Pickaxe Pulse for March 2, 2013

Taking the pulse of the Nuggets every weekend

Current record: 38-22

Last week: 3-0 (2-0 home, 1-0 road)

Current playoff seed: #5, 1.5 games behind #4 Memphis and 4.5 games ahead of #6 Golden State

The Nuggets made a strong showing through a difficult stretch of games, defeating the surging Lakers and the division-leading Thunder at home and picking up a tough road win in Portland.  The Nuggets have gained separation from the West’s lower playoff seeds, but Memphis’ recent eight game winning streak has kept the Nuggets trailing slightly in the race for homecourt in the first round.  Ty Lawson saw his streak of 20 point games end against the Thunder, but he had plenty of reason to celebrate after hitting the game winning jumper with 0.2 seconds left.  Danilo Gallinari has played sparingly over the last four games due to a deep thigh bruise.  Wilson Chandler has filled in admirably, leading the Nuggets in scoring twice in that stretch.

This week’s games: Monday vs Atlanta, Tuesday at Sacramento, Thursday vs LA Clippers, Saturday vs Minnesota

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Tom Darrow

Fourth generation Denver native, stay-at-home dad with a masters degree in applied mathematics, and all-around geek with a passion for Nuggets basketball.
  • Evan Woodruff

    Am I the only one tired of hearing about how good Indiana is when the Nuggets have a better record?

    They play in the East for crying out loud.
    They’d be 6th in the west.
    If the Nuggets played in the East their record would be blown up, and most likely a 2 seed.

  • Mark B

    I wish George Karl was aware that this is a superstar league. By no means am I saying that the Nuggets hopes are lost because of their lack of one though. Instead, I am proposing that Karl start Javale McGee. Kosta Koufos intimidates nobody, Javale intimidates everybody!! Regardless of what you think about Javale’s basketball IQ or the mistakes he makes or the laziness he appears to play with from time to time. None of that means anything because teams know what his dunks and blocks do to their confidence and to the fans in the crowd. Starting a game with that makes a strong statement that says that the Denver Nuggets are ready to dominate. Koufos doesn’t present that to anybody. All that he presents is a piece of a lineup that is buying time until its time for their second line to play. Its a joke and the great teams are going to be the ones laughing when these games start to mean something.

    • David M

      I think that this a bit short sighted and a result of getting caught up in the flash. By no means am I saying that Kosta Koufas is anything other than a middling player. But, if you think that right now Javale McGee has shown the footwork and patience to guard the best centers down low then you haven’t been watching. No one is scared of Javale Mcgee unless he is coming off the weak side. He consistently gets beaten flat footed by quicker centers. Additionally, many of his dunks come from the apparent cohesion with Dre Miller. So, unless we bench Lawson, starting McGee would probably actually bring down he total dunks per game. Anyway, just me two cents…

    • Tim Noblin

      Just trying to be clear are you saying McGee is a “Superstar”. McGee gets about 20 mpg, which is just about perfect for him. Koufos has played very well this season. He can play defense and can rebound. McGee is an athlectic freak, no doubut about it AND had POTENTIAL BUT he also doesn’t have his head on corretly have the time. He is always lost on defense (thank goodness he has long arms to block shots) BUT most of the time his blocks are because he was badly out of position in the first place. The guy can throw down dunks and “Poster-ize” people BUT if he played anymore than 20 mins. you would see the Nuggets get killed inside.

  • JoelK

    These next 4 games have serious letdown potential. If the Nuggets are serious, they’ll go at least 3-1. There is definitely a chance for 1-3.

    • Nugznazty

      these next 4 games are significantly easier … we get the hawks at home as they are coming off a back to back… then we get the kings for our back to back. Those are 2 very easily winnable games. Then it’s a 3 game homestand with time in between. the only hard game is the clips.

      • magster

        The Clips I read on DS is coming off a back to back against us in that game too, playing the Bucks at home the night before.

      • Joel

        That’s what the word “letdown” means.

  • Cole P

    I believe Koufos is a very underrated center. In a league where there is no truly dominant center, a consistent center is worth his weight in gold. I agree he’s not very intimidating in his looks or his numbers. However he brings a certain balance to a very high paced offense. I enjoy watching McGee swat the ball into the third row as much as anyone, but putting him into the starting lineup over Koufos also knocks his time with Andre Miller down. Being that those two are second in the NBA in alley oops, I don’t believe it’d be a smart decision. The first team as they are now does their job. They tire out the other team’s first team and that second team comes in and generally finishes the job with a nice run of their own. I think McGee overall is a better athlete and will one day be a true star, but in today’s league, I don’t believe they should rush him along.

    • Michael (anotheraussienuggzfan)

      Personally I’m not a fan of watching McGee swat the ball out of bounds. Yeah it looks cool but it doesn’t give your team possession. The other night was a prime example, McGee swatted the ball hard and into Brewers head and out of bounds. He could have easily caught or controlled the ball to give the Nuggets possession and more possible points.

      As others have said on this forum and other places, I think it would be good for McGee and Faried to go back to “The Dream” and learn his defensive tactics/techniques. The Dream very rarely let a blocked shot go out of bounds instead trying to control it himself or to a teammate. True professionals and team first players realise that possession is more important than showboating.

  • dynamo.joe

    Read this paper or even just look at the purdy pikchures and the list at the end if readin is difkult fer yu.


    I agree more players are intimidated by JaVale, but K2 is the one who prevents them from scoring.

    Video analysis of every shot (in arenas with the video system installed) shows K2 is the 7th best interior defender among all centers (see appendix 1). And when he is defending man to man he is the 2nd best center in the NBA (see appendix 2).

    JaVale is 11th and 81st respectively.

    Add in the 17th best rebound rate among all centers (2nd among all Nuggets) and his team leading FG% and what you have is an ironclad arguement for starting K2.

    Kosta is not the best Center in the league, but he is top 10 and pretty easily. If he could get back to his career highs in FT% and FTA he could probably crack the top 5.

    • Nugznazty

      bold junk on k2 to say he could crack top 5.or even try and make the case for top 10. I’ve been thinking we’d get a slow burner top 15 C ala Gortat. K2’s defense against the thunder was absolute beast. If he was allowed to take his baseline jumper more his value would improve.

    • theo

      To back you up, I’d site 82games.com They’ve got great conventional and advanced stats there. One of the things they look at for each team in something they call ‘5 Man Units’ which is a detailed statistical look at the top 20 player combos (units) for each team. I’m going to post sometime soon at more length to help shed some light on the whole debate about rotations and units, etc. But to your point, the worst Nuggets unit, by far, in terms of plus/minus @ -33, is the starting unit joined by Javale instead of Kosta. And many of the other worst units, in general, include Javale and Manimal on court at the same time. Karl, at least statistically speaking, is doing exactly the right thing in bringing Javale off the bench, though that’s probably less about Javale and more because we’re statistically really lousy when both he and Faried are playing at the same time. I think those stats clear up the reason why Karl makes at least some of his seemingly curious moves.

      • Ban Johnson

        Yep — Faried and Javale together are a disaster on defense. Karl is definitely aware of it. It’s because neither is fundamentally sound, but both are capable of making good aggressive freelance plays. You can only play 1 of those type of players at a time.

        It’s the biggest problem with the Nuggets’ roster right now. The only way to solve it is to trade one or the other (preferably McGee) or just learn to live with 11million McGee playing 18 minutes a game

        It’s a crying shame, too, because both guys are so perfect in every other way for the Nuggets’ up-tempo approach.

        • theo

          Great take, but I’m more hopeful. Both are very young and at least one of them can learn to play some basic fundamental D. More important for them to visit The Dream this summer and learn his defensive positioning and footwork and solid fundamental D rather than his spin and shake moves down low. If either Javale or Manimal become even a decent defender we’re in the conversation.

  • Getho

    KK will be a solid defender in the NBA.. He has much to improve more in the future as he is still very young.. I bet OKC would love to have him instead of Perkins..

  • Ackdog

    I’ve just had a quick look at both the Nuggets and The Grizzlies remaining schedules. I think it is very possible that they could end up in a tie. The Nuggets cannot afford to let any games slip by them for the rest of the year. It is alos very important for them to hanlde Memphis when they come to Den later this year. I know a lot can happen but if this squad is going to get out of the second round it has to win the games they are supposed to with a couple of upsets along the way. :)

  • ryanvdonk

    koufas is a solid player, but he always struggles against the better centers, he just gets pushed around. there’s a reason we had to bench him completely against LA in the playoffs last year…he benefits because there’s about 5 other centers who can do this in the league, so we don’t see it too often. as for lawson-mcgee, they just aren’t on the floor without miller very often, so it’s not really know if the chemistry will develop. you cant use all 3 on the floor as a good indicator because we know ty’s tendency to defer point duties to dre (something we all hate)

  • Getho

    I was looking the stats about shooting.. We are :
    6th with 61.9% from less than 5 feet
    25th with 35.7% from 5-9 feet
    29th with 32.2% from 10-14 feet
    29th with 36.2% from 15-19 feet
    25th with 34.5% from 20-24 feet
    16th with 33.8% from 25-29 feet

    I think it’s obvious that this team need perimeter shooters..

    Let’s have a look in opponets shoots against us.. Our defence is :
    3th with 54.3% from less than 5 feet
    20th with 38.9% from 5-9 feet
    29th with 42.6% from 10-14 feet
    28th with 42.6% from 15-19 feet
    19th with 38.4% from 20-24 feet
    21th with 35.5% from 25-29 feet

    Again it’s obvious that we defend very well in the paint but our perimeter defence sucks!

    • Ban Johnson

      on defense, that’s all by design.
      Karl preaches again and again that long 2s are the worst plays in basketball — the whole defense is designed to encourage them. Unfortunately, that packing the paint also leaves A LOT of open 3s too.

      those stats are a weird way to break it down, since 3-pointers are 23’9″. Why not just let 3s be its own category? Anyway — with as great as they are at paint points, Nuggets only need to be average on 3s to have a highly effective offense. (The coaching staff doesn’t want the team taking long 2s anyway, so sucking there only reinforces the whole approach.)

      • Ban Johnson

        I should add, the sucking so bad on mid-range 2s is yet another Faried and McGee (and Koufos) problem. Most teams have at least one big who can hit those.

    • John in LA

      You would think that, until you look at where the Nuggets shoot from…

      They took 2792 shots from close to the basket(points in the paint) and 2123 total from “everywhere else”…

      What would YOU rather have, a >60% chance at a <5 ft basket or a lower percentage shot from greater distance? I'll take the dunk, thank you.

      I think if a couple of Nuggs can continue to improve from the 3pt. line… that would be enough. Get Ty(35%) and Gallo(37%) up a few to the 38-45% range of Ill Will(42%), JHam(38%), and Evan(45%), and the team would be fine. They only need to be just enough of a 3 pt. threat so that the middle doesn't get clogged up.

      I for one, would hate to see Nuggets become a "Jump Shooting" team…

  • Getho

    Ok let’s talk about 3s then..

    Our opponents are second in attemps with 23 per game against us and they hit 36.9% (9th)..
    That means they score 8,5 3s per game, 25.5 points per 23 attemps..
    They score almost 111 points per 100 shots..

    On the other hand we are 15th in attemps with 19.1 per game and we hit 33.9% (26th)..
    We score 6.5 3s per 19.1 attempts..
    So we score 101.6 points per 100 attempts..

    There is a difference of 9.4 points per 100 attempts that shows that team lack of perimeter shooting..

    • Ban Johnson

      Again…it’s not just personnel, it’s system. I’d argue it’s more system than personnel.

      That 9.4 points per game difference is a function of both offense and defense. Karl doesn’t just believe in layups and free throws…he believes in eliminating the other team’s layups and free throws.

      Since the Nuggets outscore opposing teams by 3.7 ppg, they clearly more than make up those 9.4 points in the paint and at the line. Yeah, it’d be great if they could make them up even more…or if they had less to make up.

      But the fix isn’t so obvious, is it? There are clearly far better shooters than Iguodala, Brewer, and Miller out there, but which of them are available who could do what those 3 do in other areas of the game?

      I still maintain that replacing Miller with a 3-point shooting backup pg would be the best easy fix for the Nuggets’ shooting deficiencies.

      • theo

        Paying more attention to your takes from now on. Exactly. Not that difficult to get a serious 3 shooter. We had opportunities this off season and didn’t do it. Easiest path to contention. Maybe that shooter replaces Dre Miller or somebody else, makes no difference to me. We either need a stretch 4 or a back up point or backup 3 that can actually make shots from 3 and the perimeter.

        Lots of folks here want to do it the hard way. Fire Karl. Unfortunately, the whole roster was constructed to play Karl ball, so firing Karl will require a roster remake that will take at least a couple of years or longer to fit into another approach. Basically, we’re talking about blowing up the roster. The obvious alternative is get a couple of shooters and let it play out. Might turn out out better than some believe.

        • dynamo.joe

          Kelly Olynyk

          Should be available around our draft position. Would make a good stretch 4.


          I think the bigger Karl/Miller issue is a development issue.

          You (Theo) and others maintain that we don’t have the talent to be a serious threat in the playoffs. If that’s the case why continue giving Miller so many minutes? Are we hoping that Miller is going to make “The Leap” next year? There was no choice earlier in the season; Stone out with injury, Ty underperforming. But now, shouldn’t Stone, Fournier, Hamilton be getting those minutes or at least some of them?

          Fours and Jham don’t have to develop into all-stars, just better than Corey and for all the positives he brings, CBrew is a below average wing overall.

          Stone already fits the the long athletic switching defensive scheme better than Miller. And honestly, their offensive games are similar.

          We are missing a lot of data here, on the outside, looking in. But it seems like the only rationale is on the economic side. Don’t play Hamilton and Stone and you don’t have to PAY Hamilton and Stone (when negotiating extension). Play lots of Miller/Brewer/Chandler to drive up their market value.

  • googergieger

    In another news Lakers cheated their way to another win tonight against a team we’ll play tomorrow. Josh Smith the guy a few people wanted on our team looked bad tonight. If you thought our shooting sucked before, with him we’d be dead last in every effin category. His defense tonight looked bad as well, but that is expected. His defense depends entirely on what happens on offense.