Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson, Timofey Mozgov, Arron Afflalo. They all have missed game this season with an ankle sprain. Some have been serious (Gallo) some have been much less so (Afflalo). However, I think I speak for Nuggets fans everywhere when I ask, “What is with all the ankle sprains?”
Let me propose two potential causes that are the two pillars of Denver’s offense, pace and paint points, two categories in which they lead the entire NBA. Maybe the Pepsi Center should be known as the Danger Zone.
Sprained ankles happen in basketball. Most sprained ankles occur when a player steps on another player’s foot. Consider the Nuggets offense. The crux of their offense is having their players drive into the lane continuously in order to score points in the paint. Opponents know that to beat the Nuggets you stay in or near the lane prepared to help out on penetration. Nuggets players are constantly forcing their way into the lane, which is generally filled with defenders. Every time they drive or jump or plant their foot, they are at risk of doing one of those things on an opponent’s foot. Judging statistically by their points in the paint and viscerally by their style of offense and the way they are defended, no team has their players with as much potential of spraining an ankle as Denver.
Now consider their league leading pace factor. The Nuggets have a pace factor of 97.4, which leads the NBA. The average pace factor is 93.8. That means Denver packs an extra 3.6 possessions into every 48 minutes they play than the average NBA team. It does not seem like much, but over the 35 games they have played, that is an extra 126 possessions the Nuggets are completing, which at their pace equates to an additional 1.3 games worth of possessions than the average team.
Is the Nuggets offense dangerous to their players’ health?
Considering the types of possessions the Nuggets conduct and the additional number of possessions they utilize I think it makes sense that the Nuggets would be more at risk than other teams to losing players to ankle sprains than other teams.
Certainly the percentage of times a player drives or jumps or changes direction and sprains an ankle is an incredibly tiny number. It is possibly so small that even with extra possessions and added forays into a crowded lane that those extra repetitions are statistically insignificant. Whether that is the case or not, I certainly can see a correlation between Denver’s style of play and their injury isses.
Even putting the sprained ankles aside, consider their other injuries, Nene’s groin, heel and calf and Fernandez’s back, the added stress of playing at a fast pace and putting additional torque on the body could create additional opportunities for injury. Now add in the compacted schedule and the fact Denver has played more games than 22 other teams and they would seem to be the odds on favorite in the league to get bitten by the injury bug.
Now consider the fact the Nuggets are weighing a long term commitment to Wilson Chandler who has a history of ankle issues. If I am Chris Luchey, Chandler’s agent, I might steer him somewhere else, or request hazard pay to play in the Danger Zone.
And yes, I named the post Highway to the Danger Zone just so I could embed this video: