At 16-17 with a seven game winning streak and an eight game losing streak to their names so far this season it is hard to see the 2013-2014 version of the Nuggets as anything more than a confusing inconsistent and mildly talented collection of basketball players.
When things go well and shots fall the Nuggets win, when they don’t and Denver turns the ball over, they lose. Through the first 33 games of the season it has become clear that Ty Lawson is far and away the best and most important player currently healthy on the Denver roster, meaning it seems like the play of Lawson more than anybody determines if the Nuggets will win or lose a game.
But a deeper looking into the win/loss splits of the main nine rotation players for Denver this year (Lawson, Randy Foye, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, JJ Hickson, Nate Robinson, Jordan Hamilton, Darrell Arthur and Timofey Mozgov) show that there are actually a few other players that make more of a difference in win or loss than Lawson. Below is a quick breakdown of some interesting splits for each of those nine players.
As expected Lawson does see a drop in productivity in Denver losses. His field goal percentage drops from 46.3 percent in wins to 40.5 percent in losses with his three point percentage accounting for a bit of that drop when he goes from 36.4 percent in wins to 34.4 percent in losses. Lawson’s assists stay about the same 8.1 in wins to 8.4 per game in defeats, while his minutes vary slightly (about 1 more per game in losses), and his turnovers climb just slightly (from 2.9 in victories to 3.4 in defeats). All-in-all like most players Lawson’s shooting drops in losses but most of his other production stays the same, so his play matters but doesn’t change significantly, something a few of his teammates cannot say.
It isn’t a coincidence that the Nuggets losing streak and general bad play stared with Foye’s shooting slump. In wins Foye shoots 42.9 percent from the field with a nice 38 percent mark from behind the arc on five three point attempts a game. Meanwhile in the 17 losses Foye has shot an abysmal 33.8 percent from the field and a downright horrific 26.9 percent mark on four threes attempted a game. It all makes sense as Denver needs Foye’s shooting to space the floor for Lawson and their limited bigs, if Foye can’t provide that things clog up and Denver struggles to score enough to win.
While Foye matters a ton to how things play out for Denver no player outside of Ty Lawson matters more in determining a win or loss for the Nuggets than Wilson Chandler. In wins Chandler shoots 46.9 percent on nine field goal attempts a game, including a 41 percent mark on 4.4 threes. But in losses, Chandler’s shooting drops terribly, to 38.8 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from three on 6.2 attempts a game. What makes things even more problematic is that Chandler not only shoots worse when Denver fails, but he also shoots more, his field goal attempts jump from 9.1 in wins to 13.7 in losses. As the only non-point guard truly capable of generating his own shots (outside of possibly Evan Fournier who is just working his way into the rotation) Chandler’s shooting problems are magnified when Lawson isn’t shooting well and too often this year they have had those nights at the same time, resulting in the losses.
Faried is an interesting case when looking at the splits. Many people will look at his minutes numbers in wins and losses and immediately jump to the Faried just needs to play 30 minutes a night bandwagon. But a deeper look at his other numbers shows that the minute drops in losses are completely justified. In wins Faried plays 25.9 minutes, shoots 60.8 percent from the field on 8.8 field goal attempts, grabs 9.4 rebounds (3.7 offensive, 5.8 defensive), and shoots 60.4 percent from the line on three free throw attempts per game. In losses though Faried plays just 20.6 minutes, shoots 46.5 percent from the field on 6.7 field goal attempts, grabs just 5.9 rebounds (2.4 offensive, 3.5 defensive) and shoots just 57.6 percent from the free throw line on 2.2 attempts a game. Add in his non-impactful, and often downright harmful, defensive presence and it isn’t hard to see why he plays less in losses, he just hasn’t been a good player in those 17 games.
In one of the least surprising things ever, there isn’t that much of a difference in Hickson’s numbers in wins and losses because he is the master of invisible impact statlines. In wins Hickson shoots 48.9 percent on 8.6 field goal attempts a game and pulls in 7.4 rebounds (2.4 offensive, 5.1 defensive). In losses he shoots 50.3 percent on 9.9 shots, and grabs 9.5 rebounds per game (3.3 offensive, 6.2 defensive) in about three more minutes a game. Just more proof that JJ is the ultimate stat sheet stuffer that actually harms your team the more he does and plays.
The final piece that really truly seems to make a massive impact on whether the Nuggets win or lose is good old Nate Rob. The diminutive dynamo sees a drop in minutes (21.3 vs. 18), field goal attempts, (10.4 vs. 7.2) field goal percentage (44 vs. 38.5), three point attempts (4.2 vs. 2.7), three point percentage (41.8 vs. 32.6), free throws attempted (2.7 vs. 1.5), and assists (3.4 vs. 1.6) in wins and losses. With an offense so reliant on point guards to create offense for themselves and others the numbers all make sense as it helps explain the drop in production when Lawson comes off the floor, leading to significant scoring droughts that burn the Nuggets.
As with Foye, Hamilton’s only important drop comes in his shooting percentages, though the difference isn’t what one would expect. In wins J-Ham shoots just 38.7 percent from the floor and 36.2 percent from three, while in losses he shoots 41.8 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from three. It all probably means nothing and is just a weird outlier but it is strange and noteworthy.
Arthur’s profile is interesting in that he plays much better in wins then he does losses but he plays more minutes in losses, mostly due to Kenneth Faried’s lost minutes. In wins Arthur plays 17.9 minutes, shoots 50 percent from the field on 5.4 field goal attempts, pulls down just 3.1 rebounds and boasts the best plus/minus per game of any Denver big at plus 7.3 (just ahead of Mozgov’s plus 7.1). Meanwhile in losses Arthur plays 19.3 minutes, shoots just 36.6 percent on 6.7 shots a game, and pulls in 3.9 rebounds while having the second best plus/minus of any Denver big at minus 3.5 behind Mozgov’s minus 1.5. When Arthur makes his shots the Nuggets are a much better club as he spaces the floor in ways that Faried and Hickson cannot and brings a defensive attitude and understanding that the other two don’t. But as the loss numbers show, things become very hard on the Denver offense when Arthur misses that mid-range jumper as even when he is making it teams are willing to give it up meaning Denver leaves plenty of points on the floor if Arthur is cold.
The case can be made, and made well, that Mozgov has been the second best player on the Nuggets this season behind Lawson and his splits show it. Like Lawson there are no huge differences in Mozgov’s play in wins and losses, he is essentially the same player night in and night out. Mozgov shoots 56.3 percent during wins on six shots a game while also shooting 78.7 percent on almost four free throws a contest and hauling in 7.1 rebounds. In losses Mozgov shoots a still good 54 percent on 5.9 shots, and pulls in 5 rebounds. The only main difference comes in his free throw shooting, which drops to 63.4 percent on 2.4 attempts a game in losses. His minutes are essentially similar between the two, meaning Brian Shaw knows essentially exactly what the big Russian will give him every night.
While these numbers are all basic and have some flaws (per game is obviously heavily influenced by minutes) they do a pretty good job of telling us a bit about what happens when the Nuggets lose games. While the saying so far this season has been “The Nuggets go how Ty goes” it may be time to edit that a bit as Lawson has been pretty great almost all season.
So far when the Nuggets lose the majority of the fault isn’t actually on Lawson, but on the players who were supposed to be his biggest helpers– Foye, Chandler, Faried and Robinson.
Too many times the four of those players have all gone into the tank on the same night, leaving Lawson to try and fix the mess himself which is hard to ask of any human NBA player (LeBron James and Kevin Durant are obviously either aliens or robots so they are excluded.)
Unfortunately for Denver those four players have always been prone to being inconsistent, a very problematic thing without two of the most steady players on last year’s roster (Danillo Gallinari and Andre Iguodala) suiting up in powder blue and gold this year.
In the end what we have seen is what we may get the rest of the year– a complete and utter roller coaster of good and terrible play. That roller coaster may end up in a playoff berth, but inconsistency like this won’t win a playoff series.
Do you think the four can turn things around consistently or is this bound to happen all season? Let us know in the comments.