deron Williams has played like a top-7 player in the NBA this season.
But at least they aren't the Bobcats.  

At the core of N.J.'s problems is that Lopez has accounted for a large portion of those games missed.  Brook has played only 136 minutes over five games for a team that doesn't have another legitimate NBA starter in their frontcourt.  Without Lopez's interior scoring, the team relies almost exclusively on Deron Williams to create shots.  It's a credit to Williams that with all that pressure and with head coach Avery Johnson misusing him early in the season by putting him off-ball, he has still been able to elevate New Jersey to literally being at the league average in offensive rating.  

MarShon Brooks, who has had a stellar rookie season, has also missed time.  Brooks can handle the rock and act as a pressure-release for Deron, so having him in the lineup and healthy has been crucial.

The perimeter corps of New Jersey measures up quite nicely against most teams in the league: Deron is a superstar point guard, DeShawn Stevenson and Anthony Morrow provide toughness, length, and shooting at the wings, Jordan Farmar is a proven championship-caliber backup PG, and Brooks is a solid all-around rookie.  

But the frontcourt...oh, the frontcourt.  Kris Humphries is the team's frontcourt scorer, and he derives most of his points from Deron Williams.  Shelden Williams and Johan Petro are non-threats at center, and the frontcourt lacks the length and/or quick feet that it takes to defend the high-percentage spots of the floor.  The team is close to last in the league in blocks, eFG% Against, and defensive rebound percentage.  

Maybe their frontcourt fortunes change.  Maybe they sign Dwight Howard this summer and all is well.  If they do, they'll be contenders.  But for now...they're simply not the Bobcats.    

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