Preseason Game 2: Nuggets 88 – Lakers 90

The preseason is a weird thing. Wins and losses don’t matter and teams play somewhere between 12 and 15 players for double digit minutes.

Really the preseason is a lot like summer league, where players take things that they worked on during the offseason and bring them into live action for the first time.

This season the Nuggets are also incorporating a brand new system for a brand new coach and through the first two games it is becoming very clear that that change is going to be radical.

And through those games, things, for the most part, don’t look pretty.

For the second straight game, Kenneth Faried was awful on both ends of the floor. The game started with a post-up attempt for the Manimal against Pau Gasol that ended with a face-up line drive jumper that predictably missed its mark.

Faried got a few more post-up attempts and most of them ended in one of three ways.  He either immediately kicked the ball back out to the wing, turned and faced up his defender or tried a spin back to the middle of the paint. None of it worked. Faried ended the first half  2-5 from the field and one of those makes was another ugly jumper.

Something that has become abundantly clear in the first two games of the preseason is that there just are not offensive skills in Faried arsenal and there never will be. The jumper is ugly; a low line drive that comes off his hand slow and not smooth at all, the only post move he has attempted so far is that spin back to the middle, and his floaters from Sunday night were all disasters.

Defensively it wasn’t much better, as Faried was abused by Pau Gasol on multiple occasions. The Manimal rebounded the ball much better tonight then he did Sunday, but he never saw the floor in the third quarter when JJ Hickson started and Darrell Arthur came in as the bench power forward. A fourth quarter technical seemed to show bit of frustration on Faried’s part, and is something worth watching, especially if his starting job is truly up for grabs.

On the opposite end of the spectrum was JaVale McGee. McGee’s box score numbers look pedestrian, he shot 6-13 from the field and only had seven rebounds, but the signs that McGee will be productive are there. Unlike Faried, who doesn’t look comfortable at all, JaVale seems smooth and most importantly comfortable in the post. The moves he makes are decisive, quick and varied. On Tuesday McGee showed a turnaround from the block, a hook shot, an elbow jumper and even caught an oop from his old buddy Andre Miller.

Defensively the first half was a bit rough, as a few times McGee attacked an already defended player as they approached the rim leading to an easy dump down pass to Chris Kaman who finished with a wide open dunk. In the second half things were better as McGee tended to stay where he needed to be and stayed on the ground. The biggest thing to take from these first two games is that JaVale looks ready to be a starting center that Nuggets fans can trust.

Additional Nuggets

  • JJ Hickson was a disaster defensively. He constantly was out of position defending the pick-and-roll and at one point ran to the corner and left his man alone at the block as the ball was being dribbled directly at him. The play predictably led to Hickson’s man finishing with an easy dunk. But offensively Hickson is so much smoother than Faried that he may leave Brian Shaw no choice other than to start him if the ball is going to be going through the big men so often.
  • Early fourth quarter Nate Robinson was fun. There will be a game or two Nate wins with that kind of silliness. Enjoy it when it happens.
  • We saw both Nate/Ty and Dre/Nate back courts tonight. Shaw had hinted that the days of two point guard lineups were over but it looks that, at least to start the season, the Dre/Nate back court may be a common occurance.
  • I’m not sure Anthony Randolph makes the roster. After fouling five times in nine first half minutes in Sunday’s game Randolph didn’t see the floor until the fourth quarter. Brian Shaw has mentioned he wants cerebral players and Randolph has proven to be anything but. Even in his decent fourth quarter Randolph launched a long jumper and tried to play point guard. His contract may be all that keeps him around.
  • Evan Fournier needs to start. Randy Foye missed some more open jumpers tonight and Fournier attacked the rim and created for the second straight game. Denver needs as many weapons as possible right now to start games and Fournier would take a lot of pressure off Ty Lawson in regards to creating things for teammates. So far he has earned at least the chance.
  • The defense wasn’t good. The Lakers shot 48.8 percent in the first half and missed plenty more open shots. Steve Blake just rose up and knocked down threes over the smaller Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson a few times during the game, Faried and Hickson both butchered rotations and pick-and-roll coverage all night and JaVale had moments of old JaVale trying to block everything. There is a lot for the Nuggets still to learn on that end of the floor still and it probably will take a large chunk of the year at the very least.
  • Nothing we have seen yet has changed my opinion that this is a lottery team. So far Brian Shaw looks to be bringing over a heavy post based offense to a team that doesn’t have the players to fit that style. Maybe things change when the games start to matter but that seems unlikely. After all why play one way during the preseason just to change it? Get used to seeing JaVale, JJ, Mozgov and Faried with the ball in the post a lot. Things sure seem headed that way.

Please leave your thoughts on the game below.

  • Scott

    Javale could be our messiah

  • Brad Murdock

    “Really the preseason is a lot like summer league, where players take
    things that they worked on during the offseason and bring them into live
    action for the first time.”

    “Nothing we have seen yet has changed my opinion that this is a lottery team.”

    So what you are saying is you are basically using summer league performances to judge the regular season success of a team? That makes a lot of sense. The doom and gloom that comes from Nuggets fans is so annoying.

  • mmj5280

    Let farried get it out of his system now. I agree Randolph gets cut or traded for maybe Daniel Gibson or dantay Jones. Nuggets showed a lot of heart last night. Never gave up. That’s what champions are made of

    • toluene hawk

      I agree, the Nuggets need additional mediocre shooting guards.

      • mmj5280

        Hahahaha just throwing out suggestions. We still need a 3 point shooter. I haven’t seen foye make a 3 yet

        • toluene hawk

          Lawson, Fournier, Chandler, Gallinari, Robinson have all proven themselves capable of the 3 point shot. Foye has defined himself by the 3 the same as Gibson has.

          • mmj5280

            Ray Allen has defined himself by the 3 as well. Did you see game 6 of the NBA finals last year?

  • Herman VanNess

    I’m no where near as negative about what I’ve seen as Matt. Shaw isn’t stupid. He isn’t going to force the ball into the post at the expense of winning. The Nuggets are still really fast and athletic and actually got better offensively. They will still be a problem for any visiting team. I don’t foresee Ty, Nate, Manimal, McGee, not running.

    With that said, JaVale is going to be a player. He seems to have his asthma under control. He is going to be a viable option in the low post. While he did get out of position going for too many blocks, I feel just as he’s slowing down on offense that he will eventually slow down a bit on defense and pick his spots instead of going for every block, Also, the majority of bigs he will play against aren’t nearly as savvy and adept at passing as Gasol and Kaman for that matter.

    Faried is ideally an energy guy off the bench. On a different type of team, one with a dominant post player or defensive system that could hide his deficiencies he’s a starter. On this team he is suited in my opinion to out hustle, out run, out athlete, backups giving us a serious advantage.

    Fournier just knows how to play. He should be starting at the 2. Maybe Foye being a vet is just working himself into shape but, he looks small, a little heavy and super one dimensional.

    Unfortunately, Quincy and JHam look as lost as ever. I’m not necessarily talking about blown assignments. It’s more knowing what to do and when to do it. What’s a good shot. What is a good decision. They seem still not to know.

    HIckson is a much better offensive player than Faried. He just is. I like his size and he’s a good rebounder as well.

    Arthur is as advertised.

    Nate is Nate.

    Mozzy is Mozzy. May lose minutes as a back up to McGee to Hickson.

    Can’t wait until Wilson plays and Gallo gets back. This is a super deep team (too deep?) and there is too much real NBA talent on this team to think this is a lottery team. I can’t imagine losing but a handful of games at home and I feel with players like Nate and Foye they can get really hot and steal some road games.

  • toluene hawk

    The only players not mentioned in a negative light should see the bulk of the minutes:

    McGee
    DArthur
    Chandler
    Fournier
    Lawson

    • Bricks

      Sorry, Hawk, but DArthur needs to back up Chandler at 3 until Gallo returns. Then Chandler moves to 2, Fournier and Foye back him up, and DArthur still backs up 3 and sometimes 4. Nugs need DArthur to consistently hit mid-ranger and 3 and play hellacious defense—but more importantly, prove to everyone that no one on this team will ever out-work or out-hustle him. DArthur gets plenty of minutes if he commits to this plan.

      • John

        arthur is not a 3 and chandler is not a 2

        • Bricks

          You’re right, these aren’t their primary positions, but when the season starts you’ll see Arthur getting mins. backing up Chandler at 3. If not, who will? JHam or QMiller? No. We have a glut at 4 (Arthur’s primary position), so watch for him getting plenty of mins. at SF (even when Gallo returns) . . . ’cause when Gallo is healthy, Chandler will start at 2, the only postion that will be available for him to start at. Chandler, 3rd best player on the team, will not be coming off the bench, trust me. You can’t keep him out of lineup, and he’s better at 2 than anyone on the team (even though he’s a natural 3 or stretch 4).

        • heykyleinsf

          why not? I love the idea of Chandler at the 2.. It actually makes sense.. never thought about it. Chandler and when healthy Gallo… they could both be 2-3. I don’t see why not… why not??

          • John

            chandler is just two big to play the two he isnt a good enough ball handler passer or playmaker and will be too slow to guard smaller off guards. also considering how well he played offensively at the 4 last yr i just dont think hell see time at 2.

            • heykyleinsf

              But Gallo is good enough ball handler and passer and hopefully quick enough again to play at 2.. IDK how soon he will be quick again after the injury.. But I hate to see Chandler on the bench. Gallo could play at the 2.

            • heykyleinsf

              I hope we do something against shooting guards killing us behind the arc. You can only be so quick when you have to be behind that line.. maybe someone taller would help.

              • John

                true that i think the fact we went under screens way too often last year is a big part of that… especially with lawson hes already undersized he cant afford to go under screens. the problem with switching though is we dont have smart enough defenders especially with losing iggy. seeing that maybe chandler could do some damage guarding the two at times especially on bigger 2 guards such as kobe or harden. however, i think gallo is generally best defensively suited at the 3 because his height is going to become a problem when guarding a 6’4 or such two guard

              • John

                i hate to say it but our perimeter d will probly be bad this year considering miller and foye are going to see lots of time. plus losing iggy and brewer. granted, brewer gambled way too much but he could play decent perimeter d still. if were gonna be successful ty, gallo, chandler, and mcgee are all going to have to make big strides espcially javale

  • Bricks

    Way too early to worry, Matt. If Shaw doesn’t take the time to develop a nasty, efficient post game (off. and def.), the Nuggets don’t make the playoffs (or at best, they don’t win Rd. 1 again). The development of JaVale, Moz, JJH, Manimal and DArthur in the post is critical to the success of this team. Instilling confidence in these guys is going to take time, but it will happen. It’s early, awkward, and ugly now — but this is Shaw’s #1 task, to create a cohesive, formidable frontcourt that can score, fight, scrap, intimidate and defend — every possession, every night. Over the course of this season we’ll see this come together, and when it does it’s gonna be scary fun. The weapons are here to be a very nasty, very efficient group of bigs.

  • AK

    I disagree with the overall negativity and pessimism in your post. I think this is just a preseason game and Shaw is just experimenting. I think Javale has made a lot of strides in his game and even though Faried looks rusty, I still have some optimism he can improve his offensive game and defensive awareness. I don’t believe that because I’m a homer, but because he’s stressed himself that these are things he’s been working on, and he seems to have a tremendous work ethic and self-awareness about the limitations of his game right now. Just growing pains.

    I don’t think it’s ever prudent to claim a player won’t ever be able to expand his game, some players just take time. Although he played a different position, Chauncey was considered a draft bust at one point. You can find tons of players in this league who people saw little potential in but worked on their game and then took off and my HOPE is Faried does the same. All that being said, I wouldn’t be shocked if he gets traded this season. He seems to have high value in the league and Hickson just seems to be a Faried clone, albeit much cheaper.

    Furthermore, I disagree that we’re a lottery team. I still think the team’s highest ceiling would be a middle seed, realistically a late playoff seed, and at worst a high lotto team. I like what I’ve seen from Shaw so far. Outside of having a drastically new system from GK, this is essentially the same team that took the Lakers to 7 games, but hopefully with a improved Javale and Lawson.

  • Marv

    To say they are a lottery team is premature and not a complete analysis. Everyone tends to forget that we will get Gallinari and Chandler back, which will help with our offensive woes dramatically. Will spread the court more which also helps McGee and Mozgov.

    I think Faried is a great combo off the bench if paired with Robinson. They can bring instant fast offense when subbed mid/late 1st quarter.

    Foye seems out of place and may not find his fit with this team.

    Fournier has great effort and basketball mind, but seems to panic or get frustrated easily. Rookie mistakes still appear here and there. Hopefully more minutes will fix this.

    I’ve never thought Randoph and Q Miller would contribute to this team in any way, and still feel the same. Pairing them in a trade would be a good option.

    There definitely will be growing pains until mid season, but I still think we get a 7 seed.

  • Len Nunes

    watched the 1st half and here’s my personal review (only been a fan since 08)

    Lawson seemed to have his B game going last night. Did not look sharp attacking the rim and his ball distribution seemed first option only. Reading the team got in late maybe the guy was just tired.

    A. Miller looked like A. Miller leaving guys wide open for 3′s.

    Robinson, played a better overall half than Lawson. No way A Miller should get off the bench before him!

    Faried looks to be thinking the game more than he is playing the game. It’s early but I have more belief in McGee’s shooting abilities than Faried’s.

    Hickson looked more comfortable on the floor than Faried but despite all his double/doubles last season, Hickson does not have the floor presence of Faried.

    As for McGee, he seems to be getting his head back into the game quicker after committing a foul or botching an assignment. Still too much of a “sportscenter hound” but we all knew that already.

    Mozgov definitely looked like the third head of three headed monster. Did nothing to gain any confidence.

    Fournier>Foye

    Hamilton under-impressed, I want to see consistency, I want to see him be an insurance policy on an already injured Chandler. I didn’t see it.

    So we got Arthur for Koufas, tell me why this is good other than moving Koufas out of the way of the center’s?

    Poor Quincy Miller, not doing enough to move past being the 15th Nugget on the roster.

  • Ckwizard

    Be interesting to see how Shaw evaluates his players I mean come on it is only the second preseason game, I I really hope that Shaw hasn’t set his starting lineup or decided on the rotations. The notion that this is a “Lottery” team is un characteristic of the players and their new coach… Is Lawson going to accept that kind of performance from this team… Is Shaw? The pieces on this team still “need” to “grow” together and develop chemistry and at least it isn’t a “lockout” shortened season or a superstar trade waiting to happen. Time is on the nuggets side and we have good players and a good coach.

  • CD Pascual

    This is just the preseason, and the Nuggets are learning the way I want them to do, by making mistakes and correcting them in the future. I never liked George Karl expressing that his players should learn because all those are based on scolding and either your PT dies or lives by favoritism.

    For Faried, just develop a midrange J and the defense and he’ll be a great untradeable starting PF. Saying that JJ should start over him because of the aforementioned mistakes is just not cool for the Manimal. Faried has more potential than the frequently out-of-position Hickson.

    I agree on Fournier should start. Teams will probably harass Ty so he has to have a help playmaker and with Gallo out for a considerable amount of time, Fournier has to step up and that starts with being given a starting role.

  • heykyleinsf

    Matt.. that is a tragically unfair analysis on Faried’s offense. I don’t know what made you so bitter.. but whatever… it’s untrue.
    Faried is athletic enough to contribute and has.. He doesn’t have a traditional power forward offensive game.. but saying he has no offensive skills..
    You just got all filled with disgust.
    Shake it off and be less angry when you write.