Five Denver Nuggets New Year’s resolutions

Like many Americans, the Denver Nuggets have a lot of crap wrong with them. And like many Americans, the Denver Nuggets will make a conscious effort to resolve their nagging issues in the coming week. On Friday the Nuggets will play the New Orleans Hornets (insert owner’s wife’s favorite animal) Pelicans to put them just over one third of the way through the 2013-14 NBA season. After dropping five of their last six games, and coming off three full days of rest, the Nuggets should be more than ready to turn over a new leaf — even if January 1 is still a few days away. And though the Nuggets have a plethora of problems to be addressed, here are five of most imperative heading into Friday’s game…

Opening and closing out quarters

The Nuggets are an awful team when it comes to the first few minutes of a quarter and the last few minutes of a quarter. They’re especially atrocious during the first five minutes of games and the last five minutes of games. Don’t believe me? Check out any one of the Nuggets’ recent game flows at PopcornMachine.net. My old high-school soccer coach always said these were the most important periods of a game for establishing energy and intimidating your opponent. I believed him and still do, no matter what sport is under discussion. Much of the Nuggets’ problems in this area can be attributed to lineups (more on this later), but enthusiasm, passion and defensive intensity are all things that require effort, not innate talent. Brian Shaw and the Nuggets have to make a collective pact to come out each quarter like a bat out of hell and finish what they started going into timeouts and halftime. Perpetually relying on the middle six to eight minutes of each quarter to score points and play defense is not a sustainable mentality for winning basketball games. The game is played for 48 minutes, not 32.

New starters

You know the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? Well, this statement also has a verbal counterpart. You may not have heard it before, but it goes something like, “If it is br0ke, for Christ’s sake, please, fix it, do something to correct the problem, because doing nothing about it sure as hell won’t fix it!!!” It’s kind of a new maxim, and you know how those things take a while to catch on. Anyways, the Nuggets’ starting unit is broken. It has been ever since Brian Shaw started using it. It was packaged broken. It arrived broken. And now it’s being broken. At some point Shaw has to realize that (as Joel detailed a few days ago) Randy Foye isn’t producing, Wilson Chandler needs a swift kick in the rear end, and J.J. Hickson and Kenneth Faried are entirely too similar in both strengths and weaknesses to play heavy minutes side by side.

Replacing Foye with Hamilton would be a start. Hamilton has a better field goal percentage from both inside and outside the arc than Foye, scores more points per shot attempt, hauls in two more rebounds per game, has nearly double the steals per game, turns the ball over far less, fouls nearly three times less, and has a six-point PER advantage over Foye, all despite logging six minutes less per game than Foye. Taking it a step further, replacing either Faried or Hickson with Mozgov or Arthur would be monumental. Neither Faried or Hickson ranks in the top 240 of all NBA players in opponent’s points per possession according to MySynergySports.com. Mozgov and Arthur on the other hand both nearly rank in the top 100 of all NBA players in opponent’s points per possession and even top 40 and top five in other key defensive categories according to MySynergySports.com.

Lineups matter. They’re like a puzzle. Certain pieces fit well together. Having the two most similarly flawed players starting side by side makes no sense. Continuing to play a shooting guard who can’t shoot makes no sense. Shaw needs to find some balance between offense and defense, inside and out, energy and skill in order to make his lineups and overall team production pop. The current rotations are not popping.

Defensive improvement

Statistically the Nuggets aren’t a bad defensive team. They’re middle of the road in most categories. And considering the roster’s lack of defensive bastions, you can’t knock Shaw too much for where the Nuggets rank amongst all other teams in the NBA. But statistics don’t always tell the fully story. When watching the Nuggets there are still all sorts of basic defensive fundamentals that aren’t being emphasized. The Nuggets are still blowing rotations left and right. Guys are still failing to box out on a consistent basis. Certain players who shall not be named because it’s Christmas time and I try to be a nice guy around this time (hence: try) aren’t even attempting to close out on their man, or they barely try but end up running at their opponents like zombies with no arms. Again, the Nuggets aren’t a bad defensive team. But they’re not a good defensive team either. When trying to make the playoffs out West, mediocre won’t do. If the Nuggets are really gonna steer their season in the right direction it has to start with defense — as is almost always the case in sports.

Lineup consistency

OK. So let’s say Shaw does in fact alter the starting lineup. Great. Everything’s hunky dory from then on out. It’s all downhill… Right? Not exactly. In fact, I’d argue the effectiveness of a change in the starting lineup almost entirely hinges on how Shaw manages his other lineups as well, meaning some sort of continuity must be established across the board, not just with the starting lineup. This year Shaw has used 19 different lineup combinations that have averaged at least five minutes per game together when they’ve been assembled, according to NBA.com. Compare this to other teams across the NBA, primarily those that win lots of basketball games, and Shaw ends up looking like an indecisive Victor Frankenstein who dug up every Denver-metro area cemetery and still can’t decide which body parts he’s gonna use on his prized holistic monster creation. Take the Nuggets’ Northwest division rivals, the Portland Trailblazers and Oklahoma City Thunder, for example. These are two of the best teams in the NBA. Not surprisingly, they have lots of continuity in their lineups. The Blazers have used only six lineups that average five or more minutes together when implemented (remember, the Nuggets have used 19!) and the Thunder have used only seven.

It’s understandable that Brian Shaw is having a tough time paring down his lineups, but he shouldn’t be having this much trouble. He needs to find a five-man rotation to start the game, a five-man rotation to end the game, and several rotations in between that consist of bench players, starters and a combination of the two that will keep the Nuggets more than just afloat throughout the midsections of each half. Then he just needs to step back and watch as his creation comes alive!!!

Make a trade

If there’s one thing I’ve come to realize after watching the Nuggets play nearly a third of the 2013-14 season, it’s that there’s a very incongruent concoction of players on the roster. Many are players that were drafted or acquired by Masai Ujiri to play in George Karl’s run-and-gun system. Others were last-second free agents brought in by Tim Connelly this summer with the leftover money that was allotted for Andre Iguodala. Then there are a few who actually like to play defense. The Nuggets essentially went to the soda fountain, attempted a suicide while (foolishly) hoping they’d hit just the right combination of flavors to create something at least remotely appetizing, and are now feeling the side effects of attempting to drink the eclectic but vile potion they themselves created. If the Nuggets want to start winning consistently they must start over. They must dump their Baja Blast-Diet Pepsi-Dr. Pepper beverage and fill it up with just Lemonade, or Mountain Dew or water — whatever — as long as it’s one thing. They must commit to Brian Shaw and rid him of players he doesn’t want, that don’t jive well in his system. But above all, they must dump more good players than they acquire. The Nuggets need to trade for one starter. The current roster is teeming with solid role players. What the Nuggets need is pure, fizzing talent. They need one really good guy. Trade three, even four solid role players, and bring back a stud along with a few other worthless corpses. That’s the trade the Nuggets need to make.

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Kalen Deremo

Kalen was born in Durango, CO, in 1988 and graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2013 with a degree in journalism. He's now an itinerant hoping to travel as much as possible before eventually succumbing to the "real world." Aside from writing Kalen likes movies, music, spicy food and the great outdoors. Edward Abbey is his current idol.

Latest posts by Kalen Deremo (see all)

  • Dinosaur Dave

    I think the team’s depth is important in a small market like Denver. Some of the players we have just don’t really fit into the system and I think that’s more where the problem lies. You only have to look back to when Melo was traded, through to last season and you can see evidence of good, winning team basketball.

    To begin with, I think the team needs to re-evaluate each player and where they fit long term. As others have said before, you look at guys like Foye and Hickson and it’s hard to see them as core pieces of a championship team. So the question I think is important: are we trying to win a ring now or build for the future? If the answer is still now, like we were told before the season began, the front office has some major things to address before the team makes any noise. But for me it’s more a matter of bringing in players who fit the system rather than just going for big name guys.

    The main problem this season (and opposing teams have been feasting) is the frontcourt. Mozgov and Arthur have been solid. Hickson and Faried have been

    • alex47666

      Right now Hickson is one of the fewest players that should be traded on the nuggets

  • joefresco

    The one really good guy is what every team wants because there aren’t enough to go around. On a straight talent level, there are only 20-30 guys that the Nuggets could trade for that would have a chance of making a real impact, and only about 10 that would take the Nuggets to a contender level by themselves.

    I think Melo is overrated, but he’s on the list, and he might actually become available.

    • dnuggetspl

      Are you serious?

    • alex47666

      WTF Melo, we already tried that

  • alex47666

    I hate to say this, but i doubt a trade is among us. I honeslty dont see a trade happening till mcgee and gallo are healthy so we know what we can trade and the players we should keep

  • Learn Grammar!

    There is no “s” at the end of “anyways” Seriously, can’t the media folk these days do anything other than make mistakes?

    • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com/ Kalen

      There is no “s” at the end of anyway? Says who? A famous author in a famous writing improvement book? I know that drove William Zinsser nuts. Maybe he adopted the dislike for the additional consonant from E.B. White, who stole the bugaboo from his mentor, William Strunk. Then maybe some tweed-wearing teacher decided that because Zinsser and Strunk and White all loathed the word, that it absolutely MUST be correct. And then they told you in some advanced creative writing class you paid hundreds of dollars for and now you think that because you know something a lot of other people don’t that you can go around criticizing random people about their grammar, when really it never was about grammar for you in the first place, but the ability to be disdainful towards somebody else.

      Abiding by arbitrary grammar “rules” simply because somebody told you to do so is close minded and haughty. “Anyways” is in the dictionary, it is used by people who speak English, therefore it is a word. If my addition of the letter “s” to one word in my article ruins the other 1,500 words I wrote, then I sincerely feel sorry for you. Reading other people’s writing must be a very gruesome task for you. That’s unfortunate.

      I’m sorry if this comes off harsh, but for some reason I always seem to get criticism about my grammar from anonymous commenters (another faux word!) who have nothing significant to say about the topic at hand or my article as a whole and only dish out surface-level denunciation. I’m not sure if it’s always the same person who uses different login names, but it’s a very odd coincidence and I’m sort of fed up with it.

      And for the record, I’m not a “media folk.” I’m a blogger. I’m a dude with a computer who likes to write about sports. That’s it.

      • Learn Grammar!

        Wow… wake up on the wrong side of right a lot in life buddy?

        Breath, exhale, breath again! Repeat 5 times, then continue to read.

        But here it is, in a nut shell – anyway – is nothing more than saying “in any manner.” If you feel you can get away with saying “in any manner(s)” and the flow of your sentence will work, use it! Let us try for the sake of argument:

        “Anyways, the Nuggets’ starting unit is broken.” Or, “In any manners, the Nuggets’ starting unit is broken.” Just doesn’t sound right, does it?

        Now, lets try it again, but without the “s” this time. In any manner, the Nuggets’ starting unit is broken.” Seems to sound a lot better, wouldn’t you think?

        To say I’m an anonymous commenter is like saying Obama is a good president! Not a bit of truth in either statements!

        Breath, exhale, breath again! Do you feel that? It’s call relaxing.

        I’m sorry someone cracks you for your grammar. Instead of getting so angry, and calling a complete stranger, that you have never met, “closed minded and haughty” – maybe you should think about why anonymous people (or maybe just one guy repeatedly doing it, if that makes you sleep better at night) point out your errors!

        I don’t believe every kid playing little league should get a first-place trophy and I don’t believe lowering my standards should be rewarded! I love your blog – even with its grammar errors! So take a chill pill and get back to writing about the Nuggets. :)

        Go Broncos!!!!

        • LBJ

          Just what we need – a tea bagging moron on the nuggets blog.

        • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com/ Kalen

          Well, thanks for your clarification. Though I don’t exactly follow your logic with the “In any manner(s)” example and though your grammar in response to my rant wasn’t exactly error free (see: let’s vs lets), I understand your point. And next time, feel free to chime in on other stuff besides grammar. If you critiqued every article on this site for grammar you’d have a full-time job.

      • Stephen

        This rant reminds me of your post draft coverage the night we drafted Faried. That post is the reason I still read this blog.

        Only thing that could have added to the dressing down would have been a “How do you like ‘dem apples?”

        Thanks for all the work you do on this site.

    • Sharkboy242

      No one is paying him to write this. Shut up or actually say something constructive.

      Using the term ‘media folk’ to describe the author comes off as incredibly ignorant. Nice job trying to sound smart and failing.

  • jonnyb

    totally agree.
    Starters should be (half court; inside out game):
    1- Ty
    2- JHam
    3- Ill Will (gallo when healthy)
    4- Aurthur
    5- Hickson
    Backups should be (run -n gun; lob city)
    1- Miller
    2- Nate the Great
    3- Frenchy (Ill Will when gallo is healthy)
    4- Faried
    5- Mozgov
    Until we get McGee back, at which time you start McGee (5) and Hickson (4) and Authur goes to back up anyone 3-5 when hurt.

  • Charliemyboy

    What a great Christmas. Let’s see how the NBA is doing. I’m going to have to let go of my Nugs, the way Josh let the team go. Maybe in the future… this one looks bleak. I’m afraid we need the old coach.

  • MacKenzie Pantoja

    I vote for Faried Mozgov. Believe it or not, Mozgov and Faried on the floor together has a better defensive rating than Arthur Mozgov, in large part because the Mozgov Faried duo wreaks havoc on the glass. Don’t get me wrong, I believe Mozgov is the only player on the team whose defensive rating improves when he is next to Faried instead of Arthur, but, during the roughly 213 possessions those two have shared the floor, the Nuggets have gotten a ridiculous 57.7% of all rebounds. To put that into perspective, no team has gotten 54% of total rebounds this millennium.

  • Evan Fiala

    andrew bynum anyone? hahaha jk

  • LlarryLLama

    George Karl, please come back..Please!!