What to Watch For: Nuggets vs. Portland Trailblazers

After a disappointing season opening loss to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night the Nuggets return to Denver for their home opener against the Portland Trailblazers.

As the Nuggets finish their final preparations for the Blazers there are a few things to ponder entering tonight’s game.

How does Denver defend LaMarcus Aldridge? The Nuggets go from being beaten up inside by DeMarcus Cousins in the opener to facing another great post player in LaMarcus Aldridge tonight. Aldridge will get his points in a wider variety of ways than Cousins did on Wednesday, as he possesses a more reliable mid-range jumper, can play in the post and is also a threat as a pick-and-roll screener where he can dive to the rim or fade for a jumper. J.J. Hickson played Cousins well late in Wednesday’s game by using his physicality to fight Cousins for position. Hickson will start the game on Aldridge and I would expect the Blazers to try and post Aldridge less than usual tonight and instead put Hickson into pick-and-rolls where he typically struggles. Denver has had troubles keeping the opponents best player in check since the beginning of the preseason. If they want to be in tonight’s game they need to solve that problem quickly.

The power forward rotation: Brian Shaw said yesterday that he will probably continue to close games with the Darrell Arthur/J.J. Hickson combination because he thinks it is his best defensive big man pairing. With Hickson also starting at power forward there don’t seem to be many minutes available for Kenneth Faried, who is also still working his way back from injury. I would assume Arthur plays a bit more often early in the game then he did in the season opener to help establish a rhythm which would again limit available minutes for Faried. Arthur should also help defend the pick-and-roll better than any other Nuggets big man, and Portland will run plenty of those plays. Can Faried shake his below average opener and start earning himself more minutes or is Arthur going to take tonight and make the case for 20 or more minutes a game?

What happens at small forward? Anthony Randolph gave the Nuggets 15 awful minutes in the season opener. Does Brian Shaw stick with him as a starter, use Quincy Miller or decide to go to one of the smaller lineups that he used late in the game with either Andre Miller or Evan Fournier alongside Ty Lawson and Randy Foye? As someone who constantly preaches earning minutes it is hard to see how Shaw starts Randolph again tonight, but we will see.

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  • Thomas

    So here we are, facing a weak opponent at home, and you think we should focus on putting guys on the floor that can “stop” freakin Lamarcus Aldridge and even play “small ball” against a team that has Robin Lopez as their center…

    I hope our coach doesn’t think that way… If he does, we are doomed.

    • keith

      What data did you use in determining Portland is a weak opponent by the 2nd game of the season? Don’t we have to play a few weeks before deciding who is relevant or not or do we listen to the talking heads that have already penciled in the 8 playoff teams in week 1? Last I heard, Denver is a lottery team but I’ll wait until January before making a decision

      • Charliemyboy

        Naw, Denver is not lottery and most talking heads still put us in the playoffs. I’m just not sure we will be. Generally Portland is 13, Nuggets 15. Last year, Nuggets 3. Go Josh! Good luck Brian. Not sure you will be making the decision.

        • Thomas

          Data? Use your eyes, the stuff between your ears…

          If we see a lot of Arthur, to the detriment of Faried minutes, with Hickson in the middle, and Foye playing starter minutes, then we go down to where the Blazers are (maybe below). If we do that for tanking purposes, then I can live with it because there is a thought process behind it. But if we take that route because some really think that this may work, then you are going to be a very patient fan and have low expectations.

          I am just hoping there is a big trade. What we have right now does not work and will keep us in limbo-land as a middle of the pack team no one wants to play for (and root for).

          • Charliemyboy

            I don’t see a trade to upgrade. As I mentioned, only good one would be if Westbrook got tired of being second string to Durant (like Hardin did–look at him now), and we swapped Ty and Faried for him. Triple double threat.

            • keith

              I like Faried but the guy hasn’t developed any new skills in 3 years. Why aren’t people holding him accountable for no improvement in his game. He is a great leaper, strong heart for rebounding but poor post defender, poor help defender, limited shoot blocker and NO offensive go to move that every organized ball player needs (sad to say but Javale doesn’t have one either). I
              ‘m not going to blame Shaw for playing a guy that is known for his defense and has a 18ft jump shot he can go to. Blame Faried for not developing ONE new skill since he came to Denver (he hasn’t improved free throw shooting but that’s it). GK was a joke of a coach. He didn’t run set plays and didn’t teach defense. That is why he is working for ESPN when there were many jobs open. Ask yourself why no other team tried to lure GK from Denver the past 10 years if he was that good? He wasn’t. Don’t look at last year focus on the teams he has had for 10 years with no post season success.

              • Thomas

                Yup, top 5 rebounder in the league has to have a cute jump shot, otherwise he is no good and should be dumped, despite never having played more than 28 minutes per game in only 2 seasons.

                Guy’s shooting percentage is higher than Gallo’s. Who cares if its all dunks and hook shots, high percentage shots. In order to win someone has to do the dirty work.

                I guess Rodman, hall of famer, was a bust then.

                And this talk that Faried isn’t improving…everyone here is in love with Gallo – who is the same player as four years ago. Actually, his shooting is worse than in 2009…maybe he should work on that too…

                Let’s implode the team so that it fits our rookie coach’s system…i think that’s a bad idea. If we are going to do it we might as well make trades because we lack be players for such a system.

              • keith

                Melo is top 3 in scoring but no team can expect to win a championship with him. I didn’t say trade the guy to satisfy a coach but comparing Rodman to Faried is a joke. Rodman was a lock down defender even guarding Shaq at times and STILL the best rebounder in the game. Oh he also played on teams with HOF at multiple position. Denver doesn’t have the that luxury. Faried is a rebounder and that is it. I like the guy and hopes he develops more game but I’m not going to blame the coach if he needs a 18ft jump shot at that position at. I suggest you quit trying to use other players shortcoming to justify your view and let the player’s performance speak fo itself. My thoughts is Faried needs to model his game after Kevin Love. He can board with the best in the league and still get 20 pts.

              • Charliemyboy

                Kevin Love. Faried has a great 3-pointer.

              • Thomas

                Joke is saying that Melo can’t win a title. I don’t like his game either, but not even Lebron could do it without significant help.

                Rodman is not a comparison. Fact is most everyone here is minimizing the impact Faried had on a 57 win team and assume that Hickson is as good or better based on him being center on a much worse team

              • Chris

                I like Faried as much as the next guy, and certainly hope he isn’t moved, but he has not proven himself as a top 5 rebounder in the league . . . yet. Also, nobody said anything about a “cute jump shot.” The comments made stated “offensive go to move” which does not necessarily mean a jump shot.

              • Charliemyboy

                You’re a smart one Keith. I think it will be 110-96 tonight, Nuggets, Tacos for everyone, and henceforth with a 58 win season and conference finals! Thanks for your great insight. So sorry Karl was never able to win games for ten years, or his battle with cancer. What does HOF mean? Good luck tonight. I’m sure you will be clapping for Portland.

            • Thomas

              I’d trade Shaw for a bag of peanuts. I’d give away Hickson and Foye, but I doubt there would be any takers – no one wanted Hickson, just our genius front office.

              There was and will be a lot of teams interested in Faried. Most people that are competent in this business understand that he is a great asset to have.

              Way to go, Hickson and his sweet jump shot. 2 for 9 invthe first half, bonehead moves on defense. And 0/5 Foye is a predictable disappointment.

      • Chris

        Portland is forecasted (by some at ESPN, I haven’t checked elsewhere) to be amongst those who miss the playoffs this year, but I agree in withholding judgment of relevancy until a few weeks are played. Denver is not forecasted to be a lottery team unless all you listen to is the pessimism within these discussion boards.

  • Chris

    “If they want to be in tonight’s game…” We are only approaching Game 2 of this season and the defeatist attitude is already old. This is our home opener, against what should be one of the poorer teams in the league, and we should just be hoping to “be in tonight’s game” rather than discussing why Portland should be hoping that. Until proven otherwise (and no an opening game road loss to a jacked-up Sacramento team is not sufficient proof) I do not believe this Nuggets team should be treated as though they are terrible.

    • Charliemyboy

      I tend to agree. No tanking; take that thought out of the picture. I have to quit thinking of the past, with Iggy, Brewer and KK and Faried. We won. Now we have no Faried (so far due to Shaw and minor injury), no McGee (due to system), no Chandler nor Gallo (training techniques) and a questionable offense. Defense seems to be improving. We will lose another close one tonight. Pessimist? or Realist?

      • Chris

        I say pessimism until there is more evidence to back your interpretation of reality. Not saying you won’t end up correct, but as a fan (and hopeless optimist) here’s to hoping your are not.

  • pgwarner

    I am amazed at the posts on this site this year. Giving all this respect out of
    the box to Shaw. You don’t want to prejudge him and want give him a chance.
    That is good. But this “The players need to fit his system and earn their
    mins” baffles me from a site that is supposed to provide analysis.

    First, Shaw was the only guy left standing by the time Josh got around to picking a coach. He interviewed for a number of jobs, well a shit load really, these last few years. Nobody took. He was not a “hot commodity”.

    He has never coached before. He has no system. He has assisted other coaches and played for them who had systems. In those systems they had HOF big men. Gasol and Hibbert will most likely end up there too. He has McGee, Mosgoz and the rest. None with anything more than the HOPE they can develop into an ok post player. And you need at the least a
    very good post player for this system. Funny, the only fair post players the
    Nuggets have had recently were Mello, Chauncey and the current Mr Miller.

    So if Shaw does not have the kind of players he needs for HIS
    system its kind of pointless to say those same players who are unsuited to play
    in such a system need to try and “fit” in, to earn their time. So what we are
    left with is an unproven first year coach implementing a system he does not
    have the players for. Something in wrong with this picture. Look, if Memphis had hired Shaw then WOOT! Talk about a fit. They didn’t, the Nuggets did. Ask yourself this…Shaw interviewed with Memphis. That team was screaming for a coach with his pedigree. They passed. Why?

    I am all putting in some kind of post game because its needed but this team does not have the pieces and without trading like everyone there is no chance of Shaw getting a descent post player. Nene would be a huge improvement. Hell he can play in the post better than all of our bigs put together. Sad.

    Note: Portland can shoot from the outside and has a talent in Damian Lillard. I don’t see how the Nuggets can defend these guys regardless of what Hixson does. How in the hell is Randolph gonna cover Batum?

    Everybody talks about Gallo and Wilson. I agree the team will be improved. Neither are post players, Wilson can better than some on THIS team but so what. They don’t fit Shaw’s “system” either.

    My guess is they blow this team up. If they don’t drive Faried’s value down by benching him and branding him as a player who can’t fit in there will be teams who will kill to get him. Though he does have that cheap rookie salary that hurts. Team balk at that thinking they will stuck with a huge future unknown cost. Don’t think anyone else is safe and that includes Lawson. They are undoing the team the previous GM put in place and all the contracts he did.

    • Charliemyboy

      Then why did Karl do so well with basically this team?

      • pgwarner

        Is your question rhetorical? Because that was my point. Karl did well because this team was designed by the previous GM to play Karl’s style. Its not just Karl’s there are many other coaches who coach this way. The difference is that Karl is an HOF coach who coached a style of basketball that fit his players. Check his career out. He was just a crap playoff coach. Shaw is just new.

      • heykyleinsf

        basically this team is 2/3rds Karl’s team. And again.. we lost on the road by two points.. We’ve play all of one game!!

        It’s kind of hilarious that people are giving up on Shaw right now!!.. OMG…

        • pgwarner

          If you think what I said indicates that I gave up on Shaw then you missed the point. LISTEN: He was given this team. He did not chose the players. I haven’t given up on him because I never had faith in him to begin with. How could I? He has never coached before. I have no idea how he eventually will turn out. I am quite confident he won’t turn these guys into a successful low post team.

          What gives you faith in him at this point? Cause what, he played and was an assistant coach on some good teams? Good for you. Means nothing.

          I wish him all the luck.

          I guarantee you one thing. He better hope he does not end up with a disgruntled McGee on the bench. An unhappy McGee is poison to the team.

          • heykyleinsf

            I may need to apologize pg… tonight is looking pretty freaking horrible.

            • pgwarner

              No worries. I am a fan too and hate it when they lose.

    • Bryan

      I don’t recall Brian Shaw interviewing with Memphis, I thought the only other team he interviewed with this time was the Clippers. In any event, it was pretty clear that Memphis was pretty high on its assistant coach that I believe it ultimately hired.

      The Nuggets aren’t running the triangle just some triangle actions (which almost every team in the NBA does). They are running a half court offense (which is new after a decade of Karl) which they will need come playoff time.

      I’m also not sure how you expected Shaw to have his own system as an assistant coach, or how you could have done any sort of comprehensive evaluation of his system (or whether he has one) after only one game.

      • pgwarner

        I had thought Shaw had interviewed with Memphis. I am sorry. If they declined to even interview him the comparison still holds.

        I don’t recall saying that Shaw was running the triangle. I also recall, and it was the point of my post, that other people keep saying he has a system, when as I also pointed out he was only an assistant under other coaches systems. That was in the third para if you want to check. The staff here and others talk about his system.

        I did not do an exhaustive style comparison. I pointed out that he was running a half court low post style. The Nuggets don’t have the personal for said style.

        I hope it works for him here. Next time please read what I wrote, or it least part of it because it was long, and argue to THAT.

        • Bryan

          Your “comparison” is ridiculous as it’s a not so subtle attempt to take a jab at the guy because other teams chose other guys. How’d that work out for the Lakers (You’ll recall Kobe pounded the table for him when they had an opening).

          You emphatically said he has no system. And then talked about him only being an assistant. Most coaches start out as assistants and then implement their own system once they get jobs.

          He does have a system that does have plays in which the ball is passed into the post (it’s kind of limiting and stupid not to have plays in which this is done) but to assert that he has no system and then to slam him for relying to heavily on post plays when he “doesn’t have the players” after one only game is premature.

          • pgwarner

            Its not a subtle attempt at all. I said he WASN’T a hot commodity. That he WAS passed over. That is the truth. It is strange that he was the next great manager in the making and he kept not getting job. Always talked about but never hired.

            Kobe wanted him because players “Like” him. As an assistant coach has that luxury. Head coaches don’t. You noticed that the Lakers, where they knew him, would not hire him, in spite of Kobe.

            First, its not his fault he does not have the players. Its just reality. The thing I am saying is he can not “teach” them skills their talents won’t let them master. He needs different players.

            Again, I hope he wins. I would love for the Nuggets to win a championship. I don’t dislike him. Look at it this way..HE NEEDS TO EARN MY RESPECT. Just like the Nugget players need to earn mins.

          • pgwarner

            Maybe I can be a little more clear. What system he implements is not clear yet. We can go by what he says he wants to place his emphasis.

            When I say he has no system its understood that I am using that phase sarcastically to mean he has no track record so I think people should quit acting like he is a known quantity with success behind him. he is a rookie, freshman, newbie head coach. Most of those fail.

      • heykyleinsf

        You took some time and thought, and that’s always appreciated.. but I can’t agree on you giving up on Shaw already.

        I don’t think it’s too much to expect some growing pains, especially with injuries right now, and such a big offseason turnover as well.

        I’m also not sure of a couple of things Matt kind of alluded to with how different players are going to contribute a lot…

        I don’t expect good consistent things from Mozzy all of the sudden, though he did improve much in one game.. And I don’t foresee McGee, Faried, Robinson and Randolph struggling like that all season long. Things will shake out.. and right now I have no reason to lose faith in Shaw already.

        • pgwarner

          I replied to you above. I am not giving up on Shaw. There is a difference between giving up on someone. Its quite another of being skeptical of an unproven and untested coach.

          Again and as I asked before – How can you have faith in him yet. Look at it this way. I lost faith over time in Karl. I felt he could not win in the playoffs. That was somebody I had developed faith in.

          • heykyleinsf

            as tonight makes is painfully evident.. there are big problems and Shaw has to own some of it.

      • googergieger

        Right now my only problem is the defense. I mean they are just as bad as last year. Just no Iggy or Gallo or even Chandler to mask the problem. Granted not a lot of great defenders on the team as is but still. Fournier is easily the best defender amongst the guards right now and I’d imagine Quincy Miller would be a great option at the three spot, just because no other option would help our D. Even Arthur at the three spot would be a decent option.. I really wish we went after Kirelenko instead of Robison/Hickson. He would have helped us a lot. And Gallo, Chandler, and him are very versatile players in general that could play together, or at least alternate most of the night to keep us at least competent at the defensive end.

  • mmj5280

    Foye is not a starter in this league. I’m going to be watching what Shaw does at the 2.

    • heykyleinsf

      Fournier doesn’t look like a starting 2 either right now

      • mmj5280

        No.
        We need them back… our injured players

    • heykyleinsf

      Foye and Fournier were absolutely god awful tonight at both ends of the court. McGee and Randolph continue to suck out loud as well.

  • googergieger

    I have no problem with instituting more of a half court offense. But maybe instead of that, we should have been working on our defense and literally only that? Cause no Iggy, no Gallo, no Chandler, means we seriously need to rely on team defense. And so far, well same old Denver defense. And not one of our guys seems to give a shit that they are losing this game. Badly.

    • gimpcom187

      Gotta say as a nugs fan who wants them to become great for a stretch ( LEGIT title contender as they were in 2009) and as someone who understands basketball I LOVE this. It’s early, but it looks like Karl Haters were COMPLETELY wrong as many people tried to explain. It’s time to hit the RE-set button folks.

      • googergieger

        How were they wrong about Karl? Could he win in the playoffs? Did he play his favorites even if that meant the game? Did he not care about defense? I enjoyed Karl’s offense even if it was one dimensional. A lot of times we went away from his offense because he’d play people that didn’t fit it over people that did. My main problem with Karl is my main problem with this team now. No effin defense. And no Iggy, Gallo, or even Chandler to help in that department just magnifies the problem ten fold. As someone who understands basketball you should understand why Karl isn’t a coach that can win you at title. He did have to go. Is Shaw the right replacement and are the new players that were brought in the right choices? We’ll see in regards to the former, and I don’t think so in regards to the latter.

        • gimpcom187

          they includes you. This team always had the talent that was either likely to go out in the first round or 50/50. He got the team to outplay their talent the last 2 seasons. His defense was in fact 11th in Points per possession as the highest rated team other than the Heat on defense without a legit dominant defensive center. It’s been told to you ad Naseum so stop pretending. SVG was told to you by ME as the only guy worth getting over Karl. Since he wasn’t coming you and Kalen were WRONG. The reason Iggy didn’t even CONSIDER coming back was losing Karl. I wouldn’t be surprised if the intent was to cut Karl pre Ujiri leaving and played a role in that. He’s a HOF coach.

          Karl could easily have taken this team to the finals in 09 if they had gotten a decent 3/D wing to go with Melo and Chauncey instead of a borderline rotation player in Jones and the mercurial JR smith. you have a bad memory. Oh well. I guess you will never admit being wrong. And you’ll co-opt ideas and pretend they were yours when it doesn’t work out.

          • googergieger

            No. I mean you can’t really argue the nothing you said to start, so no.

            You told me about SVG? You mean all the way back when I was saying that before Karl was on the hot seat? Man, well, no.

            …..

            I don’t know how to talk or argue whatever the hell that reply was. I mean if we had no Iggy or Gallo last year, our defense would be this. I said that already, but apparently, well…

            Your reply is like a manufactured chemical weapon that’s sole purpose is to make everything around it dumber just by having looked at it.

  • googergieger

    I’m really wondering if this team is ever going to become at least competent defensively. This is why I was a fan of trying to get SVG. Not giving up on Shaw. Sure, give him his shot. Going to take a while for this team to get used to each other and the system and all that, but my complaints were never really about our offense in regards to Karl. Our defense is still just so non existent.

  • heykyleinsf

    This home loss could be the worst in many years.

    • heykyleinsf

      what ever dude.

  • trank

    ahhhhh…. not much to watch for actually…..

  • heykyleinsf

    Thank God for the Avs and Broncos. Nuggets are officially the bastard child of Denver sports again.

  • heykyleinsf

    We lost three games at home all year last season… by a combined total of 13 points. Tonight we lost by 15 at home. Lottery team. It may be the disgust of this start talking.. but there’s no getting around it.. right now.. we suck ass.