What can we expect from Jordan Hamilton in the 2012-13 season?

Although he already spent his rookie season with the Nuggets, Jordan Hamilton may be Denver’s most important new addition next season. New, at least, in the sense of being a regular rotation player who wasn’t in the mix in any meaningful way last season. Front office exec Masai Ujiri has already described Hamilton as “our rookie for next year” and it may be the case that the Nuggets organization views him as the replacement for Rudy Fernandez, or at least the player Rudy might have been for Denver had he not suffered a season ending injury.

In the 31 games Fernandez did play in, he averaged 23 minutes, and was primarily utilized (with varying degrees of effectiveness) as an offensive spark and energy player off the bench. With the anticipated healthy return of Wilson Chandler and Al Harrington to the rotation, and the re-signing of Andre Miller, who sometimes plays shooting guard alongside Ty Lawson, it’s difficult to imagine that Hamilton will get as many minutes as Rudy, or even crack twenty.

Even so, it does appear that the Nuggets intend to play him, which in turn raises the question of what kind of player we might expect J-Ham to be. (more…)

Film Room: Scoring in the Paint Versus the Lakers

The Denver Nuggets live on points in the paint.  In game 1 of their playoff series with the Los Angeles Lakers, they had no problem getting into the paint, what they had a problem with was scoring once they got there.  The story of the game was the triple double by Andrew Bynum who completely controlled the lane defensively for the Lakers.

All hope is not lost; the Nuggets need to simply do a better job of taking advantage of the times they get in the lane.  Denver finished with 44 points in the paint, a respectable total, but when you consider how many more points they could have had if they did not offer up so many meek attempts that were thrown back, there is hope Denver can get their offense back on track.  In the Film Room session below, we take a look at what Denver must do to improve their offense in the paint.


Film Room: Mozgov vs Bynum

The most difficult matchup for the Denver Nuggets in their playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers is Andrew Bynum.  Bynum is the dominant offensive center in the NBA and the Nuggets must make sure that he does not score at will.  Unlike in the past when the Nuggets bigs consisted of Nene, Birdman and Kenyon Martin, Denver has plenty of size to attempt to matchup with Bynum and Pau Gasol.

Out of Denver’s four centers, the one who does the best defending Bynum is Timofey Mozgov.  In the Film Room segment below I have strung together six clips from the April 13 game where Mozgov is defending Bynum.


Nuggets vs Lakers – Lakers Defensive Philosophy

The Los Angeles Lakers are a very good defensive team.  A big part of that is they do a good job of forcing their opponent to go to their second and third option on offense thus encouraging their opponent attempt low percentage shots.  Against the Nuggets L.A. will attempt to pack the paint and close off the driving lanes to the basket.  As a result the Nuggets will be able to get open looks from the perimeter, but they are low percentage shots.  In the following Roundball Mining Company Denver Nuggets Film Room segment you can see the Lakers’ philosophy of remove the first option and close off the lane in action.


Film Room – Offense: Movement vs No Movement

The Roundball Mining Company Film Room is back!  Today we are going to compare the Nuggets offensive execution against Oklahoma City in the second quarter to their offensive execution at the end of the fourth quarter.  Maybe there is a reason why they struggle at the end of close games.

The film does not lie.  Free flowing offense getting shots in the lane versus standing around and awaiting the inevitable horrible shot.  I have no idea why they get away from what works in an attempt to do things the way everyone else does.  The devotion to iso heavy stagnant sets with one player who is not suited for the role tries to play hero is baffling.  Surely over his long and illustrious coaching career George Karl has picked up a few nice plays to run in that situation.

What is interesting is the group that was moving so well was comprised of players who most fans would expect to struggle to score.  It looks to me like they could teach the starters a thing or two.

Nuggets Defensive Shortcomings Continue to Haunt Them

I have written about how the Denver Nuggets have a low defensive IQ.  There have too many breakdowns in communication and positioning that should not be happening at this point in the season.  In their hard fought 124-118 overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder there was a perfect example of that.  On a key play in the game where Denver needed a stop, they had two players fail to think and communicate.  The result undermined very solid defense by their teammates.


Al Harrington Defensive Scouting Report

The big offseason acquisition for the Denver Nuggets was Al Harrington.  With Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen out of the lineup for a month or two to start the season Harrington is expected to play big minutes for Denver.  Despite the fact that fellow newcomer Shelden Williams has been tabbed as the opening night starter alongside Nene, I expect Harrington to play some big minutes.

In anticipation of that we have dedicated two editions of the Roundball Mining Company Film Room to Al’s abilities.  We analyzed Harrington’s offensive game a couple of months ago.  Now we present to you the highly anticipated film room session on Harrington’s ability as a defender.

Early in his career with the Indiana Pacers Harrington actually played the role of defensive stopper as he fought to find a role on a stacked squad.  Now entering his 13th season Harrington has established himself as a prolific scorer, but what impact as age and role played on his defense?


Denver Nuggets Film Room – Al Harrington Offensive Scouting Report

Al Harrington has been a Denver Nugget for over three weeks and I have yet to show him the respect of a proper Film Room segment. Today that unfortunate streak comes to an end.

In this segment I take a look at what Al Harrington can do, and not do, offensively. We had a lot of material to work with thanks to his 43 point outburst against Denver last season. Watch the video and then we will dig a little deeper into what Harrington has to show us.

Video after the jump.


Denver Nuggets Film Room – Defensive Breakdowns Versus the Utah Jazz

The Utah Jazz are a very sound offensive team and they devour teams that make even the tiniest mental or physical errors on defense. Right now the Denver Nuggets are making some big mistakes and some small mistakes and Utah is gorging themselves on each and every one.

Fortunately, Denver does not have to play perfect defensively to defeat the Jazz, but the clearly must play better. Below you will see clips of individual mistakes that can be easily remedied through communication or increased focus and attention to detail.

Film Room – Nuggets Switching Screens to Perfection Versus Suns

The Denver Nuggets played tremendous half court defense against the Phoenix Suns in their 105-99 victory at the Pepsi Center. Below is what was originally supposed to be a few clips that turned into a mass quantity of clips documenting the Nuggets’ successful implementation of their switching scheme.

A couple of things I forgot to mention in the video was that switching defenses are usually employed to prevent a team from getting open perimeter shots. Give the coaching staff and players credit for having the guts to implement the switching scheme and stick with it. Secondly, I forgot to mention that Nene and Kenyon did a very good job of not reaching.  It is easier to reach than move your feet and they both expended the additional energy to play defense with their legs and not their arms.

The one comment I will make is I was disappointed that George Karl fell off the wagon and chose to play Anthony Carter over Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo. The Nuggets won and Carter obviously did not make any crippling plays, but I thought Lawson was doing a good job of defending Nash and Afflalo was playing exceptionally well defensively. I would have greatly preferred to see Afflalo in the game down the stretch, but as the Nuggets did pull out the victory it does not make for a very convincing case.

Even so, as was pointed out during the Altitude broadcast, give Carter credit for answering the bell and playing solid basketball.

I also thought the Suns desire to push the pace probably contributed to their downfall. Coming off a tough home game the night before against the Magic, their breakneck pace probably contributed to the outcome in the Nuggets’ favor. The Suns ran Denver out of the gym in the second quarter, but in the second half the Nuggets were much quicker to loose balls and seemed to have a little more spunk to their movements. Plus we have seen the Nuggets settle for jumpers when they become fatigued and I think the Suns played into the Nuggets hands a little bit as they settled for jumpers for much of the second half.

Congratulations to Denver on a good win, but as I pointed out after the loss to the Pistons, the Nuggets do not prove their worth winning home games, but winning road games. Still, a loss to the Suns in that situation would have been devastating and Denver deserves credit for pulling out a hard fought win.

Featured Blogs: Valley of the Suns | Bright Side of the Sun

I thought it was interesting Michael at Valley of the Suns mentioned the game last January where Grant Hill lost his balance at the end of a game in Denver. I expected the no call against Nene at the end against Nash would bring back old memories of that finish for Suns fans and I guess it did.

Video Scouting Report Malik Allen

In the aftermath of the Denver Nuggets acquisition of Malik Allen there was widespread disinterest. I decided to take advantage of that disinterest and throw together some actual footage of Allen playing NBA basketball. We are fortunate that Allen played the eighteenth most minutes of the season (for him at least) when Milwaukee came to the Pepsi Center so we have plenty of material to choose from. I have pieced together some of the most relevant clips I could find. If you find them boring, do not blame me, blame Allen.

It is pretty clear that Allen is not exceptionally fleet of foot. Sadly it is a matter of the spirit being willing and the flesh being weak. He certainly knows how to play and you can tell that he cares and tries to do his job. His physical limitations prevent him from getting to spots or rebounding out of his area. He is a sound player and certainly belongs on an NBA roster. However, at this stage of his career I would much rather see the Nuggets bring back Johan Petro over Allen for a cheap emergency big. At worst he is an expiring contract that could be paired with Steven Hunter and perhaps Renaldo Balkman whose rights could be renounced following the season making his contract a de facto expiring deal.

Looking at Allen’s advanced stats, he is an inefficient scorer due to his perimeter based game and his rebound rate is not what you would expect from a power forward/center. After his rookie season when he only played 161 minutes and he posted a somewhat respectable rebound rate of 13.8, he has never produced a rebound rate over 11.5 and he has not cracked 10.7 over the previous three seasons. As a point of reference Carmelo Anthony had rebound rates of 11.0 in 2007-08 and 11.5 in 2008-09.

To wrap things up according to John Hollinger’s player comparison model Allen is most like Peja Drobnjak (no longer appearing in this league).

Video Scouting Report – Walter Sharpe

There were two questions most Denver Nuggets fans probably asked themselves when they heard about the Arron Afflalo trade. What did we give up and who is Walter Sharpe?

So who is Walter Sharpe? He is a 6’9” forward who will be entering his second year out of UAB (Alabama – Birmingham) who was drafted with the thirty-second pick of the 2008 NBA Draft. He did not have an easy route to the NBA, partly through self inflicted injuries (academic issues, being late for things like practices and team flights) and others inflicted by external sources (being shot in the abdomen back in April 2006).

Those issues appear to be behind Sharpe now. I do not recall hearing about any issues during his season in Detroit and after a half hearted scouring of the internet I did not find any record of problems at UAB. Because of that we can focus on what he can do on the court instead of his actions off of it.

I happen to have some vintage footage of a 2008 NBA Summer League game from Las Vegas that featured none other than Walter Sharpe suiting up for the Detroit Pistons. Yes, I actually have several 2008 summer league games on DVD (I say CD on the video below, but do not hold it against me). Let me know if you are hard up for hoops and want a copy of one.

As I point out repeatedly Sharpe played power forward in college, but Detroit was working on transforming him into a small forward. Based on watching him I think it was the correct decision. Even less than a month after he was drafted, he showed the ability to play perimeter defense. His ball handling and passing was also very solid for a guy trying to fit into a new position. Wait until you see him shoot a jumper before you get too excited.

Sharpe will clearly not be contributing to the Nuggets in 2009-10 and honestly, he may never be an NBA rotation player. However, he has shown that he can play one on one perimeter defense. If he can learn to handle pick and roll defense better and iron out his shot, he does have a chance to become a rotation player. Obviously this footage is a year old so it is likely he has made strides in both departments. At this point the Nuggets have not added Sharpe to their summer league roster so we will not get a chance to observe him until training camp in October.

Film Room: Denver Nuggets Offense – Fourth Quarter Western Conference Finals Game 5

I am not sure if you can stomach this or not, but I put together some clips of the Denver Nuggets’ fourth quarter “offense” from game five. In my game recap I wrote about how their offense became very one-on-one oriented. There was practically no ball movement or attempt to force the defense to react to anything other than a quick pick and roll or a drive.

As you watch these clips take note of two things, how few passes were made and how aggressive Carmelo Anthony was.

As ugly as that was I really liked the way Melo went at the basket and tried to carry the team to victory, but he needs to be more patient and more willing to set up his teammates. Let the ball move from one side of the floor to the other to uproot the defense. As I mention in the video most of the time when Carmelo drove, no one was cutting and providing him with an option to pass, but there is one example of a drive where Melo takes a difficult shot even though Nene is available at the rim, but Carmelo takes the shot anyway.

I think this game represents another step in Carmelo’s playoff development. He wants to be a great player and has learned enough to drive and play tenacious, but he has not yet learned that even great players have to rely on their teammates.

LeBron James had that amazing finish against the Detroit Pistons in 2007 where he scored the final 25 points for the Cavs and we thought that was just the beginning of the amazing things he would do at the end of big games. I think there is a reason he has not done something like that since. He still has the ball in his hands during crunch time, but if a teammate is in a better position to score than he is, he makes the pass.

Of course I am disappointed in the results of game five, but I have a hard time being upset at Melo for how he played. He did what we have been asking him to do for years and that is to ignore the jumper and drive. It was another small step in his transformation from a playoff bust to a MVP caliber force who is capable of getting his team to the NBA Finals. At the age of 24 I think he is finally on that track.

Film Room – Bynum Making Pau Better and Carmelo vs the Laker Defense

Two of the most important keys to this series are how much Andrew Bynum can play and how well Carmelo Anthony handles the Lakers’ defensive scheme that has given him fits in the past.

When I talk about Bynum being a key to this series I am not saying he is going to average 18 points and 11 rebounds.  What I mean is his presence makes Pau Gasol a much better player.  With Bynum in the game Gasol obviously plays power forward and that means Kenyon Martin has to cover him.  Without Bynum on the floor Pau will play center and thus Denver can use Nene or Chris Andersen, who at both much closer to his length and weight than Kenyon is, to check him. 

I have put together some video clips to show both how difficult Bynum and Gasol can make things on Denver and how much better the Nuggets matchup with Gasol with Bynum on the bench.  It does not matter if it is due to ineffectiveness or foul trouble, Denver needs Bynum off the court. 

Moving on to Carmelo, everyone knows by now what a difficult time he has had scoring against the Lakers.  Despite the fact he has been guarded by players like Luke Walton and Vladimir Radmanovic he has been taken out of his game.  The reason is the Lakers’ scheme. 

Carmelo has almost exclusively received the ball on the left or right wing.  Whoever is defending Melo will crowd him and wall off the middle and force him to drive to the baseline.  As soon as Carmelo catches the ball they pre-rotate help over to the ball side block.  This defense takes away Melo’s jumper because the on the ball defender is not worried about the drive.  He knows he already has help.  The help defender does not worry about Carmelo’s ability to shoot, he is only concerned about keeping Melo from getting to the rim. 

In the past Carmelo has either forced a contested jumper, dribbled away from the pressure or driven into the teeth of the defense.  Looking at the clips from game 80 we can see he might have figured out how to combat this scheme. 

During this game Carmelo began getting the ball closer to the middle of the floor making the pre-rotated helper less of a factor.  That allowed him to get to the rim and finish.  Also, he used his passing ability to earn his teammates better shots.  The way Carmelo has played so far this postseason leads me to believe he will continue to use his ability to pass as frequently as his ability to score.  When he does so he is a much more dangerous player and the Nuggets are a much better team.

I also recommend looking back at my Film Room segment on how the Nuggets defended the Lakers in their game 59 victory.  

Nuggets/Hornets Game 2 Adjustments

We all know that once the first punch is thrown the battle of wits begins.  Playoff series are made up of a series of adjustments and counterpunches to address you own weaknesses and to exploit the short comings of your opponent.  The question is what adjustments will the Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Hornets make heading into game two?  The Hornets’ ability to run the pick and roll and the need for the Nuggets to stop it was the number one issue heading into this series and much of my attention has been directed at that matchup. 

Before we get to that there are a couple of adjustments I would like to see made by the Nuggets.  Chauncey Billups was incredible in game one and it is certainly possible that either Carmelo or J.R. Smith go off for 36, or more, most likely the Nuggets will have to be more diverse on offense. 

Specifically Melo will have to do a better job of scoring.  The Hornets were clearly focused on two goals.  One was keeping Melo out of the paint and two was keeping J.R. out of the paint.  Byron Scott was criticized for saying that he thought the Hornets did a good job on defense, but I agree with him.  New Orleans successfully implemented those two goals and Chauncey made them pay.  The Nuggets are too talented to take away every offensive option.  If someone other than Carmelo or J.R. has a huge scoring night at least four times in this series then New Orleans will accept it and go on their summer vacation.

I think the Nuggets need to get Melo the ball at the top of the circle more as that gives him more options to drive as he has the whole floor to work with.  Whenever he tried driving from the wing he was quickly pinched.  I also like seeing him with the ball in the post as the Hornets consistently brought an immediate double team.  That opens the floor up for his teammates and is an advantage the Nuggets should exploit.

I would also like to see them use fewer screens to spring J.R.  The Hornets did a good job of trapping him off the screen.  J.R. is a good ball handler, but he is not a point guard and he struggled with the traps.  If Denver were to run more of an iso set for him without a screen he would have a better chance of getting open looks.

Denver would also benefit from getting the ball to Nene more in the post as he has a quickness or strength advantage on anyone who will be guarding him.

Defensively the Nuggets did a great job.  They played more of a contain style defense against Chris Paul on the pick and roll than an aggressive trapping style.  It seemed like they tried to trap along the sideline, but contain in the middle of the floor.  The Nuggets’ biggest issue was when Chris Paul would penetrate their shield around the lane because at that point no one was really responsible for him and he could simply circle around and get an open look in the paint.  The guards need to do a better job of sticking with the play and recovering to cover Paul. 

Denver displayed adequate rotations, but there is plenty of room for improvement there as well as on a couple of occasions they had two players rotating to the same shooter.  I am also worried about the Hornets’ or more specifically Paul’s ability to get to the rim in transition and I think the Hornets should try to take advantage of the Nuggets’ poor transition defense, but more on that in a second.

I have put together a video detailing the Nuggets’ pick and roll schemes along with some examples of what they need to do better.

The Hornets also must make some changes and it is always easier for the losing team to locate and address their errors.  As I said before, I really think the Hornets defense was acceptable and nearly all of my adjustments I would make if I were Byron Scott are offensive and most of those revolve around the pick and roll.

Basically everything revolves around Chris Paul and how he needs to be more aggressive.  I really think the Hornets are missing a big opportunity to gouge the Nuggets in transition.  Paul can thread his way through retreating defenders better than anyone.  By playing slowly and allowing the Nuggets to set up their defense it lets the Nuggets off the hook.  Paul also has to be more aggressive in attacking the Nuggets big men, especially on switches.  I think the Hornets also need to get David West in space as far away from Kenyon Martin and that means fewer post up plays and more pick and roll with Tyson Chandler. 

As with the Nuggets here is some video documentation explaining these adjustments and more with video evidence.

Oh by the way, I would also make sure Devin Brown gets approximately zero minutes.  When he is on the floor whichever Nugget he is guarding cannot wait to blow past him. 

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