Shaw needs to bump Foye from the starting lineup

When the Nuggets brought Randy Foye on board last offseason as part of the Andre Iguodala sign-and-trade, the reasoning was clear: They needed shooters, and he was a shooter.

Unfortunately, we now must, at least for the time being, say “he was a shooter” strictly in the past tense, because any remnants of the consistent and reliable 3-point shooter who played with Utah last season have long disappeared.

The extent to which Foye has dropped off in December is as damaging to Denver’s offense as it is inexplicable:

(Stats from

His 3-point shooting percentages are the salient data here. According to, 57.7 percent of his field goal attempts are 3-pointers, and bombing from long range is what the Nuggets acquired him to do.

As you can see, his .372 percentage from the arc through the end of November was almost precisely in line with his .374 career average, and somewhat below his .410 percentage last season.

In December, however, his percentages have run off a cliff and fallen face first on the bottom of the canyon floor Wile E. Coyote style. He has shot a miserable .280 from the arc and even worse .287 from the field. To get some idea of just how bad this is, of the 56 players this season who have averaged over four 3-point attempts per game, only one is below .300 – Josh Smith. Foye’s .336 mark on the season leaves him ranked 46th in that set of players, which is bad enough for a “3-point specialist,” though if we used his December numbers he’d be ranked even lower, and only above the worst 3-point shooter in the league.

This goes a long way in explaining Denver’s slow starts in first quarters and their inability to get their offense going. Foye is there primarily to space the floor with his perimeter shooting, and secondarily to add a bit of a scoring punch. He is doing neither, and the Nuggets’ offense is paying the price.

As such, the time is overdue for Brian Shaw to extract him from the starting lineup. Foye’s poor performance isn’t “just a slump” at this point. It’s a major liability and an obstacle standing in the way of Denver achieving better starts and a more efficiently run offense.

As Vytis recently detailed in depth in his great post on the Andre Miller-Nate Robinson duo (check it out if you haven’t yet read it),that tandem is the Nuggets’ most efficient two-man guard lineup this season. As of this posting, they have an astonishingly high +13.0 net efficiency rating.

The next highest among Denver’s 2-man guard lineups that have played over 150 minutes together this season is Ty Lawson-Andre Miller, with a -1.4 net rating. That’s not very good, but it’s better than the -3.2 of Lawson-Foye (which is certainly much worse in December).

Additionally, while the Lawson-Foye offensive rating of 105.3 considerably trumps the 98.2 rating of Lawson-Miller, the opposite is true defensively. The Lawson-Miller lineup has a respectable 99.6 defensive rating, while the Lawson-Foye duo has a fairly terrible 108.6.

In essence, the starting lineup has been awful defensively, but has thrown enough offensively at their opponents not to lose too much ground. But when, among other things, the bottom falls out on Foye’s shooting, that tips the scales heavily in favor of the opposition.

By contrast, the Lawson-Miller lineup, while it hasn’t packed the same offensive punch, has been more consistent defensively, which is critical if the goal is to prevent opponents from getting out to huge early first quarter leads.

And so I propose – and admittedly there’s a big part of me that can’t believe I’m saying this – that Shaw replace Foye with Miller in the starting lineup, and see how the Lawson-Miller tandem rolls. At least for a few games.

A one-dimensional 3-point shooter who can no longer shoot is effectively useless. He can’t space the floor, he can’t provide additional scoring, and in Foye’s case, he hasn’t been able to do much on the defensive end either. And who knows? Maybe getting brought off the bench might just be the fire under his hiney that he needs to get his shot falling again.

There may be some risk involved in breaking up and reducing those effective Robinson-Miller minutes, and losing some of the impact that lineup has had in boosting Denver’s bench performance. But it’s not as if Shaw can’t return to that at any point in any game when he so chooses.

Some might call for replacing Foye with Evan Fournier. Strictly on the level of player development I might agree with this. But the Nuggets are trying to win games, and the harsh truth (as much as I wish it weren’t so) is that Fournier has been even worse than Foye this season. There are times, such as the last two games, when Foye has dropped such obvious stinkers that sending in Fournier looked like a no-brainer. But as a fixture in the starting five, a coach wants reliability, consistency and leadership, and in the many chances he’s been given this season, Fournier has not yet demonstrated that he can deliver those qualities.

The other candidate would be Robinson, but he has been so effective as the Nuggets sixth man this season that it would seem very counterproductive and foolish to disrupt that dynamic.

Replacing Foye with Miller is worth a try. Things certainly couldn’t be much worse than they have been recently. And it just might work out for the better, not only in terms of the starting lineup playing more effectively, but also with shaking Foye out of his slump. (There might even be the side bonus of showcasing Miller to boost his trade value).

Brian Shaw has repeatedly issued the message this season that his players must earn their minutes and their roles. It’s time for him to recognize that Randy Foye has earned himself a seat on the pine.

You can follow me on Twitter here: @denbutsu


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Joel is a long time Denver Nuggets (and Broncos) fan from Colorado who's been living in Japan since the mid-90s, and blogging about the Nuggets since 2008. You can contact and follow him on Twitter: @denbutsu.
  • John Kobbeman

    So you’re serious when you suggest replacing a 3pt shooter who is in a slump, with a shorter, older, poor defender who has made fewer 3 pt shot in his entire career than Foye made last year? Well almost he has made 182 total to Foye’s 178 last year. I’m not a huge Foye fan, but Dre is not the answer. Teams constantly slump off him clogging the lane, purely because he just isn’t a shooting threat at the perimeter.

    Had you said Fournier (who is also off right now) I might have agreed, because at least he brings youth, D, a credible 3 pt threat, and some much needed aggressiveness. Plus a little trust from the coach in the form of increased PT may just be the thing he needs to get his swagger back, and continue his development.

  • Josh G

    Starting Miller for Foye would not make a lot of sense. All the points you present are okay–but fail to mention the EXTREME liability defensively that would be brought upon with Miller and Ty in the backcourt. While Foye isn’t a great defender, he can at least hold his own. Expecting Ty to play d on starting pgs night in and night out and expecting Dre to man up on starting 2s would be a complete disaster

    • Matthew Owens

      Foye can BARELY hold down his own on defense. He’s a + .1 with a per barely over 9 this season.

      The dude went from being a reputable 3pt shoot to a trash guard.

    • heykyleinsf

      Foye is possibly the worst defensive player on the team. He’s one of the worst defensive 2s in the NBA.
      Foye is even worse on defense than he is on offense.
      He can’t hold his own or anyone else’s.
      Foye sucks a mean one all the way around.

  • David Acker

    I gotta back Joel on this one. Miller is not the long term answer for sure but Foye is stinking the place up at the moment. Shaw has to do something to shake these boys up

  • Matthew Owens

    I completely disagree with the Miller point, while I do agree with all the points trashing Foye. I’ve felt like from the beginning that I’m the only fan who didn’t want Foye in the first place.

    • LBJ

      Actually, there were quite a few of us that saw this guy isn’t any more than a 9-10 – and has no business starting for a contending team.

    • MacKenzie Pantoja

      It’s not as if we had many options

  • heykyleinsf

    start Robinson. I know that makes midgets in the backcourt.. but he’s the best option we have.

  • keith

    The issue with Miller and Lawson is the defense would suffer even more. Lawson is maybe the second worse defender on this team behind Hickson. Lawson very rarely challenges a defenders shot once the player leaves the floor. Putting Miller as the other guard would make the opponents scouting report easy to develop. I would go out of the box and put J Ham as the shooting guard. His minutes at small forward drops once Gallo returns because of the log jam at that position with Chandler. Plus with his size maybe you can post him against small 2 guards. The guy has range and can bang the post a bit. He is a better option than Fournier who appears to regress with higher expectations.

    • Haig

      Agreed with giving JHam the nod at SG. He’s shooting consistently 37% from 3pt land this season which is what Foye shot in November. In December, Foye’s shot 28% from 3. Hamilton’s showed flashes of defensive focus which is what Shaw can measure him against to determine his PT.

    • MacKenzie Pantoja

      Interesting, but I have another proposition. Hamilton is a bad defender at his natural position and it’s tough to accept the idea of giving him a harder defensive responsibility. However, Chandler is athletic enough to guard 2s. What if we go Chandler at the 2 and Hamilton at the 3?

      • Ben Aubrey

        I don’t consider Hamilton a bad defender, he has been inconsistent in the past but this year has been solid (just like any young player) The 2 guard is an easier position to defend considering all the great SFs in the league at the moment.

  • Kyle Wurtz

    i agree that foye has been miserable, and i’m intrigued by the possibility of replacing him with miller. i really like what this would do to the offense. as others have mentioned, this would be probably hurt the defensive a fair amount, though.

    i wonder if a way to offset for this drop in defensive stopping power would be to switch mozgov into the starting lineup and have faried/hickson sit…this wouldn’t fix any of the defensive liability against opposing guards who are strong three point shooters, but it would help compensate for opposing guards who are slashers and scorers…

    p.s. miller’s shooting 53% from downtown this year… 😛

  • Ben Aubrey

    If a change is made it has to be Hamilton starting at the 2. He has been playing very lately. Maybe read the other article on this site about the 5 new years resolutions and it clearly shows why Hamilton should be starting.

  • googergieger

    “and in the many chances he’s been given this season”


  • alex47666

    But the Nuggets are trying to win games, and the harsh truth (as much as I wish it weren’t so) is that Fournier has been even worse than Foye this season.

    In what world do you think the nuggets are trying to win, have you seen some coaching decision by shaw lately

  • alex47666

    Just start fours, I know he has struggled and I know people have said put Jham at the 2. But really Fours could start and that leaves Jham backing up chandler and not having randolph play the 3 again.

  • jonnyb

    It looks like Shaw has answered the call, but not in the manner you suggested.
    Foye is out as starting SG.
    Ill Will (Chandler) will start at the 2, with JHam stating at the 3.