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The Brooklyn Nets Are the Bizarro Golden State Warriors

The NBA’s first and last ranked teams are more similar than you think. Brooklyn and Golden State are a look into the future of the NBA.

By Charles ManiegoPublished 7 years ago 6 min read
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Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Brooklyn and the Bay Area, on the surface may not seem similar at all as cities. Brooklyn has the reputation for being tough and gritty. The Bay Area is home to free spirit San Francisco — a stronghold of free thinkers. The Bay Area is hilly, with ideal views by the water. In Brooklyn, a Navy Yard and several shipping areas line the flat geography along the coast.

But if you look a little closer, these two areas are more similar than imagined. Brooklyn’s current population is littered with transplants and free-thinkers. Like startup San Francisco, organic food markets are everywhere. Eating gluten is a crime and eating meat is a mortal sin. The Brooklyn Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge are two of the most iconic bridges in America. The walkup homes in Brooklyn are as iconic as the house from ‘Full House.’

The similarities of the Bay Area and Brooklyn can be seen in their basketball teams, too (no, not the Knicks).

The Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets are on opposite sides of the NBA hierarchy. They have nearly inverted records. Last week, Brooklyn was 9–49, while Golden State was 49–9. Yeah, that’s weird. The Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA Championship, provided that their core stays healthy. The Nets are heavy favorites to land the #1 pick in the NBA Draft, although that pick is going to Boston. Ouch.

But these two teams are more similar than what’s seen on the surface. Call it a coincidence, but these two teams have the same foundation. But one is built with the best players in the league and the other is built with broken dreams.

The Coaches

Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson and Warriors head coach Steve Kerr both preach similar ideals for offense and team building. Both are branches from the same coaching tree. Atkinson was an assistant coach under Mike D’Antoni with the New York Knicks. Kerr and D’Antoni crossed paths in Phoenix, where Kerr was the general manager to the Seven Second or Less Suns. Atkinson is a coaching grandchild of Gregg Popovich, as he coached under Popovich disciple Mike Budenholzer with the Atlanta Hawks. Kerr played three seasons under Popovich in San Antonio. So essentially, Atkinson and Kerr have the same coaching influences. Are they cousins? Or are they Eskimo brothers? Who knows — but both Atkinson and Kerr have drawn from two premier basketball minds.

via NBA.com

D’Antoni preached a free-flowing, player friendly offense dictated by quick pace. D’Antoni continues to work his magic in Houston, where he has helped elevate James Harden from great to greater. Popovich may have perfected the art of team play in basketball, creating a program that has maximized the talent of several players. He focused on working with the talents of his players instead of their flaws. That continues to this day, even while Popovich has seen his seminal player retire and two of his aces age gracefully. The influences of these two legendary coaches are evident with both the Nets and the Warriors.

The Style

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

With similar coaching influences, both the Warriors and the Nets represent the future (or present) of NBA basketball. From Popovich (and Budenholzer), Atkinson and Kerr adapted a pass-heavy team game. The focus of the offense of these two teams is passing, and not on isolation heavy possessions. Looking at the tracking stats of these teams really sheds light on this seemingly odd comparison. Both teams throw over 310 passes per game — ranking seventh and eighth in the league, respectively. These teams will be grouped together in tons of tracking/non-efficiency rankings. Per NBA.com, both teams spend little time with the basketball and pass it effectively. Both teams are in the bottom five of average dribbles per touch. From these stats, the San Antonio influence can be seen. When a player receives a ball, he has to be deliberate and not waste much time.

From Mike D’Antoni, both teams have adapted a frantic style of offense. The Nets and Warriors rank No. 1 and 2 in pace — the two fastest teams in the league. Both teams constantly push the pace on offense, trying to take advantage of mismatches. Both the Nets and Warriors like to fire away from the three-point line as well. These two teams rank fourth and fifth in three-point field goal attempts per game. See a pattern? Both teams take efficient shots, an adaptation of Moreyball. While both teams shoot the three at a high clip, both teams are in the lower third of the league in two-point field goal attempts.

Defensively, the schemes are just as fluid as the offense. Both teams encourage a lot of switching. For both teams, any switch from 1–4 is welcomed. It’s often that you see a Warriors/Bizarro Warriors squad have their power forward switched on the point guard. But for them, it’s not a defensive breakdown — it’s a strategy. Both teams employ players that can switch across positions. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Draymond Green are two players that can play bigger or smaller than their size, depending on what the offense throws at them. Length and versatility are two key tenets of the systems of these two teams.

One of the most important takeaways from the Warriors’ and Nets’ system is that they are player friendly systems. Any player can shoot his shot if he’s open. Players are encouraged to expand their range from Curry-range and beyond. The systems don’t just empower players to take chances and expand their games — it encourages it. This isn’t just on offense. Defensively, several Nets and Warriors are put in interesting switches. This is the NBA: Team Ball, Meme Ball. The Nets and Warriors are running Mac OSX Sierra. Some teams are still on Yosemite.

Why are the Nets and Warriors at opposite ends of the Win-Loss column?

Look at the rosters! A roster featuring Steph Curry, Thompson, Green, and KD (get well soon!) will find a way to succeed. If the three-point line were erased from all basketball courts, the Warriors would still win. If this were an alternate universe where Phil Jackson was Head of Basketball Operations for Golden State, they’d win even if they were forced to play with the triangle. If the Warriors played Slam Ball, they’d win. If this were a wheelchair basketball league, you know that KD would be using his length to outreach people on the wheelchair hoops court. The Warriors, under any circumstance, would be a force to beat.

Brooklyn lies on the other side of the talent spectrum. Several of the Nets’ key rotation players may not even receive minutes if they were on the Warriors. Stephen Curry and Jeremy Lin seem to be friendly, God-loving dudes, but one thrives on drives and the other thrives on taking unconscious three-point shots. Instead of running Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala off the bench, the Nets have Spencer Dinwiddie and K.J. McDaniels. The Nets don’t even have a match for JaVale McGee. Their backup center is Justin Hamilton — a stretch five. In any universe, the current Brooklyn Nets would be terrible against NBA competition. They’re at the ground floor of what may be at least a five-year rebuild.

But a look at these two teams shines a light on where the NBA is headed. The position-less, free flowing style of basketball may continue to spread. While the Warriors may not be reigning champions, they’ve established the blueprint to maximize the talent of even the best NBA players.

Hypothetically, Golden State will be a dominant team for years to come. The Brooklyn Nets may be an annual basement dweller while the Warriors play into late June. But for Nets fans, they can see the outline in place. There’s a lot to be hopeful for, even though this current season has been the source of headaches for many. If you look really closely and squint a little, these two teams are more similar than you think. Don’t let the records fool you. These two teams are alternate universe doppelgangers. It’s the NBA. It’s 2017. Let’s get weird.

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About the Creator

Charles Maniego

Basketball, Society, Science & Medicine. Unbalanced.🍦🔬🏀🤼 ✈🤷🤙🏽

[@ignisyon]

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