There is no doubt that the Denver Nuggets are going to have to defend the pick and roll at least competently in order to have a chance in this series. The Denver bigs are all capable of playing good to great pick and roll defense. Nene, Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen all move their feet well for their size and should be very useful in slowing Chris Paul down.
The Nuggets seemed to get better and better at defending Chris Paul as the season wore on. In the final meeting between the two teams Denver forced Paul into six turnovers thanks to an aggressive trapping scheme. However, it is important to note that the Hornets were playing without Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler. Trapping Paul will not be as easy with Chandler diving down the lane and Peja spotted up on the weak side.
Denver will need to employ more than one scheme as Paul will be able to solve anything they throw at him eventually. Look for the Nuggets to trap, to surround Paul with a soft umbrella of help designed to keep him out of the lane and even to switch. In an interview on Friday with 1510 AM George Karl said the coaching staff had considered starting Melo or Kenyon on Paul. By starting with a mismatch they can then switch and then have everyone matched up correctly. Of course, in that situation my response would be to skip the pick and roll and exploit the mismatch. I imagine someone like Chris Paul would figure that out as well. However, in watching film from the previous matchups whenever the Nuggets switched Paul would almost exclusively pass off to the screener. I wonder if he will be so passive in the playoffs.
Once again I have put together some clips of the Nuggets pick and roll defense looking at both successes and failures. It should come as no surprise that the Hornets were able to take advantage of the slightest breakdown or belated rotation by earning a quality shot. As I point out in the video instead of Julian Wright taking open jumpers, in the playoffs it will be Peja.
Chris Paul showed last season that he is capable of raising his game to incredible levels in the playoffs and Denver will have to deal with a determined, supremely talented and aggressive player. The one thing that really frightens me is Paul’s ability to draw fouls. Look for him to drive into the body of the Nuggets’ bigs in an attempt to draw fouls. If he can get two out of the threesome of Nene, Kenyon and Birdman into foul trouble it will be a big advantage for New Orleans.
Paul is going to play like a man possessed and Denver better be ready to match his desire and intensity.