Just one month after enjoying one of the best stretches of his coaching tenure with the Nets’ organization, Avery Johnson found himself unemployed. The 10-4 record in the first half of Johnson’s 2012 season ended with the Nets sitting atop the Atlantic Division while also tying for the second-best winning percentage in the Eastern Conference. The second half of Johnson’s season, however, was a complete collapse, with the Nets’ record flipping to 4-10 before he finally got the boot. Under interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo, the Nets have found their groove again and have won five of their six games with Carlesimo at the helm.
When looking at how the Nets have changed under Carlesimo, the most striking statistic is that the team has been scoring 101.8 points per game. With Johnson, the Nets were averaging just 94.5 points per game. So the question is, what strategy has Carlesimo implemented to increase their offensive production? Diving into more stats reveals that the Nets have become much more aggressive in getting to the basket and taking higher percentage shots.
One of the biggest differences between the first 14 games of the Nets’ season and their last 14 under Johnson was that the team started sacrificing higher percentage shots for more attempts from behind the arc. With the Nets ranking 13th in the league this year in 2-point field goal percent (48.1%) and 24th in the league in 3-point field goal percent (34.2%), it does not make much sense for the Nets to be taking shots from the 3-point line if it means giving up a chance to score from a closer range. Carlesimo has been able to limit the Nets’ shots taken from behind the arc and has been getting his players back into the paint since taking over the team. The Nets are now averaging 20.7 three point attempts per game compared to the 23.4 they were taking in the last 14 games of Johnson’s tenure while also scoring 43.7 points per game in the paint compared to 39.4 in those 14 games.
Carlesimo has not only helped the Nets to return to their start-of-season form, but also has improved their offense in other areas. With the Nets being more aggressive, they are also shooting more free throws, giving them the chance to score more points. The Nets also have improved their offensive effective field goal percent (eFG%), which takes into account the fact that a three-pointer is worth more than a two-point shot. The Nets are shooting a .506 eFG% under Carlesimo, just above the league average of .490. For reference, the Heat have the highest eFG% with .545 and the Wizards have the lowest at .447.
The Nets’ resurgence in the last six games comes from the more aggressive style of basketball that P.J. Carlesimo has them playing. Since they are staying away from the 3-point line and getting to the charity stripe more often, the Nets are in a position to continue to play better basketball and compete for their first playoff appearance since 2007.