With Denver’s roster currently standing at 14 players, an important deadline looms next week concerning the Nuggets’ final roster spot. According to the excellent CBA FAQ from Larry Coon (already updated for this season), second round picks must be offered a contract by September 6th or they become free agents.
This of course has great meaning for the Nuggets and Quincy Miller, the yet-unsigned 38th pick in the 2012 draft. While I believe the final roster spot should be earmarked for Quincy and I expect the Nuggets to sign him, there’s a growing sentiment among fans that the Nuggets need to add another shooter over a 19-year old who’s likely to spend his rookie season developing his raw talent rather than playing.
The concerns are valid. Denver shot a paltry 33.2% from three in the shortened 2011-2012 season, seventh-worst in the league and well behind the league average of 34.9%. After trading away two of their more solid shooters in Harrington and Afflalo, worries only intensified with many claiming that Denver’s previously potent offense won’t be able to survive the change.
Considering the dynamics of the Iguodala trade, does adding another shooter to one of the deepest squads in the league really make them a better team? Answering that question really boils down to understanding what makes the Denver Nuggets offense work.
The chart above shows the Nuggets shot distribution for the 2011-2012 season. The blue areas indicate where most of the offense came from. As evidenced by the graphic, there isn’t a shade of blue dark enough to signify just how much offense the Nuggets created around the rim. Well over half their shots came within five feet, a league-leading percentage so great that barely anything else registers.
It’s easy to see why the Nuggets’ tailored their third best offense in such a way. With a strong commitment to touching the paint at least once every possession, Denver prioritizes creating high-percentage shots over everything else and subsequently led the league in assists. Manufacturing such a high volume of shots at the rim also forces the defense to go 94 feet most every possession, creating an environment where Denver’s speed and depth creates an even greater advantage when pace enters the equation.
Iguodala’s length and speed in the open court are only going to enhance what the Nuggets already do. He has shown that over the past two seasons in Philadelphia with his ability to score at the rim while playing off scoring point guards like Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams. Iguodala is a decent three-point shooter but I do not expect him to play a primary role converting a high percentage of spot up threes in Denver. His athleticism and driving ability are a perfect fit which can help ensure the Nuggets offense continues to create the high percentage looks they are constantly aiming for.
That being said, the Nuggets do need to make some threes to open up the painted area where their offense can flourish. A whopping 92% of Denver’s made threes last season were assisted, another league-leading percentage. That is indicative of a team who has less trouble creating the open looks than making them, a problem I’d rather have instead of the situation being reversed. When you create an open three in the NBA, much of the hard work has been done and the players are obligated to cash those opportunities in. Denver must have players who convert open shots at a high rate and with such a deep and talented roster, I believe they already have them.
The chart above shows Danilo Gallinari’s shooting performance from three last season. The first thing that stands out is a small sample size thanks to Gallo playing only 43 games due to injuries – a number equivalent to about half of a normal season. The second most interesting factor is the wild inconsistency from different spots on the floor. He makes the left corner three with ease while shooting horribly from the right. On the other hand, he shoots much better from the right wing than he does from the left. The chart is clearly indicative of an off-year by a player capable of converting a much higher percentage of three-point shots.
Gallo took only a small amount of corner threes last year because he was so often used on-the-ball and expected to create. With Iguodala on board and Harrington gone, Gallo’s role as a floor spacer becomes much more important. If he practices patience and sound shot selection, Gallo will find open looks from three with regularity. Despite struggling with his shooting percentage, the good news is Gallinari did not stop taking those shots and I have a great deal of confidence that he will make them if given a healthy season. He’s too good of a shooter not to.
Besides the fact I don’t think Denver’s offense functions as well with a stand-still three point specialist on the floor, there are really no minutes available should one join the team. While it’s widely assumed Corey Brewer will part ways with the Nuggets by next season, he brings a toughness and ability to cut off-the-ball that greatly served Denver last season. Despite their three point shooting woes, Andre Miller and Corey Brewer bring so many other things to the table it is unfair to assume that replacing them with a shooter ultimately improves the team. Yes, Miller and Brewer are a serious drag on a team that is creating open threes by the boatload, but they have a net positive impact on the game and deserve to be on the floor.
Lastly, I just don’t believe there is enough evidence to suggest the Nuggets don’t already have enough shooters as is. Jordan Hamilton easily has the potential to be a 40% three point shooter if he practices solid shot selection or plays in a more structured offensive role. Evan Fournier, the unknown quantity out of France, displayed advanced playmaking instincts from the wing and the ability to hit a corner three during Summer League. It’s ultimately much more important these players get a chance over a Michael Redd-type addition that theoretically improves weak three-point shooting on a team designed to score inside the free-throw line anyway.
News and notes
First of all, I just want to thank the readers of Roundball Mining Company and those getting on me via Twitter about not posting on the site. It’s been an unusually slow period for myself and RMC, but we have much to discuss as the season approaches and I promise to post at least twice a week as we near the start of the 2012-2013 campaign, a season I’m really excited about covering here on Roundball Mining Company.
In case you missed it, I joined DJ Foster on ClipperBlog to preview the upcoming season. Video below.
Aaron Lopez has a great mailbag full of offseason nuggets as we gear up for the upcoming season.