|Danilo Gallinari, SF 41 MIN | 6-15 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 3 AST | 13 PTS | +8The only reason Gallo gets this grade is because he at least made himself useful on the glass. These are the types of games George Karl should make Gallo watch, then immediately waterboard him afterwards. All he did was jack up 3-pointers — all night long. He dribbled into multiple double teams and I can’t remember him driving aggressively to the basket once. He is so much more than just a long-distance shooter. Gallo has got to get back to driving the lane like he did at the beginning of last year when he was on pace to contend for an All-Star spot.|
|Kenneth Faried, SF 35 MIN | 7-14 FG | 2-7 FT | 16 REB | 0 AST | 16 PTS | -7Faried’s enthusiasm for the game is one of the biggest strengths this team has. Sixteen boards means 16 more possessions for the Nuggets, which they definitely needed. This was a vintage Manimal performance and one that essentially saved the team from notching yet another horrendous loss.|
|Kosta Koufos, C 21 MIN | 1-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +17Koufos just isn’t a starter in the NBA. I don’t know why Karl thinks otherwise. He’s a decent backup center. That’s what he is. For some reason Karl has played him over 20 minutes in four of the five games this season. He’s just not athletic enough nor skilled enough to hang with other starting big men in this league. But, I have a feeling none of what I’m saying matters to Karl…|
|Ty Lawson, PG 38 MIN | 9-20 FG | 0-4 FT | 0 REB | 8 AST | 21 PTS | +7Lawson’s best game without a doubt. He was attacking, and when he attacks, good things happen. I thought maybe he was headed for a really special night early on but he mellowed out drastically in the second half.|
|Andre Iguodala, SG 38 MIN | 5-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 13 PTS | +3The stats don’t tell the entire story here. Iguodala had some huge buckets. He also had three steals and a block, which were a product of his excellent defense on James Harden throughout the night. He needs to stop dribbling into dead ends and try to score more himself, but otherwise, he’s doing a lot of little things right that are helping this team win.|
|Corey Brewer, SF 22 MIN | 4-9 FG | 4-4 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | +11You simply can’t say enough about what Corey Brewer did tonight. You look at it — 20 minutes is about the maximum amount of time he needs to see on a nightly basis. Play him more and he gets worn out. Limited minutes allow him to be effective. He’s at his best when he’s running around like a chicken with his head cut off, looking to stifle each and every member of the opposing team. His defense was flat out incredible. This is the Corey Brewer the Nuggets need on a consistent basis.|
|JaVale McGee, C 20 MIN | 5-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | -8McGee was awesome, yet again. Take a look though. He only played 20 minutes. Why in the hell would he only play that amount of time when he’s clearly been one of the best players on the team thus far? You tell me. It’s a mystery that’s locked deep inside Karl’s head and one we’ll never ever find the answer to. It frustrates me beyond belief. All we can hope for is that he keeps massively outplaying Koufos to the point where Karl has no choice but to succumb to the pressure put on him by the media and fans and admit he was wrong — just like he was with Faried last year.|
|Andre Miller, PG 24 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 5 AST | 0 PTS | -1I could care less about Miller’s points. Frankly, it wouldn’t bother me if he did this more often. When Miller distributes like he did tonight, the Nuggets are a totally different team. His renewed dedication to defense has not gone unoticed either. Miller has been one of the most valuable players on the roster this year and is acting like the true veteran this young team is in desperate need of.|
A few things I noticed tonight:
First off, about this game — it was a win. That was all it is. Look at Houston. Outside of James Harden (who was horrendous tonight) they have a horrible team. Houston is not good. The Nuggets barely squeaked by and should have won by at least 10. It seems as though things are coming together, but until the Nuggets are well above .500 (which they should be already) I think it’s important to acknowledge this team’s shortcomings.
Iguodala is really impressive. I have to admit, I’m pleasantly surprised with his overall game. He fits this team perfectly. That said, he needs to be the No. 1 option on offense. He needs to have the ball in his hands more often. And most of all, he needs to start attacking the basket with some serious purpose. The Nuggets have needed a go-to scorer since Melo left. Part of the reason Iguodala was brought in was to be that guy. I’m not saying he should go out and start chucking, but it’s important that this team — as is the case with every team — has a echelon. Iguodala is at the top and he needs to show it. Right now it seems like every night this team has a different leading scorer. I think the Nuggets would benefit greatly if Iguodala led in this category on a more consistent basis.
The biggest thing that stood out to me this game was JaVale McGee, as it relates to Kosta Koufos, specifically. Koufos is not better than McGee in any way, shape or form. He’s not as gifted on offense. He’s not a better rebounder. He’s not a better defender. He’s not a better shot-blocker. He’s not even remotely close to matching McGee’s athleticism. And most importantly, above all else: He’s not even a better decision-maker than McGee!!!
I have no idea why McGee is being so limited right now, but the only thing I can think of is that Karl doesn’t like how careless McGee is with the ball at times — even though he’s a totally different player than he was in Washington and makes just as many boneheaded plays as the average NBA player. Here’s the thing though: Koufos, secretly, makes just as many mistakes as McGee does. He might even make more for all I know. McGee is more flashy. His mistakes tend to stand out. But watch Koufos. Look at all the passes he can’t handle. Look at his poor positioning that leads to easy baskets for the other team. Look at how many times he covers the wrong guy or goes for a block when he should stay home. Karl holds a double standard for many players, but this manifests itself most obviously in the current battle at the center position.
Just look at these numbers: Right now Koufos is averaging 25 minutes per game. His career minute-per game average is 11. That’s an increase of almost 15 minutes per game! And because of what, exactly? Why? Because he improved? Well, so did everyone else! Meanwhile, McGee is averaging 18 minutes per game. Yes, you heard that right — 18 minutes per game. That’s three LESS than his career average, and he already wasn’t playing that much before. And even though he’s seeing six minutes less court time per contest, McGee is still outperforming Koufos in a major way. McGee is averaging three more points per game than Koufos, almost a block more per game, more assists and TWO LESS fouls per game than Koufos is. He’s also shooting .567 percent from the field as apposed to Koufos’ moderate .500 and is the best free throw shooter on the team through five games at .857 percent compared to Koufos’ horrendous .429. Even more: McGee leads the Nuggets in points per 48 minutes with 27 per game and is second in rebounds per 48 behind only Faried who is ranked top 10 in the entire NBA. Speaking of which, McGee also ranks top five in the NBA in blocks per 48.
The point is: Why? That’s all I want to know. I respect George Karl’s decision to trot out whatever lineup he wants, just as long as I can understand why he’s doing it. Right now I have no clue in the world as to why McGee is being so limited with his court time. People say asthma, but why haven’t we heard that from George Karl? If it was asthma, I feel like we’d know by know. Plus, McGee has had asthma his whole life and saw plenty more minutes last year as a Nugget than he is now. Throughout his career McGee has seen many months where he’s averaged upwards of 25 minutes per game.
Koufos isn’t a better center than McGee. He doesn’t make better decisions. He doesn’t give the Nuggets a better chance to win. The NBA isn’t about playing favorites; it’s about putting the best players on the court that give your team the best opportunity to win. Until George Karl addresses why McGee isn’t playing more, I will continue to harp on this issue and question his judgement in the process.
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