Brooklyn Nets Switching Defense
The Nets are winning again by using a great switching defensive scheme.
The Brooklyn Nets suddenly have a 10-game winning streak, 2nd in the East and NBA, and more impressive currently ranked 9th in the NBA in defensive rating. I would have (and I think I did) laughed so hard if you told me the Nets would have a top-10 defense and looked legit 2 months ago - yet here we are. Although they are still hemorrhaging offensive rebounds (28th in the league), they have consistently improved over this season with a great scheme that focuses on their strengths and avoids their weaknesses. We are going to deep dive into their defensive scheme and look at everything they are doing on this streak and force their opponents into bad shots and tough possessions.
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Full Video Breakdown:
Here is a good look at some of the rim protection that the Nets have been great at so far this season from.
The Numbers for the Nets aren’t overwhelmingly impressive when looking at their defensive strategy - they don’t turn the other team over a ton (15th), they foul often (22nd), and they give up a ridiculous amount of offensive rebounds (28th). What really stands out is their effective field goal percentage defense that is currently 3rd in the NBA even though they give up SO many shots at the rim. Brooklyn is allowing 36% of their opponents’ shots at the rim, the 5th worst in the NBA as well as seemingly having no clear intent on where the offense takes their shots from, the Nets just want to contest wherever the shots do come from.
The best defensive teams typically force opponents to shoot from the mid-range and limit shots at the rim and from the 3 - although more and more teams seem to not care about how many 3’s the other teams take but we’ll see what the Nets do with this soon enough.
Even though the Nets give up a ton of shots at the rim, they are so stingy when it comes to defense at the rim and in the lane. Currently ranked 4th in defensive rim % and number 1 in short, long, and all mid-range attempts with teams shooting 37% from mid-range against them - absolutely absurd. 3 point percentage can be wonky with an amount of luck always involved but the Nets rank 23rd in 3-point defense as other teams are shooting 37% from the 3-point line (more on this later).
Off Ball Screens
While the Nets are switching alot of actions, they have a specific gameplan for each player and how they handle screens on and off the ball. For players like Kyrie, Curry, and Patty Mills they will keep them attached off the ball in screening actions to keep them on their matchup.
When it comes to switching most teams that switch are going to create stagnant offense by taking away off-ball actions and jamming up screens like pindowns, backscreens, and flare screens.
The Nets will treat these off-ball actions in “conventional” coverage by typically locking and trailing and having the player guarding the screen defending almost like in drop coverage.
A large reason for this is to not get beat on off ball actions like slips to the rim and mismatches with opportunities for seals that makes help harder.
Normally switching off the ball is to take away screening actions but in the NBA these actions are run less and less with only teams like the Warriors, Jazz and Celtics running them the most but teams like the Heat & Nuggets opting to slowly phase out these actions in their offense. Teams had to design their defense to face the Warriors for the past 5-6 years, an example of this is the Rockets with Chris Paul discussing this at length.
Similarly, the Cavs switched almost every action they could not involving Kevin Love throughout the Finals against the Warriors and this led to them getting beat on slips - especially after time out specials.
The Nets however do switch some of these actions off the ball, but they only do this when they involve “like for like” players or players that are similar size and specifically KD/Simmons/Claxton.
If players like Kyrie/Sumner/Curry are involved in the off ball screening action then they will switch it as well since it will not create a mismatch.
Although they don’t switch all of these actions, sometimes slips can cause some confusion and create scoring chances against any defense including the Nets.