Sharing the Wealth: A Breakdown of Nuggets Assists

One of the biggest talking points around the Nuggets this season was how deep they were.

That resulted in a lot of different players scoring points for Denver and naturally with that plenty of assists, as the Nuggets finished third in the league at 24.4 assists per game, just .1 worse than second place Atlanta and less than a full assist behind top ranked San Antonio.

Most of those assists came from three players; Ty Lawson, Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala averaged 6.9, 5.9 and 5.4 assists per game respectively.

I decided to delve a little deeper into those assist numbers using the awesome assist charts at the great new site

Before I start throwing the charts at you, here is a quick primer on how to read them. The blue bar is how many total assists the player had. So the bigger the bar the more assists a player had. The yellow paths show how many assists a player had to and from a teammate. The thicker the bar leaving a teammate the more assists he had to whichever player it leads too, and the thinner the bar the lower the amount.

So now to look at some charts.

First up is Andre Miller.

Miller Assists


What surprised me most about Miller’s assist breakdown is that the majority of them came to Corey Brewer and not JaVale McGee. Two main reasons stick out for this. Brewer gets plenty of his buckets in fast break situations, something that tends to happen a lot less when Miller is running the show. Secondly, Miller loves to throw his oops to JaVale. Like to an unhealthy point. The other thing that should be taken from the chart his how little Miller helps non-McGee bigs. After JaVale the last remaining player that Miller assists to a significant degree more than other teammates is Andre Iguodala. It makes a bit of sense in that Miller tends to pound the ball into the ground in the post. From there if things break down the ball ends up getting kicked to either Brewer or Iggy on the perimeter or Iggy makes a cut and thanks to his fantastic finishing ability he bailed out Miller.

Next up is Lawson, the team leader in assists.

Lawson Assists

Lawson’s breakdown is interesting. His most commonly assisted teammate is Danilo Gallinari, second is Andre Iguodala, third Kenneth Faried, fourth Corey Brewer and fifth Wilson Chandler. So, in his top five only one of those players is a big compared to four primarily perimeter players. It makes sense when you look at Lawson’s game. Typically when he attacks the paint he looks to score. If he cannot, dropping a pass to his bigs is a bit tough for someone of such small stature. Instead turning and tossing a pass to an open, spotting up player in the corners or on the wings is much easier.

What the chart of the two Nuggets point guards have in common is a bit startling. Neither player tends to assist most of the big men on the team that often. That becomes a bigger problem when none of those bigs can create their own shot.

As we look at the third and final chart, Andre Iguodala’s, we see just how that can be a big problem next season if Iggy decides not to play in Denver.

Iggy Assists

As you can see in the chart the top two players that Iguodala assisted this season were Kosta Koufos and Kenneth Faried. This was on result that didn’t surprise me at all. Iguodala was terrific at driving into the paint and throwing dump-off passes to his bigs, letting them finish relatively unbothered. In fact I would venture to gain if the two bigs finished a bit better that Iggy would have ended up being closer to Lawson’s assist numbers than Miller’s, as it seemed like no Nugget had assists lost for him more this year than Iguodala. Iguodala was clearly the best secondary creator on the Nuggets this year, able to take advantage of the lanes a Lawson drive opened up to get a good shot for someone else after a kick out and also being able to help run the break for Denver.

The biggest thing to take away from theses charts is the importance of Iguodala to the offense of the Nuggets starting big men. If he does walk someone will have to step up and create easy looks for Koufos and Faried or their production could drop dramatically. It often got lost in how good defensively he was and how much he struggled shooting the ball, but Andre Iguodala was probably the second most important Nugget offensively this year. His loss could impact the offense as almost as much as it does the defense.

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  • CJP32

    Imagine Dre, Ty and Iggy’s assist numbers if we had better shooters!

    Whilst Brewer did connect on 35% of his corner threes, he was below 20% everywhere else. Yes Dre threw lobs to McGee, but it seemed that there were more missed lobs then actual connections throughout the year.

    Iggy essentially made Koufos and Faried better players by setting them up with easier shots under the rim, had Koufos taken a more aggressive approach he would have connected on more, and Iggy could have led the team in assists overall.

    I think if McGee became a starter, he would easily rack up 3-5 FGs just from the penetration of Ty/Iggy plus Dre off the bench to throw him lobs.

    Good article Matt, enjoyed the numbers and breakdown

  • Corey

    Interesting graphic–it might look better by taking out some of the lower scorers??

    I think you’re allowing your feelings of disdain for Miller affect your interpretation of the data. He doesn’t play a lot of minutes with KK because the vast majority of KK’s minutes are when Dre is on the bench. Also, Miller to Brewer is not at all a surprise. Miller is often our only half court option when he posts up and Brewer is one of our best (2nd to Iggy) at cutting to the hoop.

    I also challenge anyone to post actual data that the majority of oops were turnovers.

  • Stephen H

    I would take iggy passing over miller, I just want miller to go and brewer too, don’t wanna see the miller and brewer combo anymore. Trade miller for Bledsoe or to the magic or to the mavericks, for jameer Nelson or Rodrigue beaubois. And let brewer walk and sign either Kevin Martin, reddick, or korver.

    • Zack

      I wonder if you realize how farfetched (and dumb, honestly) it sounds when you say the Nuggets should trade Andre Miller for Bledsoe.

      I didn’t even read the rest of your post because of how insane that trade scenario is. If Masai called the Clips and offered them a 37 yr old backup PG (Dre) for a 23 yr old up backup PG with lots of potential (Bledsoe), the Clippers management would laugh for about 20 minutes straight before saying NO. NO WAY. NEVER. Please make trade scenarios that actually have a chance to happen.

    • bobby

      lol where do you expect us to find the money to pay Kevin Martin?

  • Fraser

    Brewer is an EXCELLENT cutter, let’s not forget that. He is the best baseline cutter on our roster and one of the better guys in the league.

    If only he would stop chucking terribly inefficient jumpshots he would be great on the offensive end! Defensively he gambles like a madman, but often that will turn in fastbreak opportunities, which is what the nuggets need to initiate the offense we like to run.

    Don’t discount Brewer TOO much! He has flaws in his game (gambling and shoots WAYYYYYYYYY too many threes considering how bad a shooter he is) but is an excellent cutter, has incredible speed and length and has shown up big in important moments for us all season. Still displays the winning mentality that got him into the league.

  • Woobly o Balls

    Trade for the #1 pick and take McLemore. Thrives in open court and is a potentially great shooter.

    Never would happen but I feel like it should be considered. Probably the biggest hurdle for blockbuster trades this offseason is Gallinari who would have to probably be a big component of a deal.

    • Zack

      This is an interesting idea. I have to be honest though, maybe I’m a little biased (since I live in Indiana) but I would rather trade for #3-#5 and get Oladipo. He’s a game changer defensively and can also shoot the ball from deep (60% FG and 44% 3FG last season).

      I think he’ll continue to improve (he works as hard as anyone) and he can be a lockdown defender and long range shooter for a team that needs more of both.

  • prospector

    Faried’s scoring average was close to his rookie years average before IGGY… MEMO: FARIED is good, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out… More GALLO more FARIED more scoring between the two… FARIED ( and Mcgee ) need freedom from KARL’s doghouse to develop their game… Let them shoot and stop yanking youngsters after a bad shot…. God I hate KARL…. PLEASE JOSHY, PLEASE!! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD IN LIFE, PLEASE RESIGN MASAI……. DON’T LEAVE US WITH A STRONGER KARL………….

  • prospector

    Next question as a fan that spends money for the team:

    WHY THE HELL IS MASAI SO UNDER PAID? WHY DIDN’T YOU REWARD HIM PRIOR TO THIS POINT? Joshy, you insult our intelligence as fans, and your management of the team is starting slide….. Don’t give me any more of your fan friendly BS…. SHOW MASAI THE MONEY!!!

  • Steve

    On another note… Are we gonna lose our GM? Letting him talk to toronto was not a good decision. Why havent we locked him up

  • Stephen H

    You do realize Chris Paul said if he is to stay wit clippers he wants Bledsoe to go and lob city gets a lob passer and we get a Ty Lawson type of back up who doesn’t complain about bein a back up like miller does.

  • Stephen H

    And right don’t have money for Kevin Martin but man wish we did ha