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 hotshotcharts.com.
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.
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’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.
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.