Minutes projections for the Nuggets: Karl will lean heavily on his heavies

“If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.”

Many Nuggets fans will be familiar with the oft uttered refrain from Steve Hess, assistant coach in charge of strength and conditioning. It has become a meme which flows freely through the team’s culture, often surfacing in players’ post-workout tweets as what seems to be a slogan for the principle to which Denver is dedicated: getting better.

The Nuggets organization has firmly dedicated itself to a course in which, while engaging in a process of ongoing reconstruction following the Carmelo Anthony trade, will prioritize staying relevant and continuing to improve in an increasingly competitive Western Conference.

This team won’t be tanking. The recent acquisition of Andre Iguodala, even at the cost of fan favorite Arron Afflalo and coach favorite Al Harrington, represents how strong the Nuggets’ commitment to winning truly is. The players want to win. The organization as a whole wants to win.

There is no doubt, too, that head coach George Karl wants to win. And this will be enormously important in his decision making as he determines how his player rotations settle down through the 2012-13 season, and which players get the lion’s share of the sparse minutes which will be all too precious on his very deep roster.

The responsibility he holds for choosing how many minutes to give which players on a team of Denver’s depth is both a blessing and a curse. It will certainly be a luxury when facing specific matchup situations, or when, during heavier stretches of the schedule, he will have no short supply of fresh legs. But with a larger goal of positioning the team well for the playoffs, targeting perhaps a third or fourth seedng which would guarantee home court advantage in the first round, playing time may be scant for players who are not part of the core rotation.

Through November and December Karl will surely take opportunities to experiment as they arise, allowing deeper bench players such as Jordan Hamilton and Anthony Randolph their chance to make a case for court time. But by the end of the season he’ll have his eye bent to the postseason, and will seek to pare things down to a distribution of minutes which should roughly reflect the rotations he’ll deploy in the playoffs.

The first chart below is what I’ve called a “prototypical” distribution of minutes from the 2011-12 season. In practical terms, it’s basically impossible to make such a chart that accurately reflects reality. With injuries, different lineups, traded players and other factors all coming into play, the sum of the minutes per game of all players on the roster far exceeds the 240 available minutes in a single game. So by prototypical I mean to suggest that under normal conditions this is an approximation of what the rotational blueprint may have looked like last season.

For my purposes here, I’ve treated Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos as a single player averaging 21 minutes per game.* I’ve also excluded Nene, Rudy Fernandez and Wilson Chandler as whether by trade or injury, they weren’t in the mix for the relevant part of the season.

Again, this is an idealized (which is not necessarily to say ideal) approximation of how the minutes broke down last season. I’ve used it as a model for constructing a similar “prototypical” projection of minutes for next season. I expect there may be a great deal of disagreement with my prediction, and I’ll concede in advance that much of that criticism is bound to be correct. There may likely well be a game here where Hamilton plays 20 minutes and Corey Brewer sits on the bench, or there where Randolph gets some extensive play while both Mozgov and Koufos watch from the sidelines. And of course there are injuries, garbage time, and just Karl’s experimental process of figuring out which rotations he thinks work best.

In other words, please consider this a rough guesstimation, and not a hard prediction that’s set in stone. Simply put, some of it will be wrong.

In addition to the chart from last season, I base this model in part on the following premises:

  • George Karl likes to give the most burn to the players he trusts the most. He tends to be cautious about giving court time to inexperienced players (although I’d assert that “Karl doesn’t play rookies” is a tired myth) and guys who tend to be mistake-prone or struggle with understanding the system. If the implication of this proves to be true – that Brewer will play longer and more often than J-Ham and Randolph – it will be a disappointment to some fans, but Karl won’t put them in at the risk of losing games. Both players do have the opportunity to relegate Brewer to the bench on the strength of their perimeter shooting, but they will also have to play hard on the defensive end to earn Karl’s trust.
  • Karl also prefers to stick with a fairly standard rotational framework. Most Nuggets fans will be familiar with choices such as not moving Al Harrington into the starting lineup when a starting forward was injured, in order to keep him coming off the bench in his standard role. It’s based on this that I tried to model the 2012-13 chart as closely as possible to last season’s in terms of its structure.
  • Andre Iguodala will essentially take Arron Afflalo’s minutes without any major changes, and Lawson and Gallinari will continue to play 30+.
  • In addition to Lawson, Iguodala and Gallinari, Wilson Chandler will be the only other player to average 30 or more minutes per game. Chandler averaged 30.1 minutes after his trade to Denver in the 2010-11 season, which is a mark of the degree of confidence Karl has in him.
  • Andre Miller may well be Karl’s favorite player on the roster, but he is also the oldest, and somewhat caught in a pinch between Lawson and Iguodala. For the sake of preserving his health for the playoffs, as well perhaps out of the sheer dearth of minutes, I expect his playing time to see a slight reduction.
  • Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee will get an increase in minutes, but only a modest one due to the fact that they’re still on a learning curve. But both have the chance to carve out more playing time if they prove on the court that they deserve it.
  • Karl is on record as being loathe to play any player for less than 20 minutes in a game, but his love for Corey Brewer is equally strong. He will be first in the pecking order to pick up the scraps left behind by the many swingmen ahead of him in the rotation.

So without further ado, here are my 2012-13 minutes projections:

In putting this together, it became clear very quickly that the biggest question mark is how Al Harrington’s 27.5 minutes per game will be divvied out. With no clear backup power forward, Karl has a diversity of options at the 4, and the battle between Chandler, Randolph and Koufos should be an interesting one. Kosta will also be battling it out with Mozgov for the backup center role. I expect one of them to clearly emerge as Karl’s favorite by the turn of the new year.

As a final thought, a lot about the upcoming season may depend on Hamilton and Randolph. If they can definitively lay respective claims on the backup shooting guard and power forward positions, Corey Brewer by default will be relegated to the bench. If so, his approximately $3.2 million expiring contract would make an excellent trade chip at the deadline preceding the implementation of the more punitive luxury tax.
*In the 2011-12 season, Timofey Mozgov started in 35 of the 44 games he played in, including 14 straight to open the season, and Kosta Koufos started in 24 of his 48, including 12 straight to close out the season. There were only four games in which they both started, but 34 games in which only one of the two played. And in games when either of them started, the other’s minutes were depressed. This somewhat mutually exclusive nature of their court time is why I combined them into a “single player” for the purpose of the minutes chart. Although Mozgov played 15.6 and Koufos 16.5 minutes per game, if you count all Nuggets games played last season (including the zeroes when they didn’t play), they averaged 10.4 and 12.0 minutes respectively, or 22.4 total. The 21 minutes alloted to them as a single player is an approximation of this. To look at a more complete breakdown of the interplay of minutes between these two players, see the chart here.

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Joel is a long time Denver Nuggets (and Broncos) fan from Colorado who's been living in Japan since the mid-90s, and blogging about the Nuggets since 2008. You can contact and follow him on Twitter: @denbutsu.
  • jay reil

    Hey denbutsu this is a great article! Good job I like reading all ur work, but I have a question why didn’t you give any minutes to j ham or randolph, even if they don’t take a big step before the season they will still be playing like say 5 mins a game or so right?

  • Young Pep Dash

    Seems about right. Hopefully GK gives McGee and Faried a few more minutes though (less to KK/Moz) and maybe some time for Hamilton because of his shooting ability.

    It’s also extremely hard to predict Denver’s rotations because they seem to be different night to night

  • dynamo.joe

    I read an analysis somewhere last season that the most signifigant factor in deciding playing time for Karl was salary. Which makes a certain amount of sense, if your GM gives one guy $10M and another $5M, he must want the $10M guy played more.

    Anyway given that, minutes will be allocated in this order:

    Fournier (why is this guys contract this big?)

    I think the lone outlier on that analysis was Ty.

    It suggests a starting line up of Ty/Iggy/Gallo/Chandler/McGee.

    And that Iggy/Gallo/Chandler/K2/AR will all be able to steal minutes from Faried (a travesty, if true).

    Finally, it also suggests that Fournier will get time at the 2 over JHam.

    • Young Pep Dash

      most ridculous thing ive ever heard. i have a feeling minutes are based on how you help the team

      • dynamo.joe

        If you think Harrington was producing at a higher rate than Faried then I don’t think you were paying attention. But Harrington got more PT, so clearly production isn’t the primary determining factor.

        • Young Pep Dash

          i never said PRODUCTION. I said HOW YOU HELP THE TEAM

          EXTREMELY DIFFERENT THINGS. Dont put words in my mouth

          • JaVale McGee’s Mom

            LOUD NOISES

    • SmokinNugs

      I’d agree that’s true on many teams, but not so much for the Nuggets

    • Chris

      First off that may be true with some teams, but not with the Nuggets who still have close to half the team on Rookie contracts. Which is why Fournier’s contract is bigger than J-Ham, he was selected higher in the draft. And you can’t honestly think that KK and Mozzy are going get more minuets Than Ty? Insane

      • dynamo.joe

        Since I already said Ty was an outlier I don’t see how pointing out Ty is an outlier is helpful.

    • Mike

      that’s why there is a difference between correlation and causation. The reason Faried gets payed less than Chandler is that he is on a rookie contract. The reason there seems to be no rhyme or reason is injuries, the nuggets have a depth of good to very good players and are interchangeable to a degree and because george basis his lineup on matchups either both in a proactive and reactive style.

  • webstex14

    A lot of Nuggets fans are thinking about this actually and how the minutes are going to be dispersed, i think you were pretty close but i think Nuggets fans are more inclined into seeing something more like what i have below.

    PG – LAwson 33, Miller 15
    SG – Iguodala 30, Miller 10, Jham 8
    SF – Gallo 15, Chandler 23, Brewer 10
    PF – Faried 28, Gallo 15, Randolph 5
    C – Mcgee 30, Mozgov 9, Koufos 9

    Now to analyze it by position. With the point guard spot, forget what all the other ppl say about the star potential of all our other players and everything else, Ty Lawson is our engine and in my mind our best player without a doubt. We have to get him as many minutes as possible. Signor Miller gets his due with 15.

    SG spot. I’ve been reading a lot of crap online about Iggy playing the 3 n how him coming meant we were going to trade Gallo or something. Iggy will be great playing the two and where Lawson needs help the most is on defense. With the 2-PG lineup GK prefers Andre Miller is just perfect there and i think his skill on the lob pass should mean we see more of him together with Mcgee and Faried on the court at the same time. The problem i found with debentsu is he didnt account for Jham, let’s be honest, he will see the court this season if for nothing at all to space it for his 3-pt shooting since AAA left.

    SF – It’s kind of funny but i think Gallo will see less time at the 3, i’ll get to that later. Chandler will feel he has a lot to prove and i think we’ll see a more dynamic offensive player. In a funny way i think GK and his staff love Brewer for his energy and aggresiveness on D. I do too, i think someone like him can change the course of a game.

    PF – Nuggets staff are developing Faried and i think we’ll know more after his workout with Hakeem. 28 mins is just about right for the Manimal. The interesting part here is, Gallo will get a lot of mins at the 4 not just cos of his ability to stretch the court and his size but also for the Nuggets to take advantage of the depth of our wing players. 5 mins seems a bit harsh on Randolph but he’ll have to change that with his play and convince the coaching staff.

    C- No surprises here. Its probably the one spot where everything looks straightforward. Nuggets fans if you havent yet seen the video of Mcgee working with Hakeem, i’ll encourage you go take a look. He looks effortless with those skyhooks. Mozgov and Koufos should both see similar amounts of court time.

    best offensive lineup – Ty-Miller-Chandler-Gallo-Mcgee
    best defensivelineup – Ty-Iggy-Brewer-Faried-Mcgee

    The two above lineups are more hypothetical than practical, i doubt we’ll be seeing those lineups often.
    I strongly believe the nuggets are really leaning towards something like i demonstrated in this piece. For the sake of injuries and suspensions, expect the likes of Fournier and Q. Miller to see the court anywhere form 5-10 mins depending on the circumstance and for Randolphs’ to increase.

  • Ban

    Chandler and Gallo can play 4 against some teams, but certainly not all, or even most, most of the time. Yeah, small-ball will work marvelously at times, but I’m not sure Karl wants that as his default. Remember, Faried is pretty small himself for the position…

    David Lee, Pau Gasol, Zach Randolph, Dirk, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Paul Millsap, LaMarcus Aldridge…will punish Chandler and Gallo down low…and that’s just the Western Conference.

    Look for Koufos (solid, underrated) or Randolph (fantastic athlete) to claim most of those backup PF minutes. (Faried averaged 27 mpg in the playoffs…so that seems about right for him…still leaves 21 mpg there)

    Brewer is a great energy-changer guy. Karl loves him for that reason. I would be surprised if he’s not a regular rotation guy, even for 10 berserk minutes a game. That could mean minutes for Hamilton are hard to come by.

    Bottom line is that good and promising players will be left out of the regular rotation, or not get enough minutes. That’s the downside of being so deep. The upside is that the Nuggets can afford to play very, very hard.

  • Alberto

    Why everybody give minutes to Hamilton and not to Fournier? He is a great player and in George Karl system I’m sure he will play very well (top 10 rookies of the season).
    I think Iguodala will play more minutes as SF, Gallo more PF and Miller will play just 15 minutes.
    PG: Lawson 38; Miller 10
    SG: Iguodala 25; Fournier 15, Miller 5, Brewer 3
    SF Gallo 20, Chandler 15, Iguodala 10, Brewer 3
    PF Faried 25, Gallo 13, Chandler 10
    C McGee 30, Mozgov 13, Koufos 5

    • ryanvdonk

      george karl doesn’t play rookies, that’s why no one is mentioning fournier and it’s not like he was a lottery pick. for you to leave hamilton completely off the depth chart is ridiculous especially when the entire coaching staff and front office have made a point to say J-Ham will be seeing significant minutes this year.

  • Michael

    Great article about the pluses and pitfalls of the deep roster. My concern is at SG, we have Iggy, Brewer and Chandler that can play that spot but Karl loves putting Miller there. I feel when we had the 2PG lineup last year we would get killed on 3’s. Ty gets shot over and Miller is slow rotating, neither of those things happen to the three guys mentioned above. With our athleticism no one should ever get a clean three on us. We should attack the hell out of the 3pt line and let McGee and Manimal attack in the paint, force teams to live or die by the midrange jumper.

    • Thomas

      This article pretty much illustrates why we won’t accomplish greater things, even though we have the material to do it. Everyone tries to decipher how Karl will allocate minutes based on his personal preference criteria.

      During the season, we won’t have time to develop a lock down defensive starting 5. We won’t have time to alllow J Ham or Fournier to learn the game and maybe become key contributors in areas we really need (3pt shooting, defense etc). We will live and die by Andre Miller’s defensive shortcomings and Karl’s misuse of his abilities, in detriment of cohesive units that won’t be exploited come playoffs.

      It’s a shame that so much attention is given to “lob passes” that Miller may throw to Iggy or Mcgee. They sure look pretty, but they don’t eliminate defensive flaws on the other end which ultimately killed us, things like broken assignments and lack of lateral quickness to cover the 3pt line.

      As much as I like our deep roster and I appreciate Miller’s offensive moments, the reality is that it is impossible to be a contender with a guy like him playing 20+ minutes per game in the playoffs. He is too much “on and off” offensively and a liability defensively. We can afford to have Lawson as a defensive mismatch, we cannot afford to have both.


    What does Faried have to do to get more playing time? He has to “prove” that he deserves it?

    How about a .616 TS% as a 22-year-old rookie?
    How about a .212 WS48 as a 22-year-old rookie?
    How about a .317 WP48 as a 22-year-old rookie? (That’s 4th in the league, by the way.)

    If you think that Faried doesn’t deserve 38 minutes a game, you’re overthinking his “youth.” The kid is a monster in the paint, and his stats suggest that he’s all-time-great good. If you think that your eyetest are better than the stats, well, that’s on you.

    • Ban

      Faried is great. But he’s undersized, his defense is so-so (especially post defense), and a lot of his effectiveness comes from his high energy and simply outworking the competition.

      Outworking NBA competition when you’re undersized is possible to do for 27-28 mpg. It’s probably impossible at 38 mpg.

      I’m not sure it makes sense to give 38 mpg to anyone on the roster, including Lawson and Iguodala. With this deep a roster, why not just run, run, run and use everybody?

      • https://twitter.com/denbutsu denbutsu

        To be clear, I personally would like to see Faried play more minutes than in the chart above (maybe 30 or 32), and I agree that he has proven to be a highly efficient player. But this isn’t about what I think, it’s about what George Karl will do. And given the defensive limitations that Ban pointed out, along with Faried’s youth, I think it’s likely that Karl will restrain from giving him too many minutes. I sure wouldn’t mind being wrong about this, though.

    • Michael

      Asking any big to play 38 minutes, especially one thats biggest asset is speed and relentless play, is a sure way to get them injured.

    • Thomas

      Fully agree. How we do this year depends on Faried. If he played 35 + minutes and gave the same output as he did last year, we would be several possessions better than our opponents and improve our playoff odds. He needsminutes to figure it out on the defensive end.

      It’s no joke, this guy will alter games like Dennis Rodman did.

      With Iggy and Faried getting 35+ minutes, we could be special.

  • Dubz

    Nice write up I think your minute allocation is spot on. People here who understandably haven’t watched a lot of Chandler don’t fully understand his jack of all trades abilities. He STARTED PF for the Knicks for almost an entire year while Gallo played the 3 so any of you who believe Gallo should be receiving minutes at 4 more than Chandler, you are simply mistaken. There’s no way the Nuggets would have traded Harrington or kept Chandler if they didn’t feel he would fill the void of a “stretch 4” that Harrington left. I also think Karl will play Brewer more than Hamilton even though that won’t be for long if the starters don’t put up respectable percentages from distance. I know this won’t happen but I almost wish Karl would take McGee off the bench like he did against the Lakers for the beginning part of the season. I don’t want McGee to get complacent with a new contract and I think Mozgov did a good job starting. Anyway, this was all spot on.

    • DH

      Personally, I think McGee will start off on the bench. Karl loves McGee playing with Miller and he doesn’t like to change things that have been working. I would be a little surprised if McGee starts, at least early in the season.

    • Mike

      yes gallo should not play PF because a 24 year old who is 6’10 with a decent reach and stronger body than when you referenced at age 22 can not develop skills to help him play the low post better. The issue with Gallo is his Rebounding. He will need to do a better job of boxing out and chasing rebounds to play significant minutes there.

  • DH

    Very good analysis, denbutsu. I suspect that Iguodala will get quite a bit more than 4 minutes at the “3”, though. I can see Karl (Captain Small-Ball) falling in love with Ty, Andre, and Iggy playing together. Actually, if you think about them running the court with Faried and McGee, it is enticing.

    Also, I think that in the second half of the year, you might have to treat Brewer and JHam as one player, like you did with Moz/Kouf. I think Hamilton will get just enough minutes early in the year to prove himself. Then in the second half, Karl might use JHam when he needs more offense and Brew when he needs more defense/energy.

    With so many capable players deserving of minutes, something else will have to give. So I’ll say that Chandler will average only 26 minutes and Gallo will average only 30.

  • Nugswin

    Why is nobody willing to entertain the possibility of going big and playing McGee at PF with Mozgov (or Koufos) at C? We’ve got three 7-footers who can all play and aren’t big slow behemoth-type guys and all we hear about is small ball. I don’t get it.

    I agree with whoever upthread mentioned how we get beat on 3s when Miller is in the game with Ty. Since we’ve got so many guys who can play SF/PF I expect (hope) that Iggy gets most of his minutes at SG and the scraps are given to Brewer and possibly Fournier or Hamilton, whichever gives the best combo of defense and consistent shooting. Miller, at this point in his career, is going to have to be content backing up Lawson, especially if we are going to be the kind of team that hangs it’s hat on defense/effort.

    I also agree with the comment about Faried not being a 30+ minute a game player. He’s a liability on defense at PF, there’s just no other way to say it. Does he make up for that with great hustle and offensive rebounding? Yes. But guys like that aren’t starter minutes players on contending teams, they come off the bench to make the second unit more formidable.

    • DH

      I love the idea of trying to go big at times. But the point of this article, I think, is what Karl will do – not what we want him to do. Karl should have used some big lineups last year, and he has an even better opportunity to do so this year. We’ll see if he actually does it, though.

  • Charlie

    I love everyone’s ideas, I really do, but I have a pretty different view on how the minutes situation will shake out. I cannot imagine the Nuggets going 9 deep on a nightly basis. Looking at the roster I don’t see how it makes sense to play both Mozgov and Koufos nightly. One of those guys will be on the outside looking in and relegated to an injury backup. The minutes for Randolph may not even be available right off the bat.

    Karl has along history of going small and it will take the first few weeks of the season to see how Chandler, McGee, and Brewer are going to be used. They will have to really prove they can carve out a perfect role for themselves and I don’t think any amount of minutes are guaranteed to them. I honestly believe even a guy like Gallo will start losing minutes if he does not have a strong start to the season and establish his role. That’s the luxury of having all this depth. Guys have to play hard and earn it in training camp, preseason and practices.

    I would prefer the Nuggets to get comfortable with a 7 man core rotation with 1 or 2 guys who can play spot minutes depending on the situation. Trying to get everyone involved like I’m seeing suggested here is a losing strategy in my mind.

    • DH

      I see what you’re saying in general terms, but you have to look at the team and the personnel. The Nuggets try to run the opponent into the ground and they have great depth. Both of those things suggest that it’s in the Nugs’ best interest to use more players than other teams do.

      When you look at specific players, it makes even more sense to use something like 9 guys on a regular basis…

      For one thing, a 7-man rotation would presumably mean a 3-man rotation in the frontcourt. That would give McGee, Faried, and Moz (or Kouf) big minutes. You can debate whether Faried is best suited for 25-30 minutes of all-out play or whether he can handle more. McGee seems to tire easily, so I don’t see him averaging more than 30. And I don’t see a need for having Moz or Kouf on the floor for 30+ minutes, either, when we can mix and match lineups to avoid that.

      Then we would have a 4-man rotation on the perimeter. That would leave out either Miller or Chandler – most likely Chandler, since Miller has to play PG when Ty is out. Both of those guys will probably have a big impact on the season. They need to play, IMHO.

      I think a 9-man rotation is best, with some spot minutes for guys like JHam and Randolph, so we know what we can get from them. Remember, the season is a grind and you need to use it to get guys (as many as possible) to the postseason as healthy and prepared as possible. When it starts getting close to the playoffs, then you can shorten the rotation. Just my two cents.

      • Charlie

        I hear you, and with injuries and the grind of a long season you will have plenty of opportunity to use that depth. What I am really advocating for is establishing your top 7 guys in clear cut roles while maybe having 2-3 other guys who come in sporadically for various things.

        It’s important the Nuggets don’t go into the postseason like they did last year, without a clue of who they like at the Center position. Two years ago the Nuggets had the same problem with the point guard position, thanks to George Karl’s staff trying to play Anthony Carter and Lawson at the same time.

        There will be some good players who get left out despite the fact they did everything needed to get on the court. It’s unfortunate, but the Nuggets can’t be nice about it. They need to give their best 7 guys the keys to the car and let them grow together.

        • DH

          I think we have some common ground. I don’t want the Nuggets to be “nice”, either. And sometimes Karl seems to let misplaced loyalty guide his decisions. I want the Nugs to do what’s best for the Nugs.

          And I know what you mean about going into the playoffs with more questions than answers when it comes to the rotation. Last year was strange, with the lockout, the short season, the injuries, the late Chandler signing, and the McGee trade. So if you want to give Karl a partial excuse, you could, I guess.

          Anyway, I would be willing to split the difference with you and make it an 8-man rotation, with Chandler in and Brewer out. Brewer could be one of your “spot” guys. Adding Chandler to your 7 would still allow for clear-cut roles, would allow us to try to wear down the opponent, would allow us use him at the “4” at times to spread the floor, etc.

          I still say that we need to look for opportunities to see what JHam and Randolph can do, though – even if it’s mostly in blowouts. Another thing that was irritating about last year’s playoffs was that we were desperate for outside shooting, but Karl hadn’t given JHam enough run during the season to know if he could trust him. I don’t want that to happen again. And we need to know if Randolph can provide defense at PF when Faried’s lack of height is a problem.

          Last year when people were talking about the Nuggets having too much depth, part of what I suggested was that Karl quit playing both Moz and Kouf in games and quit playing both Brewer and Rudy in games. So I know where you’re coming from. I definitely don’t want Karl to play guys just because he will feel bad if he doesn’t.

  • Neal

    Anybody know if we have signed Q miller yet?

    • DH

      Last I heard, we have not signed Q. There is even some speculation that the reason for that is because Masai is not done exploring trades yet, so he’s keeping a roster spot open. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

  • http://yahoo Def Vision 303

    Love the piece but 1 suggestion I would have is exploring a trade or finding some way to bring in another PF (maybe a more potent offensive threat) to play alongside McGee and bring Faried off the bench? I love manimals energy and hustle but he is a liability on defense because of his size but his tenacity and spirit would be perfect coming off the bench. I think he could easily win 6th man of the year awards year after year and if we trade some of our depth (not too much) but just enough to get a quality starter that wouldn’t mind giving up some time for Faried we wouldn’t have this dilemna . Thoughts?

  • Tommy

    I think that Randolph will get his chance. He has played very well in extended minutes and fits the system perfectly. Only 23 so has room to grow.

  • Trevor

    If Karl plays small ball this year I would like to see a lineup of Lawson/Iggy/Gallo/Chandler/Faried for stretches in the game. That would be a very athletic lineup.

  • Chris

    First, I’s like to say that this is a really good article and something I have been thinking about a lot myself. The only thing I would like to add, is that specific lineups will be almost as important as playing time.

    Lineups I think we will see a lot of:

    Starting: Lawson, Iggy, Gallo, Faried, McGee

    Typical 2nd Unit: Andre, Jham, Chandler, Randolph, Mozgov

    Lob/Transition Lineup: Andre, Lawson(off ball), iggy, faried, McGee

    Small Ball: Lawson, Iggy, Chandler, Gallo, (Faried or McGee)

    Energy: Andre, Brewer, Chandler, Faried, Randolph

    One of the really cool things about the Nuggets is that they have so many pieces that they can put together in different ways, on any given night.

    I see Brewer and JHam getting there minutes yanked around quite a bit this year, as the ebb and flow of games and the season wears on. Brewer will get in a lot of games, when you see George Karl look at his first unit in disgust and he inserts a high energy group. JHam, will probably gain and lose minutes based on his effort and defense in practice and games.

    I love Kenneth Faried but it is hard for me to see him as a every night starter in the NBA. His offensive game is more like a center, in a 6’6” body and defensively he will be at a disadvantage against larger PF’s who can shoot and rebound like Dirk or Aldridge. If Randolph can turn into a player who can compliment Faried, with offensive range and height i can see it working well. If Randolph cannot do that I think that would be a place the Nuggets would look to improve, with either a more complete PF or someone who compliments Faried, so that Faried could be brought off the bench 25 minutes a game or so in good matchup situations.

    This also leads me to think that we will see a fair amount of small ball lineups featuring Gallo, or Chandler at the 4. I think that a lineup of Lawson, Iggy, Chandler, Gallo, and Mcgee will get a lot of play. Not many teams really have enough offensive bigs to punish them down low, and it would give the Nuggets great floor spacing for drive and kick basketball, with McGee there to clean up, get easy baskets and protect the rim. This lineup would rely heavily on being very active and athletic defensively and would rely on that athleticism along with a team commitment to rebounding.

  • Mike

    The bigger question with this team is how are they going to emphasis defense. Obviously the front office and I assume the coaching staff recognize it was a weakness. AI should help with this, but He’s not Ben Wallace or Tim Duncan. I don’t know that they hired a defensive coach. Coaching and setting lineups based on effort/effectiveness on Defense often play a significant role in defense if you have the general baseline of physical tools to develop the D. Denver certainly has that, with only faried being undersized for his position and LOTS of team speed (Lawson undersized too, but it isn’t as important at PG as there are few if any good low post PG. Westbrook should develop this part of his game, but we will see.) Depending on if Brewer has developed his corner 3 he may get decent playing time against teams that have multiple talented wings.

  • Andrew

    I think/hope Miller will lose minutes this year and some combination of Iggy/J Ham/Brewer will get them. I also think Randolph will get some minutes (not a lot) at the expense of K2 and Mozzy…at least early. J Ham and Randolph will definitely be on the hot seat to perform when they are in there. Failure on their part will mean a deep benching from Karl.

  • Jeff

    I’m so excited to watch this team play 82+ games of basketball!

  • nida

    Terriific article and comments. I predict Karl goes with an 8 man rotation w/ the starting 5:


    and the bench

    Mcgee (30 minutes)

    Maybe Moz beats out KK and Karl may carve out a role for Brewer.

    • Young Pep Dash

      it will be a joke is mcgee doesn’t start

      • Zack

        I agree. You don’t pay a guy $10+ million per year to come off the bench.

  • http://yahoo mile high

    I really don’t care who gets to play more or less minutes as long as everybody plays hard and the team wins.

  • Aaron

    Where’s Fournier, Randolph, Hamilton And Stone?

    • Aaron

      And Quincy Miller?

    • https://twitter.com/denbutsu denbutsu

      Pretty much the entire point I was trying to make is that I think the end of the bench guys will not see much court time due to Karl prioritizing his main players, and there just not being minutes remaining after that. I specifically addressed those guys’ situations.

  • nida

    The rooks will be in D-League. When Stone gets healthy he’ll go back to sitting on the bench like last year. Absent a great showing in preseason, I don’t see Randolph or Hamilton cracking the rotation unless and until some guys go down.

  • Young Pep Dash

    I think that Chandler will play more PF than Gallo. He is slightly shorter but he is stronger and is a much better post defender.

    In New York, the starting lineup was usually
    1 Felton
    2 Fields
    3 Gallinari
    4 Chandler
    5 Stoudemire


    PG : Lawson 38, Miller 10
    SG: Iguodala 35; Hamilton 13
    SF Gallo 33, Chandler 15
    PF Faried 28, Gallo 10, Chandler 10
    C McGee 28, Mozgov 15, Koufos 5

    • Aaron

      Wait, so Gallo will play 43 minutes?

    • Zack

      And you have Andre only playing 10 minutes? Haha we all wish that would happen, but he’ll be playing 25 minutes per game (with half those coming at the 2 next to Ty).

      No way Gallo plays that many minutes. Nobody (not even LeBron) will play that many minutes during the regular season.

      Get real.

  • ny nugs fan

    somebody tell gallo to stop all the flopping

  • ny nugs fan

    and then convince w. chandler not to shoot fadeaway jumpers from the 3point line with no one guarding him

  • Heath

    anthony randolph will get more minutes than mozgov and that bum kous kous if anything mozgov but kous is a bum dont expect him to be anywhere but next to george this season

  • Tom

    There are 7 guys that deserve and will get at least 20 minutes per game. I’m not going to predict what GK will do, but this is what I would do:
    Lawson 33
    A Miller 20
    Iguodala 33
    Chandler 26
    Gallinari 30
    Faried 30
    McGee 28
    Mozgov/Koufos/Randolph 20
    Brewer/Hamilton/Fournier 20
    Stone 0 (injured)
    Q Miller 0 (not signed yet)

    PG: Lawson (33), A Miller (15)
    SG: Iguodala (28), Brewer/Hamilton/Fournier (15), A Miller (5)
    SF: Gallinari (25), Chandler (13), Iguodala (5), Brewer/Hamilton/Fournier (5)
    PF: Faried (30), Chandler (13), Gallinari (5)
    C: McGee (28), Mozgov/Koufos/Randolph (20)

    During tight games, I’d take minutes away from Brewer/Hamilton/Fournier and give them to A Miller, and I’d take away minutes from Mozgov/Koufos/Randolph and give them to McGee and Faried. During blow-outs, I’d take away minutes from the starters and give them to any combination of the reserves.

    For the playoffs, the main 7-man rotation would be PG Lawson, SG Iguodala, SF Gallinari, PF Faried, C McGee, with A Miller subbing in the backcourt and Chandler subbing on the wing/block. The “eighth man” would be some combination of the remaining players filling in for guys who are gassed (most likely McGee and Faried).

    • Young Pep Dash

      I think you are the first person to identify the most important thing about how the minutes will be spread.

      At the moment there are a clear top 7 players who will get their time regardless on a regular basis.

      The remaining minutes will be spread amongst the rest depending on how they are playing/ matchups

  • Tom

    The main problem with the roster that I see when trying to figure out minutes is that while Faried is a fine young player, he’s more of a SF/PF type than a PF/C type, which means that PF/C is a bit thin for us unless Mozgov, Koufos, or Randolph take the next step. We really could use another solid guy like Love, Aldridge, Gasol, Duncan, Garnett, Stoudamire, Nene, Horford, etc, who can play PF/C. Harrington sort of was that guy for us last year, but he was over-matched at the C position. Chris Anderson was a very solid PF/C a few years ago, so it’s too bad we had to amnesty him; the Birdman from that Western Conference Finals team would have fit perfectly with this current team.

    The Nuggets are flush with combo guys that can play 1 through 4, but there aren’t really any combo 4/5 guys on the roster except maybe Randolph. They should probably make one more move for a solid PF/C before the mid-season trade deadline unless that group of McGee/Mozgov/Koufos/Randolph really makes good progress.

    • Mike

      this is what Ive been saying since the real AI trade. I think all the guys you mentioned are the let’s hope we can get these guys, but I doubt they will be available. Taj Gibson is potentially the ultimate guy because his defense is so off the charts good (He is a slightly shorter version of Garnett) but doubt he becomes available either. I think the good backup plan is varejao. Stoudemire I don’t like because of knee and lack of defense. Others are young guys on rising teams or teams in the hunt for Conference Finals

    • Zack

      Pretend for a second that the Hawks start off somewhat badly (a possibility given that they traded Joe Johnson for a bunch of expirings).

      I would LOVE for the Nuggets to go after a guy like Al Horford (no, not Josh Smith). Horford can play the 4 and the 5, and he is a very good player.

      I don’t know if it’s even possible to make up a trade that makes sense for the Hawks, but I would really like to see the Nuggets go after Horford.

      • Erlingur

        Challenge accepted.

        • Erlingur

          Don’t know why it never showed up, but I’ve come up with two scenarios.
          A: Chandler, Brewer and Jordan Hamilton for Al Horford. Brewer is an expiring contract and Hawks get two young keepers as well.
          B: Horford to Denver, Gallo to Toronto, Calderon and Mozgov to Atlanta. Atlanta gets two expiring contracts, Toronto upgrades their SF position and is willing to let Calderon go on the strength of Lowry’s play at PG. If I was running the Hawks and they were underperforming come February, I’d take a good, hard look at those trades.

      • Tom

        I think Horford can be had because it looks like Atlanta is blowing the team up a bit. Varejao is a nice hustle player, but Faried does what he does better and cheaper. Being able to interchange McGee, Faried, and Varejao does seem appealing, though. Taj Gibson is a nice bench guy, and of course, there’s always Kenyon Martin.

    • darcy

      posted in another part of the blog: but here’s a trade for AL horford that would work!


      I feel like denver is still one piece away from being a full on title contender. I pulled up the espn trade machine and plugged in some players and came up with this which ended up being a successful trade! please God, let it happen!

      Denver gets: Al horford ( 4 years at 12~million a year).

      Atlanta gets: T. Mozgov, C. Brewer, K. Faried, J. Hamilton

      Why it would make sense for Atlanta: They are “supposedly” trying to break up their roster and start over after years of mediocrity. They would get 2 expiring contracts in Mozgov and Brewer that would open up salary cap space and they also get extremely promising young talent in Faried and Hamilton who are still on their cheap rookie contracts.

      How it would work for Denver: I have a feeling Masai will work some more of his magic and get Iggy signed to a cheaper deal than he currently has. Philly fans absolutely ripped AI for not living up to such a hefty contract and I don’t think he wants that kind of pressure again. I could see maybe a deal that averages 11-12 mill over 4 years. This just leaves Lawson to be signed which the nuggets could do IF they dip into the luxury tax. Now we know that nuggets management is stingy, but this would finally be a situation worth paying a bit more money (not like we have out of control contracts like the lakers do).

      This would allow Q. Miller and Fournier to actually see the light of day and really solidify a solid rotation. There was too much of a logjam at SG/SF. Also Koufos would get the majority minutes at backup C who I like more than Mozgov bc Mozzy really can’t play Defense. Let me know what you guys think!

      • Nugswin

        This (and the trade just above) are waaaaay over rating Al Horford. I mentioned in another thread that Horford went down for the year and was replaced by Zaza Pachulia and the Hawks were pretty much the same team. To give up both Mozgov and Faried, both young guys with lots of potential to get better, would be foolish IMO.

        Josh Smith (and Joe Johnson) were the talent on the Hawks. Horford is a better than average player but the Nuggets are already loaded with guys like that. If we’re going to be trading our young quality assets like Faried and Mozgov (gonna surprise this year, I’m telling ya), we need to aim higher.

  • fakename

    Great article and I always love the possible Nuggets options. We should not be talking about who played what position for the Knicks, they were atrocious on D and if the Nuggets use that as there “model” then they are in a lot of trouble.

    With McGee playing center we can go smaller with the 4 spot and filter players to him, it also makes the Nuggets quicker on the permiter with Chandler then Faried (he was slow to transition off his man)

    I think the Nuggets are going to make a trade for a potent 6th man scorer or a legit pf. Manimal got tore up by smaller pf’s that could dribble (Jamison is now a Laker)

  • EWilson

    I think the addition of AI pushes Andre Miller to more of a backup PG role than he played last year. Iguodala can handle the ball, so if he plays the traditional SG role, Karl will have something close to the 2-PG attack he seems to prefer with AI and Lawson.

    When Miller comes in with the second unit, Karl can either keep AI in or bring in Brewer to help with the defensive responsibilities in the backcourt. Miller might also play with someone like Chandler sliding to the SG spot for a few minutes, if Karl wants to go big.

    The real question is who plays PG when either Hamilton or Fournier are in the SG spot, since both are questionable defensively. I think they have to play with Lawson because then the Nuggets can push the pace making defense a somewhat lesser concern. I can imagine a few minutes of AI and one of those guys as well, though AI will need some time on the bench.

    Up front, I agree with the general consensus that Faried should get 30 minutes at most because of size limitations. Against bigger, stronger PFs, I think Karl will have to consider Chandler, Randolph or even KK/TM.

    What really counts up front, though, is that Karl convinces the bigs–especially McGee and Randolph–to think defense/rebounding first. If he can get them to focus on those tasks, then Faried doesn’t become a liability on that end with extended minutes. And one of the advantages of having Andre Miller on the team is that he’s savvy enough to ‘reward’ guys like McGee for their hard defensive work with gimmes on the offensive end.

    Finally, though this team is deep, I think a case can be made that they could use a reliable 3-pt threat, which Hamilton might be able to will, AND a tough, defensive-minded big body up front. But, because they’re so young, Ujiri can be patient to see if one of the players he has will develop into those roles.

    Pundits keep saying that Denver isn’t a championship threat, and for this year I agree. But, if the pieces in place develop well, they could well be next year and beyond. Though there have been changes, a lot of people seem to forget that Denver was near the top of Western Conference early last year before injuries made a complete mess of their rotations. When people started to get healthy, the Nene trade added further confusion. And yet, they still took LA to seven games and could have won the series had they started out a little better.

  • HermanVanNess

    Starters: Ty, Iggy, Gallo, Faried, McGee

    I’d like to see Chandler to get significant minutes. He’d come in for Faried whose all out style makes him fatigue quickly. You could either bump Gallo to the 4 or play Chandler there. When Gallo goes out you can return Faried to the 4 and Chandler to the 3. I’d like to stay with that rotation and sprinkle in some Randolph when the match ups dictate (taller 4’s).

    I’d like to see Iggy get 35 minutes at the 2. It’s going to be tough but, I feel Hamilton should get more PT. I think the Nuggets are going to need his shooting.

  • Fakename

    I don’t know why everyone is so high on Chandler. He is a good defensive player and wing defender, but on offense he has a quick trigger and disrupt the chemistry of the offense.

    TY, Iggy, Gallo, Faried, and Mozgov

    Mozgov and KK are not interchangeable just because there worth is the same. Mozgov is only good as a start as he’s as big as most centers and plays physically. He also sets better screens and never has to shoot the ball.

    KK is better off of the bench, he is a high energy buy that cleans up the boards well. I think KK is going to have limited playing time until one of them is traded. McGee off of the bench saves his legs for the 4th quarter and keeps him humble as his ego can get out of check. Just because McGee had a great end to the season doesn’t destroy his reputation as the biggest air head in the NBA

  • parkhill

    Nothing matters if 10 guys are not ready to contribute come playoff time. This is a must if we are going to fully commit to the run and gun style. Certain lineups, playoff position and GK’s favoritism all has to take a back seat to the ability to run teams ragged with 10 guys.

    Karl talks about others buying into his style. I think his inability to fully utilize his bench leads one to believe he may not have fully bought into his own style.

    Most championship teams had 10 guys ready to come in and play a role. Even if only for a few minutes. The theme for this team isn’t about who gets what but what is needed on any given night and the flexibility to adapt and beat anyone.

  • Tom

    I hate to say it, but I think Kenyon Martin could really help this team. Say what you want about him, but that dude is tough, experienced, and a great post defender. He’s tough enough to guard most Centers, too. Give him 20 minutes per game at the 4/5.

    Imagine the kind of defense the Nuggets would have with a lineup of Lawson, Iguodala, Chandler, Martin, and McGee. That is a tough lineup to score against. And then you’d still have Miller, Gallinari, and Faried, along with the other scrubs.

  • Daniel Y

    I’ve looked into the crystal ball and here is what I see….

    One more big trade involving Denver. I say Anderson Varejao makes his way to Denver before the trade deadline. The FO will see what it has with a healthy WC and Gallo and their play will determine which one is shipped to Cleveland.

    I have a feeling we’ll give Gallo the nod and package Ill-Will with either Moz or KK and a future pick in return for Varejao. The new depth chart will be look something like..

    This will be a very well balanced starting line-up consisting of an elite perimeter defender in Iggy and an equally elite post defender in Varejao. The entire starting 5 is capable of running the floor and there are 3 legit guys capable of creating their own shot with an oversized front line scooping up O-rebounds.

    2nd squad
    C-Moz or KK(whoever doesn’t get traded)
    PF-Fariedl(more well suited to come off the bench for energy IMO)
    11th man: Randolph 12th man/IR/D-league?: Fournier/Qmill/Jstone

    Now any Nugget fan knows just because there are 10-11 able bodied players at Gk’s disposal, doesn’t mean they’ll actually get minutes. It’s unfortunate, but it’s reality. One can dream though right?

    I’ve seen Varejao’s name thrown out there and I feel he will really fill a void as a solid post presence that the Manimal couldn’t fill. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Manimal, but his style of play is ideal to come off the bench, especially if we land a guy like Varejao.

    Any thoughts?

    • dynamo.joe

      I block this trade unless it includes a haircut for varejao. I can’t stand that floppy headed jackass, but I can’t deny he’s a great player. Maybe with out the floppy head I can convince myself I don’t know who it is.

      As long as we are doing a 2 for 1, let’s pick up Josh Childress. He’s still available, right?

    • http://yahoo Def Vision 303

      If its just Varajao were after i would rather jus send chandler/gallo and moz but no picks. even then id say thats a bit much for him and that doesnt really put us over the top or help much 4 the future

  • nida

    Varejao would be great. I’d trade Chandler for him.

  • Ricardo

    The nuggets should trade for Josh Smith before the trade deadline. I would trade Chandler, Brewer, Mosgov, and a future 1st round pick for him. Having an elite perimeter defender in Iguodala and an elite post defender in Smith, in the same line-up, would definitely challenge the lakers and the thunder in the playoffs.