Yesterday I wrote about the previous year in Nuggets basketball, and ended by noting the challenge facing Tim Connelly and Brian Shaw following such a wild season. Here are some issues from the previous year that they will have to deal with going forward:
1) Missed shots. The Nuggets were 25th in the league in 3-point percentage and 28th in free-throw percentage. The teams that eventually played for the championship, the Heat and Spurs, were both in the top four in 3-point percentage. The Spurs were third in free throw percentage, while the Heat were just above the league average. Corey Brewer and Andre Iguodala both led the way by taking a high volume of threes and free throws, and missing too many of them. Giving more of those shots to Wilson Chandler, Evan Fournier, Jordan Hamilton, and possibly Erick Green could bring the Nuggets percentages way up. Bringing in a shooter like Kyle Korver to replace Corey Brewer is also an option.
2) Attacking the paint. The Nuggets set an NBA record (since the stat has been tracked) for points in the paint at 57.3 per game, easily eclipsing the previous mark of 54.1 set by Shaq’s 1997 Lakers. Nuggets guards and wing players relentlessly attacked the defense, and the starting bigs, Faried and Koufos, were both in the top six in the league in offensive rebound percentage, generating points off of tip-ins. With the trade of Koufos, who was also among the Nuggets’ best at setting screens to allow guards to get into the paint, there may be some dropoff in this area. It remains to be seen how Darrell Arthur might help.
3) Defensive fundamentals. The Nuggets traded for one of the league’s best wing defenders and still allowed opponents to shoot above the league average on three pointers. The Nuggets led the league in offensive rebounding, but were among the league’s worst in giving up offensive rebounds. Some of this was due to the intentional strategy of having players gamble for steals and leak out on the fast break, but some of it was due to defensive laziness from players like Andre Miller, and poor positioning by McGee, Faried, and others.
4) Effective player combinations. When the Nuggets had Iguodala, Gallinari, and Chandler all healthy, they were among the best teams in the league, running off a 29-8 record between Chandler’s return and Gallinari’s injury. On the down side, when Faried and McGee shared the court, the Nuggets gave up points at a rate similar to the Sacramento Kings. It will be up to coach Brian Shaw to figure out how to manage his players, not just individually but in combination with each other.