Nets Double-Teaming Al Jefferson
Al Jefferson expressed hope in regards of spacing around his post offense in a preseason Adi Joseph article.
Big Al told Joseph during training camp: "I think people don't realize, 3-point shooting is what makes me who I am. Last year, we didn't have 3-point shooting. That's why guys were able to sit down on me. I didn't have it. Now we have guys who can spread the floor and make shots. Teams have to pick and choose their spots. You double me, bang — we've got an open shot."
A lesser role in the offense, injuries and a suspension in between has prevented Jefferson from at least somewhat fulfilling those words. Even now, with him being Charlotte's second unit go-to option, the aforementioned "hit the open man" situations are as infrequent as they used to be his first two years here.
Opposing teams don't feel the necessity of trying to get the ball out of Jefferson's hands as much as they had to two seasons ago when he was demolishing front-courts left and right.
Moreover, to be frank, Big Al isn't the best of post passers. The Mississippi native will often force up his own looks despite rotating help defenders and miss passing opportunities for open teammates.
(Do you think this recent possession from the Denver game ended with a Troy Daniels three or with Al Jefferson jab stepping into a turnover?)
With all of that in mind, it was surprising to see Nets coach Tony Brown having his guys repeatedly double Jefferson in the post from the get-go. The big man has clearly had a down year which has been visible when seeing things as blatant as him constantly missing gimmies at the rim.
Per Basketball Reference, Big Al is having his second worst season both in field goal percentage at the rim and on shots between three and ten feet.
To the center's credit, Jefferson instantly acknowledged Brooklyn's double-teaming schemes and willingly spread the ball around using post touches as a mechanism to create shots for others.
Per NBA.com's SportVU data, Jefferson registered 31 touches and made 22 passes last night. That 70.9% passing rate per touch ranks as Al's best for a game since he came back from his ailments after the All-Star break as a second-unit post hog (I took the liberty of dismissing his 18-touch and 18-minute game against New Orleans due to sample size reasons).
The center also had four assists and he was tied for team's best with point guards Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin.
At times the predictability of Brooklyn's defensive rotations allowed Charlotte to seriously capitalize off these doubles. Here's Jefferson hitting the cutting Lin with a pass three straight times after the double-team kept coming from off-top by Shane Larkin.
At the end of the day though, Jefferson scored six straight on Brook Lopez after the Nets scrapped the double-teaming strategy in the fourth quarter so who am I to question Tony Brown.
I suppose now there will be more doubles coming Jefferson's way when the teams meet for the fourth time on April, the 8th.
Frank Kaminsky's Hot Start, Going at Bogdanovic
Frank the Tank's ten points rendered him as the game's highest scoring man in the first quarter in what seems a lifetime ago due to the numerous events that followed later on.
What was promising about those twelve minutes was Kaminsky trying to execute on mismatches against Bojan Bogdanovic. The Nets were fine with switching any Nicolas Batum and Frank Kaminsky action. Thaddeus Young would pick up the Frenchman while Bogdanovic switched on Kaminsky.
On the whole, Kaminsky playing at center would probably result in offensive ratings through the roof for any two teams involved so it's completely reasonable that the Hornets have played him exclusively at power forward for the time being. Lineups with Kaminsky at the five would have trouble protecting the rim.
Given the tendencies of the present day NBA though, teams might try putting a wing at the four spot when Kaminsky is on the court. The bet would be that the Wisconsin Badger would have trouble of keeping up on defense while a wing is athletic enough of sticking close to his 3-point looks on offense.
Using the dying art of the post game is a way of exploiting such a mismatch.
A yay for his subsequent drive on Bogdanovic, a personal foul forced when he battled for another post touch and just any one of his slow and calculated post makes.
Spencer Hawes/Al Jefferson Lineups
Marvin Williams's ankle sprain permitted a comeback by Spencer Hawes who had missed 17 straight due to a back injury.
The center needed to fill in the role of a missing power forward though so the Hornets played 17 minutes with an almost league-wide obsolete two center lineup. Surprisingly enough, it resulted in a very solid +14.9 net rating (107.6 - 92.7).
Hawes's passing and range allows him to slip in lineups and fit just nicely so that isn't the unexpected end result of this experiment. The two slow-footed behemoths holding down the fort on defense is, however.
I would guess though that the Nets facing them with a Shane Larkin, Sean Kilpatrick, Markel Brown, Thomas Robinson and Henry Sims lineup is a reason which should be taken into account.
What's also interesting is that Hawes was supposedly ready to step up against the San Antonio Spurs as well, in case Cody Zeller would have sat the game out. It makes one wonder about how healthy he exactly is, the team's plans in regards to him and his availability for the playoffs.
For what it's worth, he looked as his old self at Brooklyn last night.