Do the Nuggets need to add a shooter?

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.

Andre Iguodala interviews with Lopez and works on his game with John Welch at the practice facilities.

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Charlie Yao

Managing Editor at Roundball Mining Company and writer since 2010. Unhealthily obsessed with Nuggets basketball since 2002. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at the links on the left.
  • NateTimmons is a culero

    I say let’s sign Miller and roll with the team we’ve got. That dude was supposed to be a lottery pick prior to his ACL tear. And everyone knows it takes a good year to truly return to form which means he should be in good form this season. That doesn’t mean he plays, but lets give him the chance to be a meaningful practice player.

    • Charlie

      I’m fully behind signing Quincy Miller now that the roster spot has opened up with the Iguodala trade.

      He will benefit from a strength training program with Steve Hess. He won’t play, but there’s no reason he won’t be an asset to the team. He’s a second round pick, immensely talented 19-year old who will develop.

      • Denver4ever

        To whoever who hasn’t got in touch with QMiller. check out this video of him in the Pro-Am. Looks like he gained 80% of his former self. This will be damn exciting!

        GO NUGGETS!

        • Denver4ever
          • Kalen

            Thanks for that! Good stuff. Miller has such an interesting game. He’s kind of in that hybrid small forward-power forward mold like KD, however he doesn’t have the shot. I think in time Miller is gonna prove to be an excellent player in the NBA. He has to improve on his ball-handling skills and quickness if he wants to make it as a small forward — which is his natural position and of course, his shot. Once that’s locked down the sky’s the limit.

  • Culero Grade

    I think the Nuggets are going to address the outside shooting situation in a very simple matter: by giving Jordan Hamilton more playing time.

  • LotharBot

    Quincy Miller has to be *offered* a contract. That doesn’t mean he has to accept it. If we offer him a contract and then he decides to instead play overseas, we retain his rights.

    That said, I’d like to just sign him to the 15th roster spot and be done with making moves, unless something awesome opens up mid-season. There’s no reason to try to squeeze a one-dimensional player or a guy on the downside of his career into this roster.

  • John

    Who could we possibly/realistically get that would be an improvement.

    Around draft time, I said to make a play for David Anderson, which would’ve been a Harrington upgrade. But now, I really don’t see any trades that “can” be made that wouldn’t take us back a step somewhere, either immediately or long term or both.

    Yes, there are better PFs than Manimal(is now), but we’d have to turn over 16-20 mil in salaries to get them… most likely meaning losing Gallo “AND” Ill Will, and we lose Faried’s “potential” as well for someone who has maybe 3 years left.

    Ok, say you make the trade anyway. So slide AI to SF and back him up with JHam and Brewer… Now you are left with 3 combo guards (Dre, Evan and JStone) covering the 2, none of which are great shooters. Not an improvement.

    I don’t think you will find anyone more skilled and deep than our Centers… JaVale is fully capable of being a Top 3 center(with good coaching), and 2K and Timo are both making strides, and could be legit starters on many teams. The Heat being the first that pops into my head.

    Our PG combo is better statistically(pts+assts+steals) than any other teams 1-2 combo. (i.e. Ty+Dre>Nash+Blake)

    The same is true at SF(Gallo+Chandler+Brewer)… Yeah Melo and ‘Bron are beasts, but who is their backup… some scrub, or aging veteran with bad knees, that sees 3 minutes a game.

    And there aren’t many SGs(and none that are attainable) that would be an improvement over Iguodala.

    So what would you do? I for one would sign Q. Miller and see how these guys grow together. Everyone made good progress last year, we can always make more trades next year.

    • dynamo.joe

      I would sign Josh Childress. He’s basically free.

      Then I would have Igoudala sliding back and forth between the 2 and the 3, with Childress and Gallo filling in whatever spot Igoudala just vacated.

      • CJP32

        Brewer is better than Childress.

        • dynamo.joe

          Better at what? Bourre?

          here are their numbers:

          Corey is actually better at Ast(0.5) and Stl(0.9) and points(1), but Childress in exchange gives you Reb(2.4), TO(-0.7), Blk(0.2), PF(-1.3).

          So let’s add that all up:
          0.5 Ast = 0.2 pts
          0.9 Stl = 1.0 pts
          1 Pt = 1 pts
          Corey = 2.2 pts

          2.4 Reb = 3.4 pts
          -0.7 TO = 1.0 pts
          0.2 Blk = 0.0 pts (less than 0.1)
          -1.3 PF = 0.9 pts (really -0.9 pts for opponent)
          Josh =5.3 pts

          Advantage Josh 3.1 pts/48 minutes.

          This does NOT include the fact that Childress is a more efficient scorer, so at the same usage rate as Corey, Childress would be at 22.3 pts/48. So, you could add another 5.8 pts to Childress side and get 8.9 pts/48

          Corey was at 20mpg so upgrading to Childress gets you 3.6 pts/g. All of that assumes a better player doesn’t get more playing time (not the worst assumption with Karl) so, that should be a minimum figure.

          I’m not going to go back and figure out how many games we lost by 3.6 pts or less, but it was probably more than 0.

          In short Childress > Brewer.

  • Ban

    This article pretty much covers it. Shooting isn’t a problem, or, to the extent it is, solving that problem would weaken other Nuggets’ strengths.

    Gallinari, Lawson, Chandler, and Iguodala are all excellent (in a good year) to adequate three point shooters. Those 4 guys added together will see a lot of time: 130+ minutes a game. Whatever Hamilton and Fournier get is just gravy. Not that many NBA teams will have more than 4 major rotation guys who need to be defended at the 3-point line.

    The stretch 4 aspect that Harrington brought will be filled, at least partly, by Chandler and/or Gallinari playing small-ball power forward. The loss of Afflalo’s shooting will be partly filled by Iguodala, and partly filled by Gallinari having a bounce-back year.

    The thing about a basketball team is: it has to have an identity. You really can’t be all things to all people. The Gasol/Bynum Lakers, for instance, were a masterful post-up team, but got sliced and diced by small-ball, 3-point shooting Mavericks. The Warriors this year will have 3 great shooters starting but will have a hard time defending anyone. Let this Nuggets team develop their identity as a run-and-gun, pressure outfit: sure, you can add a spot-up shooter, or a lumbering post guy, but you’d lose other things in the bargain.

  • CJP32

    I don’t think three point shooting is a major concern for GK, its defending the threes point line that is. Denver were not great at defending the perimeter last season, and I think we have gotten better this off-season.

    Ty, Iggy, Gallo, Chandler, Brewer and JHam will all have to improve their outside shooting, but this teams strength is run-n-gun. However Denver training staff have said that they want Brewer to improve his corner three and I can bet you he’s been working on that.

    As long as we defend the three well, rebound and run, we will make layups/dunks all day – the threes will be icing on the cake!

  • Andrew Scanlan

    Great article. Great analysis. I have no inherent love or fandom for the Nuggets and I live 1,000 miles away, but this team’s style–so well reconstructed here– is so awesomely “doing it the right way” that the Nugs have passed the Timberwolves as my favorite league pass team. (Tho admittedly the Rubio injury has something to do with that, too) Here’s to hoping that a team which does not rely on flailing superstars and dubious foul calls can make waves in the NBA.

  • nida

    Probably the best shooter available is Redd and I doubt he would get time over who we have now. He might be a decent shooting coach, though. I read the report where the Nugs were interested in him. It is possible that he could serve as a shooting specialist (offensive rotation player) at the end of quarters, but I doubt it.

    I don’t think the Nugs simply let Miller walk. From what I picked up in the interviews, it seems the Nugs hope Miller will agree to play in Europe for a year and let the Nugs retain his rights. I can imagine the Nugs are pushing Miller in that direction in the hopes he will agree and stay in Europe for a year so they have a spot for a 3rd string point guard since Stone will be out for some time yet. AC would be the likely suspect.

    If Miller insists on accepting a Nugs offer, I think the Nugs will make that offer – Miller seems to be worth a close look for, at least, a year.

    Agree that Brewer and Dre are nice to have, even if they can’t shoot well. I hope Brewer can stay for around 2 per year, but keeping him won’t be easy as Nugs are going to be close to lux tax line when Lawson gets his extension.

  • parkhill

    If signing Miller means letting Brewer go, I’d be upset for all the reasons the author mentioned and more. How can the team focus on D and let Brew go at the same time? Anthony Randolph makes Miller’s situation dicey. He didn’t show me much in the summer. How many thin bigs does one team need?

    • dynamo.joe

      He lead summer league in SGTYOT, stitches given to your own teammates.

  • Ryan

    I like the signing of Q. Miller i think we need to either train him to play at the 4 or we need to trade a SF i think Wilson Chandler because Gallo is prept for a break out year showed last year when he was healthy and what i saw from wilson i was not impressed and he is 1 of our largest contracts.But we have one of the best shooters Jordan Hamilton, and now that he’s gonna get more playing time he can show his true potential.

  • EWilson

    I think it makes sense to sign Qunicy Miller and see how the first part of the season plays out. If the Nuggets struggle from the 3-point line and need to sure up the position, someone like J.J. Redick should be available for a draft pick and a young guy. Or just a draft pick since the Nuggets held onto the trade exception they got for Nene, so they can make a deal without sending anyone back.

  • asdqqq

    In my experience and opinion, you want credible three point shooters on the floor at all times to get good spacing for the Nuggets offense. Less than that and it is too easy to sag into the lane.

    Usually, those guys are the PG, SG, and SF. Ty, Iguodala, and Gallo work for the starting 5.

    The problem is when we go to the bench. Andre Miller and Al worked well together off the bench (and in crunch time) because Al’s 3 point shooting at PF made up for Miller’s lack at PG. As currently constructed, we are going to have to play small a lot at PF with Gallo or Chandler (although Chandler is only borderline credible as a 3 point shooter), in order to play guys like Andre Miller and Brewer (and Chandler), who are not good 3 point shooters. If Chandler shoots well enough from 3 this year to force the D to respect him out there, we are probably OK.

    Adding a sweet shooting big would increase our lineup flexibility and spacing, but adding someone like Reddick or Redd would only be a marginal upgrade in shooting over whoever they are replacing, an upgrade that wouldn’t be worth the dropoff in other areas. If we could give backup big minutes from Koufos, Mosgov, or Randolph to someone like, say, Channing Frye, that could help quite a bit more because it would allow more flexible and efficient lineups with proper spacing. It’s Horry’s ability to do this that made him such a huge part of all those championship teams he was on. Coaching is a lot easier with a floor spacing big.

    If it looks like we need one by the trade deadline, we could probably trade any player on our roster (except maybe Stone) for Frye.

    • asdqqq

      *three credible three point shooters*
      Sorry about that, I flubbed the main point I was trying to make.

  • EWilson

    Given that Frye has 3 years left on his contract for a Phoenix team that is basically in rebuilding mode, a draft pick or Mozgov, whose contract is expiring, might be enough to get a deal done.

  • Mark from Charlotte

    Sign QMiller ASAP……………

  • Bob Koca

    ” On the other hand, he shoots much better from the right wing than he does from the left.”

    That was based on 22/68 for 32.4% from left vs
    20/55 for 36.4% from the right. The difference is too small and the sample sizes are way too small to make such a conclusion. The difference is well within random fluctuation.

    “The chart is clearly indicative of an off-year by a player capable of converting a much higher percentage of three-point shots.”

    I agree he could have a much better year but the chart by itself is not evidence for that.

    • Charlie

      I mentioned the small sample size, but a 4.2% variance is not insignificant with at least 50 shots taken from both areas. For context, here’s Gallo’s shot chart from 2009-2010, his last healthy season with the Knicks.

      I do agree with you that it’s hard to learn much about Gallo’s game from the chart, especially because there’s so few corner attempts it could indeed be random chance.