The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same.

I have seen the calls for my apologies. The demands that I come out and eat crow for predicting the Nuggets were clearly lottery team. The wonder at where I have been during the recent streak of great play. (For the record I was away for ten days for the holiday).

But I have been thinking about things, about how I was potentially so wrong, and it all led me to one conclusion.

I was wrong, but it was only because I was misinformed.

You see, I made the prediction based on all the information we had at the end of the preseason and after an offseason full of talk from Brian Shaw and the Nuggets brass.

Almost everything they said pointed to a few big changes that would be coming to Denver, most notably that the Nuggets would be playing slower, that they wouldn’t be playing small and that developing the young guys was going to be a priority.

The preseason came and went and Denver looked bad. That continued into the first five games of the regular season when the offense was running through Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee post-ups and blown rotations from JJ Hickson and Jordan Hamilton highlighted the defense and the Nuggets went 1-4.

Suddenly though, things changed and now the Nuggets have run off a 9-2 stretch where they look really good and the playoffs seem entirely possible, if not probable.

It isn’t a coincidence though, that the change has coincided with all that stuff from the offseason being thrown out the window.

Suddenly Denver is running again, small ball is back, sometimes in the form of Andre Miller at small forward withTy Lawson and Nate Robinson next to him, and Evan Fournier can’t get on the court.

Brian Shaw talked plenty about slowing the game down, playing inside out and becoming what he thought was playoff ready.  The general idea was that the game slowed down once the postseason arrived and Denver needed to be able to score effectively in the half court and defend better in general to have success in those moments.

Yet this season the Nuggets are third in the league in pace, (the number of possessions a team uses a game) up from 97.8 last season to 100.6 this season, which ranks third in the league. That number will clearly drop, no team reached the 100 mark at the end of last season, but the point remains. Right now the Nuggets are playing the up-and-down game that a lot of fans seemed to hate when the Nuggets didn’t win a first round series last season.

The trade-off was supposed to be an improved half court game based around the post and a high-low game with the big men. Yet the Nuggets looked awful early in the season offensively when things were primarily based in the half court. Once started running again, and Nate Robinson started yelling his own name in Dallas after his hero ball jumpers started falling, things suddenly were different and the offense is back to being above average, at least until Ty Lawson sits.

In fact despite the faster pace, the Nuggets’ offensive efficiency is down from last season’s 107.6 mark to 104.4 far this season, which means any gains in the half court are small at best, and in all reality largely based on the spectacular play of Lawson who is now surrounded by actual capable shooters.

Another thing Shaw seemed to be brought in to eliminate was the constant use of the Andre Miller/Ty Lawson backcourt that George Karl used to consistently close games with.  Yet all season the bench backcourt has been the strangely successful Robinson/Miller combination and Shaw has used the Miller/Lawson/Robinson combo to close multiple games.

Finally Shaw was supposed to be brought in to develop the young players on the roster.  But outside of Jordan Hamilton’s place in the rotation (mainly due to injuries, as he seems to be destined to be the odd man out when Gallo returns) where has that improvement really, honestly been seen?

Evan Fournier doesn’t play, Kenneth Faried still has no offensive game besides catching the ball in front of the rim and is still a poor defender, Hamilton still can’t defend, and while it was possibly a product of his injury JaVale McGee, while better, clearly hadn’t made a significant leap yet either.

While some will credit Shaw for Lawson’s leap, plenty of people (including multiple of us here at RMC) expected a jump in production no matter who was coaching him. While it is hard to have seen this big an improvement (on the offensive end at least, on defense he is an absolute train wreck as evidenced by the fact the Nuggets are 15.8 points per 100 possessions when he comes off the floor, typically for Robinson or Miller), it is also hard to give Shaw the lions share of credit for his stellar play.

Timofey Mozgov has been a pleasant surprise this season, though it is hard to give Shaw all the credit for that either, as Mozgov is really the only backup center on the roster, so he has to play and the problems he has always had, catching the ball and avoiding fouls, are both still present.

None of this is to take anything away from Brian Shaw. He has done a tough thing as a first year coach in backing off his ways and being adaptable to find success,  but that adaptation, for the most part, has been going back a season.

What it is meant to do is figure out how I (and plenty of others here and around the nation) were wrong about this season’s Nuggets, based on what we have seen recently.

It all comes back to one thing.

These aren’t the Nuggets we were promised.

While the return to tenants that produced last season’s 57 wins has brought success with it, it has also brought a new set of questions, with one main one sticking out.

Do the Nuggets mean what they said this offseason or in the end are regular season wins more important to the organization?

All of this is going to come to a head at some point; most likely either when the team is fully healthy or this offseason and we will learn a lot about what the Nuggets actually want to do.

If Shaw and the organization truly do want to play slow and through the post, the early games of the season showed us that there probably will need to be plenty of roster moves made to allow for that to be successful, which would mean that this season of playing fast would be a wasted year of development for the guys who are kept around to play that way.

On the other hand if Denver continues to play fast and with this core, it throws out everything the front office said this offseason about that style not being able to win in the playoffs. After all the defense is playing at basically the same place they were last season (102.2 defensive efficiency right now compared to 102.0 last year) and has become more and more effective by starting to switch more and more, another thing Karl used, people hated and Shaw mentioned he wanted to stay away from early in the year.

That is what makes this season so interesting and why I think I was so wrong about what has transpired so far.

This isn’t the Brian Shaw team or style we were promised. This is the George Karl style with few Brian Shaw tweaks.

We were promised massive change and that hasn’t arrived.

So yes I was wrong, but it was only because I was misinformed.

 

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  • Ernie

    On offense I agree with this article. However if the defense efficiency is essentially the same as last season without the Mole or KK or Brewer than that is much better than anyone expected. And Shaw should be given credit to getting the same defensive effectiveness with worse defensive players. Assuming it continues.

    • MattRMC

      I agree with your point about Shaw and the defense. The fact that he has built a competent defense with the abundance of awful defensive players is very impressive but my point was more about how this is essentially the same team on the floor as far as what they are doing, if that makes sense. So while Shaw has done a good job getting the defense to this point it is still essentially the same defense as last year, not better, to go with the faster but not better offense.

      If that wasn’t good enough for people last year (and I thought it was fine, I really liked the core last year) why will it be/is it this year? Just wanted to make people think a bit about that question really.

      • Ernie

        Thanks for the response. Yes, your stats about pace and how they are doing things are interesting in that it’s more similar to how the Nugs achieved success last year.

        However the big reason to be down on the Nuggets before the season (I do not remember if this was your thought specifically) was the idea that they would be much worse defensively because of the personnel changes. The fact that your stats indicate that they haven’t lost anything yet is in my mind amazing and the real story about this team versus pace and the small guard lineups.

      • DavidRMC

        I think we probably need to hold off on the defense being the same as last year just yet, Denver’s played three horrendous offense’s in a row which will do a lot in the way off bolstering your defensive efficiency this early in the season.

        • Ernie

          David, do you have the stats of where they were 3 games ago in terms of defensive efficiency. That would add a lot to your point if there was a material change.

          • DavidRMC

            They went from 102.8 to 102.1 after those three games, which is a pretty significant boost that took them from 18th to 13th in the league. Looking at their splits versus opponents they’re generally stifling bad offensive teams and not stopping good ones, which is basically the hallmark for an average defense (something they were better then last year). I think that’s a victory all things considered with this roster but we’ll have to wait and see if that’s sustainable or not.

            • Ernie

              OK thanks for that info, that is a larger drop than what I would have thought. My guess is if they keep winning it will be because the defense stays improved. And since they next play Cleveland, Boston and Philly it’s not like the competition is about to get materially better soon.

            • matymaddog

              Denver Nuggets last year allowed the following FG %’s. Something I believe is more important than points per game. I also don’t think a teams ranking in the NBA shows whether they truly progressed or regressed.

              2012-2013:

              5 ft or less: 54.6 % on 30.7 attempts per game
              5-9: 37.6% on 8.2 attempts per game
              10-14: 41% on 6.2 attempts per game
              15-19: 43% on 13 attempts per game
              20-24: 38.1% on 16.8 attempts per game
              25-29: 35.2% on 10.4 attempts per game.

              Obviously we can’t compare this teams stats from this year just yet as we are under 20 games on the season in comparison to averages from 82 games.

              2013-2014:
              5 ft or less: 58.4 % on 30.3 attempts per game
              (+3.8 FG% and -0.4 attempts)
              5-9: 34.6% on 10.7 attempts per game
              (-3 FG% and +2.5 attempts)
              10-14: 34.1% on 7.6 attempts per game
              (-6.9 FG% and +1.4 attempts)
              15-19: 38% on 14.7 attempts per game
              (-5 FG% and -1.7 attempts)
              20-24: 35.8% on 15.9 attempts per game
              (2.3 FG% and -0.9 attempts)
              25-29: 31.6% on 8 attempts per game.
              (3.6 FG% and -2.4 attempts)

              That’s without Cbrew, Iggy, and Kosta.

        • MacKenzie Pantoja

          Something I would like to note. I was looking at Nuggets on vs. off court differentials when I found some notable tendencies in our defensive ratings looking at two man combinations of our players (tendencies were less noticeable offensively). Take a look:

          http://stats.nba.com/teamLineups.html?TeamID=1610612743&pageNo=1&rowsPerPage=100&GroupQuantity=2&MeasureType=Advanced&PerMode=Totals&sortField=DEF_RATING&sortOrder=DES

          Lawson has received a fair amount of criticism this year for his defense. People point out that the Nuggets have allowed 105.8 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, whereas we allow 94.7 points per 100 possessions with him off the floor. 11.1 points is the worst differential on the team. However, I couldn’t help but notice something moderately reassuring. Most people realize our bench’s front court is better defensively than that of our starters. The fact that Lawson spends so much time with the starters makes him look like a major defensive liability, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it seems. When on the floor with certain players, the team is no worse defensively with Lawson on the floor (points allowed per 100 possessions follows the player):

          Miller+Mozgov: 95.0
          Robinson+Mozgov: 94.3
          Lawson+Mozgov: 94.3

          Miller+Arthur: 99.3
          Robinson+Arthur: 96.2
          Lawson+Arthur: 98.4

          Miller+Hickson: 101.0
          Robinson+Hickson: 102.3
          Lawson+Hickson: 109.2

          The Hickson numbers for Lawson are a little more concerning, but when Lawson is on the floor with Hickson Faried is usually there too, and that combination allows 111.2, whereas Lawon-Hickson-Arthur allows 103.8, which is a little bit more respectable. The fact is, although Lawson’s differentials make him seem like a horrendous defender, the reason for that is that Lawson spends so much time on the floor with Hickson and so little on the floor with Mozgov and Arthur, at least compared to the other point guards. Bottom line, Lawson has been a mild negative compared to our other point guards defensively when on-off court data is examined more closely.

          Also, those numbers aren’t to say Arthur is worse defensively than Mozgov. For one, Mozgov is subbing in for a woefully overmatched and horrific defender in Hickson, whereas Arthur is subbing out for Faried, whose numbers are mediocre but not terrible, especially when he is alongside Mozgov instead of Hickson. Arthur actually has some of the coolest differentials because of their consistency. Arthur + anyone who has shared the floor with him for 50+ minutes has a rating between 100.4 and 96.1, except for Arthur+Chandler which is 93.5. Even Hickson + Arthur. Any lineup with Arthur works defensively.

          My next point: Mozgov needs to start. Put him next to anybody except for some reason Foye (110.2), our defensive rating is better than defensive rating as a team, 102.9. Surprisingly, Faried + Mozgov is our best defensive frontcout pairing (94.1). This is in large part because it’s incredible on the glass, offensively and defensively.

          Final thoughts:Hamilton’s bad defense is confirmed by the differentials. One thing I noticed is that any 3 guard lineup with Foye produces amazing results. Foye seems to be tremendous as a small ball 3.

          I’d love to see an article that covers some of these differentials.

    • monimo

      Sorry Matt, usually I like your
      articles, but this one is really bad. It is as if you need an explanation for
      having totally underestimated the Nuggets at the beginning of the season.
      Actually, you have! (… as most people did). Yes, the new Nuggets run, but now
      it’s very different. Karl’s Nuggets were all about run, run, run (hustle, offensive
      boards, transition
      game, defensive gambles) and total freedom for offense (and of course for André
      Miller). And they did it with an 8-man-rotation. Karl’s Nuggets were totally
      inept in the half court and I will never forget last-years game in Portland
      without any point outside the paint until the very last minute. The new Nuggets
      can score in very different ways: as usual run and hustle, but also mid range
      jumpers and good three-ball-shooting. Arthur, Lawson, Foye, Chandler and even Hickson can make
      15-17foot jumpers on a regular basis … we never saw this in Karl’s system.
      Your main argument is the pace beeing even faster than last year. But the
      Nuggets score less in transition … and the main reason for the fast pace is
      the 11-man rotation allowing everybody to play at full speed. Finally, we are
      seeing some set plays and with Gallo it will be even better! As for defense the
      new Nuggets have similar numbers dispite loosing their best defender. The new Nuggets don’t gamble anymore: less fastbreak points and better
      defense. The only argument you could have is the schedule which wasn’t
      (perhaps) very difficult. (P.S. sorry for my english mistakes … I am a Gallo
      fan from Europe … and now I’m watching each Nuggets game even without my
      favourite player :)

      • Andrew

        I agree with your comments. Matt’s wrong. This is a different team. Also, Shaw did not say he wanted to slow it down (at least not when I heard him). He said he wanted to keep the pace also be ABLE to play slow, with plays, etc. To do that, you have to practice it…in games. That would partially account for the poor early play. The team is just getting better as it goes along. Shaw also has to get at least some credit for the increased time and improved play of J Ham and Mozilla (he doesn’t HAVE to play Moz…he could just leave Hickson in)…and the smarter play of Miller, etc. All of these little things add up. That said, there is a long way to go and this team will go through rough patches. But, so far Shaw and the new Nuggets are looking good.

    • David Acker

      I think you guys are really way off base on the offensive side. Denver’s biggest problem last year was their inability to hit a jump shot. Along with the fact they had no half court offense. In my opinion the biggest difference between this year and last is Foye, Arthur, and Robinson. A mid range shooter and a couple of decent three point shooters and all of a sudden you can actually run some half court plays and hit some pick and pops with Arthur or drive and kick to Foye off of set plays. I have also seen some post ups from Mozzy and Faried. Faried has developed a post move in the jump hook going across the lane.

      Matt I normally like your work but one only has to look at last years playoff series. Do you remember Mark Jackson telling his team the Denver could not hit a jump shot…… Well he was right. If you throw in Hickson they added 2 mid range shooters and 2 three point shooters. We have arguably the quickest point guard in the league, this offense was never going to slow down into a Memphis style half court slug it out type of O.

      Matt when your are wrong you are wrong! Just admit it with no excuses….. I will give you credit for having the balls to put your prediction out there though.

      Now imagine this team with Gallo returning and McGhee returning. Hickson and Mozzy coming off the bench. This team if healthy makes it out of the first round.

      I’ll go on record now and predict that Denver makes a top 4 seed. A bit easier now that we have a sample product. Looking forward to more of your work Matt.

      • Ernie

        Foye and Robinson are shooting 39.6% and 40.8% from the field respectively, so I don’t think their shooting is really a difference maker so far. Arthur on the other hand at 50% is a space creater as one of the bloggers pointed out in a recent article.

        http://espn.go.com/nba/team/stats/_/name/den/denver-nuggets

        • David Acker

          So you would rather have Iggy and Brewer throwing up bricks like last year. Yes Arthur has a higher percentage but he doesn’t shoot a lot either. IMO he needs to shoot more. You would have to be a blind man not to see that Foye creates space because of his shooting ability. Robinson when playing the 2 as well. Besides Gallo and occasionally Ty the Nuggets couldn’t hit the side of a barn last year. We agree to disagree

  • dnuggetspl

    I guess you have no idea what you are talking about or it seems you havent watched any game yet.
    Brain Shaw has never said he wants to eliminate fast pace. He said he would be searching for balance ( there wasnt any before ) between halfcourt O and transition. To remind you, Nuggets didnt have any halfcourt offence last season. And I really mean any.

    Did you see last game @ Brooklyn when Timo got the ball in post up situation? How many times Nuggets played through Bigs last season under Karl? Kenneth Faried still hasnt developed his fundamentals, and maybe he will never do it. But there was no player in nba history to develop new skills during the stretch of 2 months I believe. Furthermore, you probably haven’t seen his jump hooks and floaters he made @ Brooklyn. Am I right?

    Yes, Andre Miller closes games again, but Shaw uses him different way right now. It is not George Karl’s Dre has a ball and Dre is gonna play the hero. Andre Miller now creates offense for the others and he is much more efficient ( 8/10 3p% anyone? )

    Ty Lawson is improving and Brian Shaw is just proper mentor for Ty and everyone else as a floor leader and 5 time champion. And there goes a chemistry. There is huge difference between what Nuggets players say about his coach during interviews. PLayers like Hamilton and Mozgov are just shining with confidence and believe in their game which was hard to see while they were sitting at the end of our bench.

    There are so many positive things going out there and there is much more to come but sadly you wont see them by looking only at the boxscore and highlights Matt.

    • Ernie

      I’m going to respectfully ask you to change your tone towards Matt and all the bloggers. These guys offer this website for free and I don’t think get paid anything. It’s a labor of love. So if you disagree fine, but no need to make it personal.

      • dnuggetspl

        I did not mean to disrespect anybody. If I did – apologies.
        But what I did want to do was to show my disagreement towards Matt’s personal opinion by presenting mine personal opinion, just to start a discussion, thats what blogs are for.

      • Guest

        dude are you serious? Nothing he said was disrespectful. His tone is fine. He made several good points

        • Ernie

          Dude, he can speak for himself.

          • matymaddog

            So can “Matt”

            • Ernie

              True, but the bloggers are offering a service for free so they shouldn’t have to.

              • matymaddog

                I thought this article was complete garbage. It was “I wasn’t really wrong, I was just lied to.” Anyone that can’t see that this team now knows what to do when running the court doesn’t work is absolutely fooling themselves. This guy is an ego maniac to sit there and justify why he was wrong because he was promised something he’s not getting. Ummm, I have never seen this team perform the pick and pop so well. We have rarely had our bigs stretch the floor, we have rarely seen the ball movement in the half-court offense we are seeing. Anyone that can’t see that this isn’t George Karl’s nuggets isn’t turning on the television

              • Ernie

                You can think whatever you want. But again this is a labor of love. If you keep trashing the bloggers, not their ideas but them as people, then they might not want to keep posting. And then you would have to be angry somewhere else.

              • matymaddog

                You have to have thick skin to be a blogger. However, you can’t expect to refuse to take accountability for absurd predictions that you made and blame it on something that isn’t even happening and NOT expect backlash. This was just a terrible, TERRIBLE article and if a backlash prevents pretentious writers from producing garbage like this then I say thank you. As with all blogs there are some good writers and some bad writers and sometimes good writers have bad articles. I don’t know which one this was but it was all around BAD. He proclaims he was misinformed, he clearly didn’t inform himself at all if he thinks this is GK’s nuggets

              • wusteehlo2002@yahoo.com

                No disrespect to “Matt” but this article is gutless. And you are spot on in every point made. Most jumped the gun on their expectation on this season (and I am not sure why), but to try and make Shaw thw one wrong for a wrong judgement is just not right. I cant believe this article would even be posted.

      • Marv

        Your a chump, it’s his opinion, nothing is offensive about what he said. Stay outta these boards if your going to be a pansy.

        • Ernie

          No your a chump.

          • Daniel McDonald

            You kids will be going to bed without supper soon if you’re not careful.

            • Ernie

              Hey, it’s someone that knows how to spell you’re.

              • DenverNick

                Umm, you can’t call people out on spelling if the post you made right before it has the word ‘you’re’ spelled wrong as well.

  • Darren

    I feel like that statement that you began and ended with is a bit of a cop out. As a blogger, part of your job is to provide us with the information that we cannot collect for ourselves. Yes, the other part is to provide your informed opinion on the direction of the team, but if your knowledge is so baseless that you would predict lottery bombing over possible 4/5 seed, you may need to find new sources.
    Yes, the early injury to Chandler and the recent McGee situation have changed the dynamic quite a bit, but there had to be some early practice chemistry between Nate and Andre or Timo and Arthur that someone should have picked up on. That doesn’t happen overnight. These aren’t guys that are playing pickup ball (Though Dre constantly looks like that…) and finding out they work well together within 5 minutes of play. They had an entire preseason for that, and while it didn’t show in the games, someone should have found that in practice.
    I’ll admit that with my limited knowledge, I also thought the Nuggets were in trouble, and I’ll admit I was wrong with that. Then again, I’m not writing blogs for hundreds of Nuggets fans to see. I can’t see every play of every game (Hooray for no cable!) so I have to rely on box scores AND what I read through the eyes of keen observation on blogs like this one.
    Having said this, if you were truly diligent in your research during the preseason and offseason, and got all of the information possible out of your sources or on your own, then no one can blame you for your prediction. I don’t want to make this seem like an attack, and if this situation is how it happened, then kudos to Shaw for keeping some rotational gems hidden pretty well through the first 5 games.
    However, if others could see this coming (Reference the limited knowledge that Simmons and Rose had in their prediction for the Nuggets. They had a good feeling Shaw was going to be better than people expected based on their sources.) then maybe due diligence wasn’t followed. Maybe the idea of struggle after losing the GM, coach, and Iggy sank in. Maybe you just followed popular opinion so you wouldn’t look bad later. It’s not a bad thing, but that’s not why I read here. I read here because I expect a deeper knowledge than espn.com and the box scores can provide. Even if it can be a bit “homer” at times, I rely on this information to keep up with everything going on with my favorite team.
    I just want to make sure I am getting good information when I read, but backtracking like this makes me question that. If this is not backtracking and you truly believe that you did everything you could to get the right information out of this team before the season started, so be it. If this is an attempt to cover up missing information, however, I would prefer you be more open about a mistake. I think we all would.

  • tytechortz

    “Right now the Nuggets are playing the up-and-down game that a lot of fans seemed to hate when the Nuggets didn’t win a first round series last season.”

    What? I think what the fans hated last year when we didn’t beat Golden State is that we DIDN’T run in the playoffs. Karl let the Warriors completely dictate the way the series was played, rather than let the Nuggets do what they did all year to get to 57 wins, and making GS react to what the Nuggets were doing. The Nuggets were a far better team last year than GS and Karl played to not lose, rather than to win.

    The thing I like most about Shaw, is that I haven’t heard one of those George Karl-esque comments where he set expectations low, like “We are going to try to win 3 of these 6 roads games, and if we get 4 we’ll be doing great.” Or when he said something along the lines of “Playoffs spots aren’t won or lost in November” when the Nuggets came out sputtering last year. Or how about his retarded formula regarding road wins vs home losses? This team seems to be coming out to win every game instead of making excuses.

    Also, is Shaw really not developing the young players? It is now obvious that Karl was playing the wrong center last year. Mozgov dominated an all-star center last night. And where was Hamilton last year? And JaVale will be playing much more this year, rightfully so.

    If this hot streak continues though, I will be very curious to see how Danilo and JaVale will fit back in. At least now neither of them has to rush back. The Nuggets can afford to let them both get completely healthy, even if that means missing the entire season in Danilo’s case.

    • Andrew

      Truth.

  • LegalizeDenverNuggets

    Good points Matt, although Ima disagree a bit, maybe mostly with some rhetoric, but I think there may be some other things to think about. First, I’m just thinking about the eye test. It truly surprised me seeing those pace stats- Nuggets ball just LOOKS different to me this year. I’m not sure about the notion that we were promised a team that will slow things down- I’d say we were more promised a team that CAN slow things down, as last years team was incapable. Shaw would have to be a fool to not utilize the teams greatest weapon, Ty Lawson, whose speed is a major advantage. So what I see is a team that was experimenting with fundamentals and slowed down play early in the season, and one that has now earned the right to run. Not necessarily earned by wins, but with what Shaw saw in games and practices. I also see more change of pace plays from Lawson, who still manages to blow by guys even when not in transition, and who has a more clearly defined goal when he does blow by people. He just seems to feel more comfortable, which I think has to be attributed to coaching, as well as his consistent improvement over time. I always got the feeling from his court demeanor, quotes, and general personality, that Ty simply tolerated Karl. (There may be some racial components as well, but I’m not gonna F with that too much here- I’ll just say that I’m not sure Ty and Karl understood each other very well, and that Ty seems to have a deeper respect for Shaw, and that may largely come from the way he communicates with his players). I think Karl wanted Ty to be a coach on the court, whereas Ty wanted to be coached and to do his job at a high level. I guess I’m drawing this dubious analysis from Ty’s seemingly increased engagement, his new techniques that seemed coached, and his comfort level out there.

    In fact, and I may be a bit of a blinded optimist here, it seems like players are more engaged across the board. I posted on last nights game because I loved Timo’s post-game quote so much and wanted to share it. It basically boils down to ‘we as players know that when we put the extra effort in, we will be rewarded with play time.’ I think coaching has a lot to do with the Nuggets success so far. And here’s to hoping we manage to keep performing some slowed down, half-court sets in our play style to practice for and be sustainable in the post-season.

    I guess my main point is that while I agree that their success largely has to do with Ty and moving towards a more traditional running Nugs style of play, I think coaching is having a big impact as well. Of course things change fast in the NBA, so here is to the Nugs continued success!

  • KW

    Does anyone think we’ll move away from the GK style when JVMG and Gallo are back? I’m not saying JV’s post game is anything to toss a ball at but I could see us going that direction when he’ s back. I think it’s semantic whether they play fast or grind…I think we need a guy who can get a shot under pressure. I’m not sure Moz is that guy…maybe Ham but not for a while but if we continue to space the floor and MAKE OUR FOUL SHOTS we’ll have a better team.

  • COfoEVA

    Backtrack much? You were just plain wrong, admit it. No excuses, that was a George Karl era thing. We were never promised a team that would slow it down and run inside out, we were promised a team that would be able to do that, which we can. And its pretty early in the season to start saying he isn’t going to give the young guys any opportunities, they also have to show they are worth of the opportunities and work for it.

  • The Truth

    Is this GK loyalty, or just the inability to admit being wrong? I’d like to think most who decide to write about ball, have played ball? If you don’t see the value Shaw has brought to the team, the half court O and player development especially, I have to ask the whether you played question?

    You weren’t lied to, I don’t think you understood.

    Ty said it himself, it all is coming from the natural flow of the offense. He is not doing anything spectacular. It’s the same with Mozzy, who had two historic games recently, all from the simple flow of the O and belief in his ability. If you don’t see a more fluid, consistent, flexible and fertile half court O staffed by players who believe in their skills more so now than before you don’t know basketball. And Evan has contributed, he may not soon, but he has. When you say he hasn’t played, you hurt your credibility.

    It’s not just you. An over reliance on stats, and the all present conjuncture and speculation on trade rumors is not what a blog should be about. That stuff is what the middle man industry is all about. Make sure you know the game too.

    The Nuggs are balling because they know what is expected from them as individuals and as a team. The individual fits in within the overall concept, knowing his role. This is what a coach develops.

    GK didn’t have faith in or simply couldn’t rotate more than 8 players in a manner befitting the depth of the team, or even the need for his style of play. The best thing about Shaw is his almost intangible ability to play up to 11 guys on a consistent basis, and being able to adjust his rotation on a game by game basis. Its called coaching, and being in tune with your squad. He knows that there is no need in being deep and playing fast if you can’t properly rotate 10-11 guys.

    Shaw stated he wants his rotation down to 10. With McGee and Gallo coming back, I don’t see how or why. If you have the ability to utilize 12 guys, why not? Wear them down, then wear them out. Whether Shaw shrinks his bench as the year goes on, succumbing to outdated tradition like GK is what I’m most looking forward to seeing. I’m confident he will better utilize 10, and have two more ready, confident, and able to come in if needed. Plus a better half court O when teams prevent the run and gun in the playoffs.

    • Ernie

      Playing 12 guys is a mistake. Players get in a rhythm by playing significant minutes with the same personnel. They also know what to expect game to game and therefore don’t feel extra pressure for fear of getting pulled quickly if they miss one shot or assignment. The best teams play 9 in the regular season, 8 in the playoffs.

      • tytechortz

        You are right when you are talking about a team with a superstar or 2. But this could, should, be a different kind of team. The Nuggets should definitely have a 10 man rotation with the others getting time in blowouts like last night.

        • Ernie

          The problem with 10+ is in the minutes. How do you give them out? And do you pull someone like J-Ham if he misses two shots in a row to play Fournier? I think you are better off having the players that earn the playing time get 20 minutes minimum, with the starters getting 30 minutes minimum.

          Having another 3 players in getting 10 minutes, unless it’s in a blowout, really seems to hurt more than help.

          • tytechortz

            Balancing the minutes when JaVale and Danilo get back would start getting tricky, but that is why Shaw gets the big bucks. As it stands, with injuries, playing 10 and getting them the correct minutes is easy. The Nuggets should almost never need anyone to go over 40. And injuries are always going to be a factor. Hell, will Danilo even come back this year?

            In last nights game, only Mozgov hit 30 minutes. I didn’t think once during the game that so-and-so should not have been sitting out that long, or that anyone was pulled too quickly because there weren’t enough minutes to go around.

            It would be very beneficial to keep every player below 36 minutes average over the course of the season, particularly on back-to-backs. If that is possible, there are surely enough minutes for 10 guys to play and get into the flow and be able to do what they do. Maybe even 11 guys.

            But who knows? Most teams play it the way you are suggesting. I just think this could be different. I’m going to pay more attention to this question while I watch the games. If you do the same, I’ll look for your posts after the games to see what you thought about the distribution of minutes.

            • Ernie

              Last night was a blowout, so I don’t think it is typical of how minutes would/should be assigned. I went back to a recent close game, 102-100 against Dallas. Ty got 38 minutes, all the other starters got 29+.

              Shaw played 6 others between 10 and 16 minutes. JHam played 11 minutes, Fournier 10. I just think, on a back to back, I like the idea of giving JHam 20 minutes the first night and Evan 20 the next. They can be prepared to play, and not scared to fail.

              But Shaw is getting a great effort out of the bench so who am I to question what he is doing right now.

              • The Truth

                Ernie, your spouting dogma. The kind of dogma that causes 8 guys to be wore out at the end of the year, knees buckling while driving the lane, MCL tears and first round exits. The best teams have 11 guys who know what to do when called upon because they have played significant minutes – four to eight minutes a night in non blowout situations. Why pay people to sit on the bench? That kills moral. The chemistry you speak of doesn’t require starters to play 30 and the top three off the bench to get 20, it only requires a tag team effort and believe in the system.

                This is Pop’s strategy, even Miami gets the best from a weak bench. Notice most championship teams give their 8-10/11 roster spots some type of time throughout the year, and many of these cats step up at big times during the postseason. No, we don’t usually remember their names but I bet the coaches, superstars and true fans of those teams do.

              • Ernie

                You mentioned San Antonio and Miami as your examples. Here are the box scores from their last 2 close games. In each case only one bench player has 4-8 minutes, the rest are 15 and above except for Birdman who had 13.

                Heat 99- Charlotte 98:
                http://espn.go.com/nba/boxscore?id=400489125

                Spurs 102-Hawks 100:
                http://espn.go.com/nba/boxscore?id=400489131

    • tytechortz

      Great post. So true about Shaw and the half court offense. It flows so nicely compared to the last 8 years.

  • Charliemyboy

    Just thinking that the chemistry in an 8 or 9 team team with a hero would primarily apply to offense. I think the defense principals played with consistency can apply with a 10+ rotation and be as effective to win. That is what we have, so we will see.

  • heykyleinsf

    You got balls as big as church bells for owning up Matt.
    Awesome.
    Any thoughts on salvaging project Javale?
    I mean.. look at the results with Mozzy..
    Doesn’t it make you kind of pumped what could be with Javale?

  • Charliemyboy

    What blows me away is the Hollinger power stats, which had us at 23rd after a few losses, to 6th after last night, ahead of Oklahoma? Either there is not enough data yet or he needs to modify change his parameters. That’s very high and can’t possibly represent how good we are.

  • slugdugg

    This offense is drastically different. The Nugs finally run pick and rolls with actual picks, not just slip screens. They also post up players, run actual plays, call timeouts to interrupt opponent streaks, and a million other things that make this offense look completely new. Just because we aren’t having our bigs post up or collect the ball at the elbow every possession doesn’t mean Shaw has ditched his game plan and focused on running. I guarantee this offense will perform in the playoffs, whereas the dribble drive running offense of GK didn’t have a chance.

  • Cullen

    I think characterizing Shaw’s success as “because little has changed from last year” is problematic. I think there have been several changes with Shaw that will make us a more successful team moving forward

    1.) We can play more of a half court offense. Sure, we still run… it was never Shaw’s intention to stop running all together, rather to build a more solid balance. With Karl, we never had a half court game… with Shaw we have seen improvement. Sure, we aren’t a high power half court offense.. but we have definitely seen an improved half court offense. Our guards have played a more slashing game, shot better from downtown, shot a high percentage, and played a better post game. Mosgov, Hickson, Faried, and Arthur have all improved their game and allowed the Nuggets to have a much better half court offense, which will be crucial to getting a better offense. Lawson has also proven to be a much better slow down PG than initially thought. When games get tough, like in the playoffs, we need to be able to slow it down and grind it out a little more… which seems to be our trending direction.

    2.) Defense, much like the offense… it is not significantly better than last years thus far, but has shown potential. Sure, we have ton of poor defensive players, but the defense is improving in the post and playing much harder. There are a lot of holes, like 3 point defense, etc, but there has been reason to believe it will continue to improve.

    3.) Willingness to shake up lineups has had a huge impact. I was one of the people criticizing his multitude of lineups, but in all honesty he has been experimenting and finding the lineups out fairly well. He has also been super willing to sit people who are COLD and play people who are HOT. The last few games have been pretty indicative of this. Hickson is usually a staple big man and Mosgov has been more of a role player, but Mosgov has been hot so he has played substantially more minutes and Hickson has sat. When Hamilton plays well, he plays more… when he doesn’t he sits. This was a BIG problem with Karl, both normally and in the postseason. So, it has been refreshing.

    4.) Players are playing harder. The Mosgov quote from after the last game proved.

    Overall, it is early in the Shaw era, but there is a ton of potential here… really excited.

  • GKDynasty

    So bascially, Shaw lost games with his system and now he’s doing it my way. I was chased out of town with pitchforks and Shaw is a hero. WTF?

    • matymaddog

      Hahaha nice post. Couldn’t be further from the truth. Shaw has taught this team how to run a half-court offense so when running doesn’t work they are not taking terrible shots or playing selfish basketball. GK is a good coach but his message and coaching style grew stale here because of the lack of success of his teams in the playoffs. You can’t go set a franchise record in wins and then completely blow it in the 1st round. Especially with the personnel decisions he made

  • Ban Johnson

    1. Some of Ty Lawson’s bad defensive numbers have to do with the fact that he starts every half with Faried and Hickson as his frontcourt — in my opinion, those 2 shouldn’t be playing much together at all. It’s the single most glaring weakness the Nuggets have right now. I’d move Mozgov to the starting lineup for Faried, and make Faried a super-sixth man. Hickson doesn’t need to play much more than 20 mpg, even starting.

    2. The Nuggets could very well still end up a lottery team. The Lakers, Warriors, Grizzlies, and Timberwolves are all behind in the standings right now. It’s very hard to believe that the Warriors, for one, won’t finish ahead of the Nuggets.

    • matymaddog

      I’m actually a partial fan of JJ and Faried being on the court together if only for limited minutes. I am actually interested in seeing Moz and Arthur get the start with JJ and Faried coming off the bench as high energy guys.

  • abrut

    Well, I appreciate the attempt at the backtrack. . and certainly we have abandon posting up Kenneth and JaVale. . but you guys were still too harsh and too negative. Here’s a few examples. As stated above, our defense is way, way better than last year. Spare me the advanced stats. . .we shut teams down when we need to. This happens regularly. . . when they have a go to, A list, offensive guy. . he has a great game, but the other guys don’t because Shaw doesn’t double much. That’s huge.

    Also, this isn’t the Karl era redux on offense, mainly because of SHOT SELECTION. We’re not gunning stuff up there with no conscience (save for Nate now and then). . we’re running plays, and when Ty gets in the lane, Shaw has taught the guys where to go, like Foye, Chandler, Hamilton, etc. . . They’re wide open now, and ready to shoot. Ty has way, way less blocked shots than last year against him. And, we ARE running post ups for Mozzy and we’re running elbow post ups for DArthur which have proven to be really effective. So, Shaw is slowing it down, . . the reason our efficiency numbers and pace numbers are up is because our shooting percentage is better, and we’re more successful when half court basketball does happen. . mainly because of Mozzy and DArthur.

  • nayvee

    Chandler come back was our turning point ( he is under looked )

  • Daniel McDonald

    Good info in this article and a lot to think about, but I have a few problems with your conclusions. First, is pace the most relevant stat to look at here? Isn’t the issue about style and philosophy? Two teams might both have above-average pace while achieving their speed through different methods. I think it’s hard to look at the way this year’s team plays in the half-court and say that they are just aping George Karl’s style. They move the ball better, they consistently find open shots through passing and off-ball movement in the half court, and they don’t sacrifice defense and positioning in order to be constantly ready for the fast break like last year. I don’t know where to look to find stats like this, but I’d wager that our fast-break numbers are way down from last year, no? Second, I would quibble with the idea that Shaw was promising to develop players this year through an immediate jump in playing time for guys like Evan Fournier. We have a lot of young players, and I would certainly include Faried in that group, who seems to be getting a lot more trust this time around than Karl showed him for much of last year. Same with JHam and, one would assume, McGee once he’s healthy. I’m not sure that a promise to develop young players is a promise to give every young player big minutes. Third, I absolutely do see a shift in the emphasis on our inside game with guys like Mozgov, Darell Arthur, Hickson and Faried all playing big offensive roles at times this year. Am I way off base here? At any rate good on you for addressing criticisms in a thoughtful manner.

  • Marv

    As soon as McGee goes down with injury we really start to look impressive. Coincidence? I think not! I’m hoping for about 15 min/game for McGee in the future.

  • monimo

    Sorry Matt, usually I like your articles, but this one is really bad. It is as if you need an explanation for having totally underestimated the Nuggets at the beginning of the season. Actually, you have! (… as most people did). Yes, the new Nuggets run, but now it’s very different. Karl’s Nuggets were all about run, run, run (hustle, offensive boards, transition game, defensive gambles) and total freedom for offense (and of course for André Miller). And they did it with an 8-man-rotation. Karl’s Nuggets were totally inept in the half court and I will never forget last-years game in Portland without any point outside the paint until the very last minute. The new Nuggets can score in very different ways: as usual run and hustle, but also mid range jumpers and good three-ball-shooting. Arthur, Lawson, Foye, Chandler and even Hickson can make 15-17foot jumpers on a regular basis … we never saw this in Karl’s system. Your main argument is the pace beeing even faster than last year. But the Nuggets score less in transition … and the main reason for the fast pace is the 11-man rotation allowing everybody to play at full speed. Finally, we are seeing some set plays and with Gallo it will be even better! As for defense the new Nuggets have similar numbers dispite loosing their best defender. The new Nuggets don’t gamble anymore: less fastbreak points and better defense. The only argument you could have is the schedule which wasn’t (perhaps) very difficult.
    (P.S. sorry for my english mistakes … I am a Gallo fan from Europe … and now I’m watching each Nuggets game even without my favourite player :)

  • jt

    A couple of things I notice on defense is we aren’t letting teams get to the rim at free will like we did last year, which in turn creates a lower percentage shot. Our pace is faster because teams can’t just slow down, use the whole shot clock and still score on us like last season. Then when we het the ball the pg runs it down court, we run a halfcourt play, use like half the shot clock and score. Getting better looks and wearing down teams

  • James Murray

    Matt, U do raise a few valid points … while we seem to be winning again now, i really doubt if we can still win a playoff series. For me, the problem now is Shaw is simply adjusting to what he has available to him (there is not a single post-up player on the team save Andre Miller). However to be fair to management and Shaw, we are running some better stuff in the half-court compared to the Karl era. i think if Mozgov keeps this up we have to seriously consider him starting over Mcgee. I really have doubts over Javale being effective for long stretches, playing him with Andre has always worked, no reason to change.

  • Garret

    Horrible article. Is this guy even watching Nuggets basketball this year?

  • richard slemaker

    This frustrates the hell out of me. As a fan I was willing to endure some short term pain as the team transitioned to an entirely new offensive scheme that would have enabled them to get more wins in the post-season (presumably a year or two from now, after getting what I assumed would be a lottery pick or two). But it appears Denver brass are more interested in filling seats today instead of building a team that could bring down the house tomorrow. Why’d they even bother to fire Karl? Stupid stupid stupid.

  • Ckwizard

    How could you expect to see gains from Ty Lawson “regardless of the coach” and still predict Lottery? That isn’t misinformation but rather undervaluing Ty. Ty’s assists go up because players make shots, Ty’s points increase because the offense is opening up because of people making shots… Heck if Lawson could make free throws his ppg would be even better!

    Also the subtraction of Brewer made this team a better defensive team, not to mention as much as I was/am a Miller hater his minutes are down again making this a better defensive team…. But I am surprised by my like of the uses and play of Miller as he seems to be “buying” into Shaw’s system… He was obviously discontent last year!

    This team also closes out games aggressively seems to have learned from mistakes early in the year. Very different from years past where same mistakes over and over and over.

    Heck Foye, Hickson, Arthur, Mozgov, and Hamilton all get decent minutes and last year none of them saw real time on this team…Oh and Karl’s favorite in Fournier is having trouble finding time in the rotation? Playing favorites hmmm time will tell if Shaw is like Karl in this regard because hey Fournier seems like a potentially good player.

    Systematically I am pretty sure that Shaw did say he was going to change things slowly and I am almost positive that the owner said his goal is championships? But hey I am probably “misinformed” those jerk journalists and their lies.

  • Marv

    A horrible article. That’s all there is to say.

  • JED89

    When a team plays a lawson, foye, miller, arthur, faried lineup to close out games, its ok to think they’re tanking. i think the knicks having such a bad record has rendered tanking useless though and we can still develop players in the postseason and still get a solid pick.