The Nuggets defeated the Warriors 104-98 on Monday to go to 3-0 and stay undefeated in the preseason. Here are some game notes…
— Hamilton looked good once again but also reminded us that he is still somewhat of a rookie. He has so much talent. He can really stroke it, I’d say as well as anybody on the entire Nuggets roster. But he also makes bad decisions too frequently, which is really one of Karl’s pet peeves. Hamilton needs to stop driving into dead-end plays. He needs to understand when it’s the right time to pass, drive or shoot. It’s just like obeying traffic lights. There’s a system you must follow. When you do, everything work out fine. When you don’t, you get ticketed — or in Hamilton’s case, benched.
— McGee has been so disappointing — it’s mind-boggling. It truly is. And I don’t get it. Wasn’t he supposed to be working out with Hakeem Olajuwon for like, two weeks? I know it was a longer period of time than almost anybody who’s worked with him. Yet, McGee looks worse than when he arrived in Denver last winter. I don’t get it. Why? That’s what I’m trying to figure out here. Why is he playing so bad? And it’s not even bad; it’s just ill-advised, for lack of a better word. He’s not missing good shots; he’s taking bad ones, missing them horribly and then doing it all over again. He’s not learning from his mistakes. Maybe it’s something with preseason. He never played every remotely close to this bad last season with the Nuggets, so I’m thinking it’s some kind of a fad. Let’s hope I’m right.
— While we’re on the subject, it’s worth noting that the Nuggets are kind of a mess at the center position right now. Again, who knows what the deal is with McGee. Maybe he suddenly turns things around next game. But what if he doesn’t? What if last season was an anomaly? The Nuggets are then going to have an enormous amount of money wrapped up in a backup center, and while I like Koufos, I also realize that if you’re trying to win a championship without a superstar you need really good players at every position on the floor. Guys like Dwight Howard, Serge Ibaka and Pau Gasol are going to have a field day with Koufos in the Playoffs. McGee has the length and athleticism to at least mitigate some of the damage that premier bigs are sure to inflict upon the Nuggets next spring. That said, I am excited to see how Koufos is going to progress this year and wouldn’t mind seeing him receive a heavy dose of minutes as long as he proves to be worthy. I just hope McGee does the same.
— Corey Brewer has been the best player on the Nuggets roster in the preseason by a long shot. He’s brought it every game. And the crazy thing is: I still don’t understand how he does it. His defense is phenomenal — especially the way he plays the lanes — but his offense is just as good, if not better. If you give Brewer the ball and tell him to beat someone one-on-one, I don’t think he could score if you gave him fives separate attempts. But when he has other players to utilize, it’s like he turns into a basketball-scoring Energizer Bunny. He’s always moving, always finding the right place to be at the right time and although he doesn’t always shoot at an efficient clip, he almost always takes good shots and makes the right play. In other words, Brewer is a fantastic teammate. I’ve been one of Jordan Hamilton’s biggest supporters since he was drafted last summer, but even I can’t sit here and tell you he deserves to play over Corey Brewer right now.
— What I can tell you is that Julyan Stone is definitely better than Ben Uzoh and Anthony Carter. I know he’s hurt. I know his roster spot isn’t up for grabs anyways, but it’s still comforting knowing the Nuggets haven’t brought anybody into camp that’s had a significantly more accomplished career than Carter or Uzoh. It’s really too bad Stone is injured right now, as this would be the perfect time for Nuggets fans to see what his game is truly all about.
— Denver’s next game is at Portland on Wedensday, Oct. 17, at 8 p.m. MST.
Additional thoughts (and grades) from Joel:
|Andre Iguodala, F 31 MIN | 2-9 FG | 5-6 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 10 PTS | +3It seems like Iguodala is still trying to figure out how to find a comfortable niche within the Nuggets offense and imprint his mark on this team. Of course, this should not be altogether surprising given that it was only his third game with his new teammates. His shot wasn’t falling in this game, but he did make a lot of heady plays which put his craftiness and smarts on display. But it’s difficult to grade him higher than a C when GSW’s starting guards combined to shoot 17-30 (.567) including 8-11 on 3-pointers (.727) for 46 points. This was the bleeding he was brought in to stop.|
|Danilo Gallinari, F 30 MIN | 6-12 FG | 4-4 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 18 PTS | +4Gallinari had a solid all-around game, doing a little bit of everything. He did struggle with hanging onto the ball, turning it over five times, and went 2-7 from the arc (.286), but overall he played a fairly efficient game including some pretty solid defensive possessions versus David Lee on isos.|
|Kenneth Faried, F 21 MIN | 3-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +13David Lee flat out torched the Manimal in this game. Granted, there were some fairly sketchy touch fouls called on Faried, but Lee really was just breaking him down in the post. Against a team like the Warriors that can sharpshoot the 3, an inability to defend down low without double teaming is a real liability, and Kenneth will need to continue working on his man on defense. That said, he still brought many positives to this game, shooting 3-5 for 8 points with 8 boards in 21 minutes, and finishing +13, the highest of all the starters.|
|Timofey Mozgov, C 16 MIN | 3-5 FG | 4-4 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 10 PTS | +1Mozgov played a short 16 minutes in this game, but he played fairly well when he was on the court. At 7’1″ he usually struggles more than it seems he should with rebounding. He did a good job on the glass in this game, however, and made 3 of his 5 shots. He didn’t make a huge impact in this game, but likewise he did no harm.|
|Ty Lawson, G 28 MIN | 3-10 FG | 1-3 FT | 1 REB | 5 AST | 8 PTS | +5If the Nuggets were looking for leadership from Ty Lawson this preseason, he doesn’t seem to be delivering it on the court. In three preseason games, he’s averaged 28.3 minutes, 5 assists, 3.3 turnovers and 8 points per game with a .394 eFG% and .415 TS%. One could argue that it’s the preseason so it doesn’t matter, but at the end of the day this level of production falls far short of what Denver will need from him. It was fun to watch the horrible mismatch both ways when he and Stephen Curry were guarding each other, but Curry clearly got the best of it.|
|Anthony Randolph, F 13 MIN | 3-8 FG | 1-1 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 7 PTS | -2It would be instructive if Karl would give Randolph a little more burn to see what he can really do with this team. He got just 13 minutes in this game, and zero in the last, but he remains one of the most intriguing players who’s battling for minutes. He may have been a little jumper-happy in this game, going 3-8 from the field (many from mid or long range) and 0-1 from the 3-point line. But his game seems fairly well rounded, including on the defensive end, and he has the potential to play a valuable role for this team.|
|Corey Brewer, F 23 MIN | 3-9 FG | 7-10 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 15 PTS | +1About halfway through this game I was getting ready to call Brewer’s performance against the Spurs a clear fluke.He then apparently flipped a switch and ratcheted up his game, finishing with a team second 15 points, half of which came from the free throw line where he went 7-10. He shot 2-5 from the arc, a respectable 40 percent. I remain concerned, however, that a Nuggets universe in which Brewer attempts five 3-pointers per game may not be the most ideal possible. Still, he’s doing what they’re asking, and doing it well.|
|Kosta Koufos, C 16 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-2 FT | 13 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | 0If you only read his line for this game, it might be hard to understand why Koufos gets the A. He made three clutch plays in the final minute of the game (a block, an offensive rebound and putback, and another offensive rebound and putback) which sealed it. Granted, GSW had the deepest depths of their bench on the court by then. But Koufos was playing to win, and that will mean something to George Karl. He also was far and away the team’s best rebounder, pulling down 13 boards in 16 minutes, including 8 offensive that earned the Nuggets extra possessions. If Mozgov wants to know what making an impact in 16 minutes looks like, he should review Koufos’ film from this game.|
|JaVale McGee, C 20 MIN | 4-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 9 PTS | +4Although McGee looked better in this game than the first two, he essentially continued forcing things on the offense and playing in a too frenetic, uncontrolled manner. The Nuggets coaching staff may need to bring Samuel L. Jackson in to tell him to “Calm the #*@& down!” At times he looks brilliant — rebounding his own missed free throw and putting back a little jumper from the paint for a 4-point play. But at other times… Well, he’s obviously just not quite there yet. I still have confidence in the Nuggets coaching staff to guide him towards realizing that untapped potential he so obviously has. But so far this preseason, he hasn’t shown us much of it.|
|Ben Uzoh, G 20 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 2 PTS | +1Uzoh barely raises a ripple on this game’s stat sheet, but I thought he played surprisingly well, especially on the defensive end. If the Nuggets had a 16th roster spot I’d have no problem with taking a flier on him. He brings nothing to the table in terms of scoring, but he’s a competent distributor and he’s got good size for a point guard. Here he gets a B simply because expectations were set to zero and he basically didn’t screw anything up.|
|Jordan Hamilton, G 18 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 11 PTS | +4I’m not sure why Karl limited Hamilton’s minutes in this game. He came in in the first half and quickly started demonstrating that he’s the one guy on the team with that natural long range shooting prowess. If it’s because Curry and Klay Thompson were on fire, well, they were on fire regardless of who was defending them. He at least drew a good charge against Curry. At any rate, I think those worrying about whether he gets minutes can rest easy. He clearly brings a skill set to the table that no other Nugget can, and that will make its own case.|
Two Things We Saw
- The Nuggets had seven blocks, but no player had more than one. Gallo, Mozgov, Brewer, Koufos, McGee, Uzoh and J-Ham all got into the mix.
- Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson may be natural born scorers, and this may “only” be a preseason game, but this really was not what we wanted to see from the Nuggets perimeter defense. It’s this simple: If that doesn’t improve, Denver doesn’t go to the next level. This really needs to be addressed, and I think Iguodala needs to assume a more vocal defensive quarterback role. There’s still too much scrambling and slagging and confusion on the defensive end.