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.
- 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.
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