The action has been fabulous to start the 2022-23 NBA season. But perhaps more than any other year in recent NBA memory, several teams are off to surprising starts.
Similarly, some teams were expected to be better than they currently are playing. I will look at two of the league’s most disappointing teams: the Brooklyn Nets and the Golden State Warriors.
Nets Problems Won’t Be Fixed With New Coach
Brooklyn fired NBA head coach Steve Nash yesterday and is reportedly on the verge of hiring suspended Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka to replace him. While Nash may have been a little over his head in the first seat, the Nets’ problems run deeper than him.
It really isn’t surprising that Nash is out with the Nets. There had been rumors all summer long surrounding Nash. Kevin Durant even went to ownership and gave the team an ultimatum to be traded or fire Nash and general manager, Sean Marks.
Nash went 94-67 in his two-plus season, but there were always questions surrounding his coaching ability. Plus, his tenure has been plagued by dysfunction, ego, and lack of direction.
But the Nets losing six of their first eight games to start the season – they fell to Chicago on Tuesday with Jacque Vaughn serving as interim coach – is not really on Nash. It is more on Marks and the construction of the roster as well as the culture of the organization.
Marks has made several poor decisions regarding the roster. The Nets have a point guard (Ben Simmons) who can’t shoot, is injury prone, and has lost all of his confidence. The Nets are also one of the worst defensive teams in the league, with little upside, as only Simmons, Nic Claxton, and Durant can guard regularly.
Brooklyn also has a problem closing out games. The Nets are getting outscored by an NBA-worse 8.3 points in the second half as they allow a league-high 60.6 points on 49.7% shooting from the field and 47.7% from the 3-point line over the final two quarters.
Depth in the frontcourt, lack of NBA leadership, and 3-point shooting are issues for the Nets. Claxton is probably better as a high-energy player off the bench, but he and Day’Ron Sharpe, an excellent rebounder, are the only two players on the roster with any size.
While the Nets rank in the bottom third in 3-point NBA makes and percentage, there is good NBA news. Royce O’Neale and Patty Mills are shooting the ball well, and Seth Curry, the team’s best shooter, has played one game. It also can be assumed that Durant will improve from beyond the arc as he is a 38% career shooter from deep.
So, Udoka – if he is indeed their “guy” – may bring some stability in terms of NBA leadership and accountability, which the Nets need. However, he will need to conjure some magic if Brooklyn is going to turn things around this season. This is not to say the Nets can’t right the ship; they just have a lot of work to do.
Can the Warriors Fix Their Defense?
The Warriors are off to a surprisingly slow start this year (3-5), and a big reason has been their atrocious defense. Golden State, which ranked second in defensive rating last year, is allowing the second most points in the league this year at 121.3 a game. The Warriors returned all five starters, including a few of the best defenders in the league, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins.
So, why the dramatic change? While the Dubs starters rank 19th in NBA defensive rating at 76.3, their bench ranks 26th with a rating of 63.8.
The Warriors’ second unit is still figuring things out as they have some moving pieces, as Jordan Poole is the only player that is part of the unit that ranked in the top 10 in minutes last season. James Wiseman is playing for the first time in a year-and-a-half, while Donte DiVincenzo and JyMachal Green came to the Bay Area this summer.
Moreover, Wiseman still has much to learn on both ends of the floor. And Poole, Moses Moody, DiVincenzo, along with Jonathan Kuminga, have been terrible defensively.
Golden State’s biggest problem defensively overall has been transition and fouling. The Warriors have also had difficulty guarding the rim lately.
Since it is early in the season, the Warriors have time to fix their issues. The easiest fix for them is to bring the energy on a more consistent basis and communicate better. Also, continuity on the second unit will help as DiVincenzo, currently dealing with an injury, has only played in three NBA games.
More importantly, the Warriors need to quit being so stagnant. Better ball and player movement offensively will help the Dubs from playing flat-footed. That and taking care of the ball better will help with their transition defense.
Golden State commits 16.5 turnovers a game, which ranks 27th in the league, which has translated into 19.8 points for their opponents. They also need to stop fouling, as their opponents are attempting over 27 free throws a game, as Dubs are being whistled for 23 fouls.