Five things we learned about the 2012-2013 Denver Nuggets offense

As the 2012-2013 NBA calendar winds down we take a look at the season that was for the Denver Nuggets, starting with an overview of the offense. 

The Nuggets finished with the fifth-best offense of the 2012-2013 season in terms of offensive efficiency. It was a record setting year with Denver securing a franchise-best 57 wins and the most points in the paint scored in a season in NBA history. Denver has now had a top five offense for five years in a row, but their fall to fifth represents a decline from last year’s third-ranked team and the league-leading Nuggets offense of two seasons ago.

If we dig a bit deeper we see the effects of horrendous shooting from the perimeter and the free-throw line reflected in the Nuggets True Shooting percentage, which fell all the way to 54.9% this season. While that is a solid figure good for 7th in the NBA, it’s also the Nuggets worst mark since the 2006-2007 season and rather pedestrian compared to what they did with similar talent in years past.

The Nuggets were still the Nuggets this season, but the offense clearly took a step back despite everyone’s best efforts to reorganize as a sturdier defensive unit under Iguodala (and the defense did improve). Denver scored enough points to win most games but it was on the offensive end where the Nuggets saw most of their flaws exposed, both with the roster and the style of play.

It’s pretty remarkable that a team with no shooters and inexperienced, unskilled big men still managed a top five offense and 57 wins. Looking at the numbers it’s clear the Nuggets had a plan to maximize what they do best and executing that consistently covered up many individual flaws. I took a look at what else can be gleamed from the Nuggets offensive numbers this past season and here are five revelations, if you will, as we wait to see how the Nuggets try to improve in the draft, free agency and beyond.
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Thanks for reading

As I sat trying to formulate a clever way to say the words “thank you” I had quite the epiphany: Saying “thank you” isn’t something that should be hard. The average person probably says “thank you” more than five times per day. It’s not something you think about. You just say it.

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Opinion: Firing Karl not the answer

The greatest regular season in Denver Nuggets history deserved a better ending.

No one expected a return to the postseason irrelevance of Karl’s previous Nuggets teams, who frequently battled near impossible odds against heavily favored contenders on the road. This team was different. They were the favorites, having built a 57-win three-seed around a young core just one year removed from taking the Lakers to 7 games.

So what happened?

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Game 6 Preview: Why Harrison Barnes is Hurting the Nuggets

As George Karl was forced to make adjustments to counteract Stephen Curry and the Warriors new small ball lineup in the series, two main thoughts started to pop up. First let Curry get his points and limit his teammates and second play a big lineup, like Denver has done all season long with two traditional bigs instead of Wilson Chandler at the power forward spot.

Unfortunately for the Nuggets, despite a victory in Game 5, doing those things may not be possible together. One of the important parts of the Nuggets playing with two bigs is Kenneth Faried playing Harrison Barnes on the defensive end. But Faried has struggled a bit in that role as his unfamiliarity of defensive rotations has allowed Barnes to get a lot of open shot attempts, some he has knocked down and some he hasn’t. The following are four examples of the problems Faried has had, three makes and a miss, from Game 5 when Barnes had 23 points.

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Playoff positioning thread

As we speak the Nuggets are currently in third place in the Western Conference standings. But both the Clippers and Grizzlies are right on their heels. As Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post recently pointed out on Twitter, if the Nuggets win against the Suns tonight then the three seed is all theirs. There are all sorts of different playoff match-up possibilities still up in the air at this point, so please feel free to use this post as a thread to discuss these scenarios. And as always, thanks for continuing to support Roundball Mining Company.

JaVale McGee is a good dude

JaVale McGee has had an up and down season. He often has up and down games. Almost every time he steps on the floor McGee does amazing things followed by lackluster mental lapses. Sometimes players like McGee — who’s play on the floor fluctuates so wildly and frustrates his coaches — make bad decisions off the floor as well. But McGee is not that type of guy. (more…)

Staking A Claim: The Big Man Rotation

Staking a Claim is a new column that will be taking a look at all things Nuggets through the eyes of an outsider. As those who follow me on Twitter know I am a Bucks fan, so it will give Nuggets fans an opportunity to see things through the eyes of someone who follows the team closely but isn’t necessarily a fan. Please leave any subjects that you would like to see addressed in the future in the comments below or send them to me on Twitter @Matt_Cianfrone.

As the Nuggets have caught fire recently on their way to winning 13 straight games things have finally come together in the frontcourt, as all five of the main minutes getters at the center and power forward spots have taken turns playing well.

This week I wanted to take a look at that front court rotation and talk about a couple things I like and don’t like in that rotation.

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Staking A Claim: George Karl

Staking a Claim is a new column that will be taking a look at all things Nuggets through the eyes of an outsider. As those who follow me on Twitter know I am a Bucks fan, so it will give Nuggets fans an opportunity to see things through the eyes of someone who follows the team closely but isn’t necessarily a fan. Please leave any subjects that you would like to see addressed in the future in the comments below or send them to me on Twitter @Matt_Cianfrone.

In the Nuggets fan community there are a few questions that have groups of fans divided on the answer.

Who deserves more minutes, JaVale Mcgee or Kosta Koufos? Is Andre Miller worth it? And who has the highest ceiling Gallo or Ty seem to be some of the most common.

But no debate brings out more opinions, or more intense debate, than if George Karl is the right coach for the Nuggets.

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New York Knicks at Denver Nuggets Game Thread

Unfortunately some things have come up and it looks like they will prevent any members of the RMC staff from being able to catch the game in full tonight and provide a recap. Please leave any thoughts you have before, during and after the game. Also I will be Tweeting for the first quarter or so, so please follow me on Twitter for that. Thank you and enjoy the game.

A PSA from RMC

Fellow readers,

I’d like to take this time to first of all thank all of you who read our site and (for the most part) speckle the comments section of our blog with thoughtful insight and analysis. We cannot tell you how much we appreciate your input, as many of you contribute to the overall success of our site just as much as our writers do. We recognize Roundball Mining Company has one of the very best readerships of the entire TrueHoop Network and that without you our writing and level of passion for the Denver Nuggets would not exist.

At the same time, we need everyone to be on the same page in terms of respect. We strongly encourage you to voice your opinion no matter how much you disagree (or agree) with what we have to say, but please do so in an intelligent and humane manner. Ad hominem attacks, name calling and a general sense of disrespect for others is something RMC aims to distance itself from as much as possible. We feel the intelligence of our community is our greatest asset but lately it has been watered down by lazy and unthoughtful statements in a variety of different articles. It’s understandable that from time to time your required to be blunt with your assessment of our writing, but if you chose to critique us with straightforwardness at least attach some humility and respect along with it. That’s all we ask.

Thanks again for your cooperation and continued support of RMC. Remember, we’re all in this together.

Go Nuggets!

– Kalen

Staking A Claim: The Nuggets Recent Success

Staking a Claim is a new column that will be taking a look at all things Nuggets through the eyes of an outsider. As those who follow me on Twitter know I am a Bucks fan, so it will give Nuggets fans an opportunity to see things through the eyes of someone who follows the team closely but isn’t necessarily a fan. Please leave any subjects that you would like to see addressed in the future in the comments below or send them to me on Twitter @Matt_Cianfrone.

As I have gotten to know Nuggets fans more in depth one thing keeps coming up when complaints get voiced, the teams recent run of making the playoffs before flaming out in the first round. While there is understandable frustration, especially as the possibility of it occurring again this season is there, though looking less and less likely, I ask Nuggets fans to do one thing.

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FYI: Meet the Manimal on Saturday

Kenneth Faried will be doing his first public autograph signing on Saturday, March 2, from 1 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. at the Latitude Sports Showroom in Cherry Creek, located at 2620 E. 3rd Ave. Tickets are $20 and parking will be available at the Whole Foods on 1st University.

Digging Deeper: Danilo Gallinari and his role in the Nuggets offense.

The other night in my grades for the Nuggets/Celtics game, I mentioned that I wasn’t sure Danilo Gallinari could carry the Nuggets offense for long stretches if the need arose.

As expected the comment received a lot of hate, so I decided to take a deeper look into the numbers and see if my hunch was correct.

But before I get into those numbers there is a short disclaimer that needs to be mentioned. Gallo is a very important part of the Nuggets offense. He is the player that most consistently knocks down open shots, especially three pointers, and in an offense so reliant on points in the paint that floor spacing is very important. The fact that the Nuggets offense is 8.2 points better offensively when he is on the court than when he is off it proves that.

But that wasn’t what my comment was about. My comment was that Gallo was very reliant on the other players on the court with him to create that offense, and that unlike a lot of Nugget fans I am not so sure an offense built around Gallo taking 20 shots a night right now is what the Nuggets need to do to make the jump to an elite team. The numbers I am about to show prove why.

The first worrisome part for me about Gallo creating his own offense is the breakdown of the types of possessions that he has used in each of the past two seasons. Almost exactly 40 percent of Gallinari’s shots have come in either transition or off of spot-up opportunities in each of those two seasons according to Synergy data.  That means the rest of the possession types they track, isolation,pick-and-roll ball handler and roll man, post-ups, cuts, off screens, hand offs, and offensive rebounds make up the other 60 percent of his possessions; with isolation taking up another 22 percent of possession this season.

On the bright side the points per possession numbers for almost every type of possession are good, but would they be able to stay that high with more repetitions? For a player who isn’t particularly fast for his position I wonder,e specially because he tends to finish a lot of drives fading away from the basket or twisting and turning away from contact. While the contorting helps draw fouls in some situations, it also makes life very difficult in others, especially in the playoffs when the games become more physical. The other part of it is Gallo’s passing. He makes the right pass often and the flashy one every once and a while, but Gallo isn’t a great passer. The 2.4 assists he averages a game would need to rise dramatically if he wants to be a number one option. For comparison, of the 30 players that average more points per game than Gallinari at the moment only Brook Lopez, Al Jefferson and Chris Bosh average less than the 2.4 assists.

But the answers become very worrisome when you look at the difference in Gallo’s numbers when he is on the floor with either Andre Iguodala or Ty Lawson and his numbers when one of those two, the Nuggets two best playmakers, are off the floor.

With Lawson on the floor Gallinari averages per 36 minutes are: 19.5 points on 14.7 field goal attempts and 43 percent shooting. Of those 14.7 attempts 6.3 are from behind the arc where Gallo is shooting 38 percent and getting to the line 5.5 times.

With Lawson off the floor all of those numbers drop, and five of them do so by more than 10 percent. The points drop down to 14.6 on 11.8 attempts and 41 percent shooting. The three point attempts drop to 4.3 and the percentage to 31 percent. And the free throw attempts drop down to 4.7, again all per 36 minutes.

Unfortunately for the Nuggets though those drops aren’t just attributed to Lawson since the results stay the same without Iguodala on the floor.

Playing with Iggy, Gallo’s averages per 36 are: 19.5 points on 14.6 shots and 44 percent shooting. He attempts 6.2 threes and shoots 38 percent from behind the arc while getting to the line 5.4 times.

And just like when Lawson leaves the floor, when Iguodala leaves Gallo’s numbers take a significant hit, again five of the totals drop by more than 10 percent. He scores 15 points on 12.5 shots on 37 percent shooting. The three point attempts drop to 4.9 attempts and the percentage to 32 percent shooting. On the bright side the free throw attempts stay similar at 5 attempts.

The most troubling part of the numbers is the shot attempts drops. Ten percent drops in just attempts for Gallo shows what I thought I saw while I watched games. A lot of Gallo’s offense comes after Lawson or Iguodala attack the lane and kick out to him. Gallo then does an excellent job of reading the reacting defense and doing what it gives him, either the open three or a drive to the basket. But asking him to just create offense for himself or teammates is difficult and he struggles.

Now some people will claim the drops are due to defense paying more attention to Gallo when one of the other two Nuggets weapons are not on the floor but that claim holds no weight when explaining the drops when it is compared to other combinations in the league. It doesn’t happen with Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard who both see increases in many stats. Or Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Even lesser top options than the Lakers and Thunder duos don’t see such a stark drop. Not Al Horford and Josh Smith. Or Paul George and David West.  The drops don’t even happen with his Nuggets teammates Lawson and Iguodala.  Or to either of the two when Gallo leaves the floor.

Again, none of this is meant to say Gallo isn’t an important piece of the puzzle for the Nuggets. I explained above that he is. What it is meant to show is that Gallo isn’t quite ready to be the creator for the Nuggets that some fans think he should be. Leave that to Lawson who is doing it terrifically, especially in the last month or so, and use Iguodala as a secondary creation option. Meanwhile, let Gallo be a terrific safety valve and spot up shooter, who reads the defense and decides if he should drive or not.

One day Gallinari may get to the point of being a great creator, a first option that can make teammates better, but right now he is just to reliant on Lawson and Iguodala to ask him to be that.

Home Sweet Home

ESPN Stats and info wrote up a small preview post for the Nuggets vs. Celtics clash tonight and in it was some interesting, and honestly for the Nuggets and their fans, frightening information.

“Since 2000-01, the Nuggets have won nearly 68 percent of their home games but only 38 percent of their road games. No team has seen a higher increase in winning percentage from road to home games than the Nuggets.”

We all know that the Nuggets are better at home than on the road but that drop off in winning percentage is staggering, and is the reason that it is hard to see the Nuggets advancing much farther than into the second round this year. Without a top 2 seed the Nuggets won’t have home court advantage in the second round of the playoffs, and realistically looking at the schedule it seems impossible that they catch the Thunder or Spurs for that second seed. That means a team that only wins 38 percent of the time they play on the road would have to win a game, or more likely multiple games on the road to move on to the Western Conference finals. Now take into account that the 38 percent number includes games against the worst team in the league that the playoffs won’t, and things become even bleaker.

On the bright side the problems with this year’s team seems fixable. As the post says the Nuggets offensive and defensive efficiency are both much better at home than on the road, about 7 points better offensively and 6 points better defensively. The offensive drop makes sense. The Nuggets don’t shoot the ball well from the outside, and at an unfamiliar arena with travel the night before a team’s shooting can take a hit; that just happens. Defensively things can partially be explained by teams coming into Denver and struggling with the altitude and shooting but a 6 point difference is an awful lot, and has to at least partially come down to some effort. With the way the Nuggets have defended at times this year the fix seems there, but it is easier said than done. Bring more defensive intensity.

In the end how far the Nuggets will go is all dependent on how they play on the road and judging by recent history that doesn’t bode well for them. But unlike some years in the past where the team relied more on offensive firepower to carry them through struggles, this Nuggets team has a chance to change some of those problems around with a greater defensive intensity. What they choose to do will determine their success.

Notice: Meet the Denver Nuggets Feb. 20 at Punch Bowl Social

Punch Bowl Social, located at 65 Broadway, has brought a lot of new faces to the South Broadway area of Denver — and now it’s looking to bring some more, in the form of the Denver Nuggets. On Feb. 20 fans will get the opportunity to meet their favorite Nuggets players (at a cost of $100), with funds benefiting Kroenke Sports Charities. The event is 21 and up and will last from 7 to 9 p.m.

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