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.
Starting with tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Nuggets have 25 games left in their regular season schedule. Here we’ll take a look at how the final stretch breaks down, what we might expect to see if Denver continues on its current trajectory, and the critical importance of improving their performance in road games.
The overall schedule picture looks (more…)
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.
Les Shapiro and Tom Nalen of ESPN Denver 102.3 & 105.5 FM (check their audio archive here and find them on Twitter here) had a great interview with Nuggets Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri after Denver chose to stand pat at the NBA trade deadline. Below are some key takeaways from the interview, but you should definitely also listen to it in its entirety here.
Masai Ujiri, on why the Nuggets didn’t make any moves: (more…)
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 39 MIN | 7-17 FG | 8-11 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 26 PTS | +20
Gallo did what Gallo does, and it helped the Nuggets get the win tonight. He knocked down some open threes and was able to make his free throws, and many of his points came at spots the Nuggets really needed them. The only problem I have with Gallo is how much his offense is tied into what his teammates are doing. Almost everything he does comes after he gets a pass from Lawson or Iguodala with no one around him. Gallo does a great job of finding spaces to spot up and a good job of reading closing out defenders and deciding if he should drive or shoot, but I worry if he can create offense if the Nuggets ever need him to for long stretches.
|Kenneth Faried, SF 35 MIN | 3-7 FG | 1-4 FT | 16 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +6
The Nuggets probably do not win this game without the Manimal’s energy. Not only did it get them multiple offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter but it drained Kevin Garnett to the point that he was very unproductive late in the game. Faried’s recovery to Garnett late in the fourth was probably the dagger as it caused KG to rush things and miss badly. But like a couple other times this year Faried has to at least split late free throws when the Nuggets are locked in a tight game. Again it lowered his grade a half of a grade when he missed both.
|Kosta Koufos, C 22 MIN | 5-6 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | -1
I’m not sure that there is a player Nuggets fans underrate the importance of more than Koufos. Tonight he made life incredibly difficult for KG by never leaving his feet and forcing Garnett to play over the top of him in the post. He also continues to help keep the paint spread for Lawson and Iguodala and made 5 of his 6 shots on the night. The rebounding has to improve, but with the way Faried rebounded tonight it makes sense the number was low for Koufos in 22 minutes.
|Ty Lawson, PG 37 MIN | 8-13 FG | 8-10 FT | 6 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 26 PTS | +4
As has been the case recently, Lawson was incredible tonight. He started the game 6-6 from the field and created for his teammates more than his assist numbers show. Add in the huge late offensive rebound and the fact that he had no turnovers and I am not sure what more the Nuggets could have asked for. If Lawson can continue to play this way the Nuggets ceiling definitely rises a bit.
|Andre Iguodala, SG 29 MIN | 0-7 FG | 1-4 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 1 PTS | -2
The offense was dreadful tonight for Iguodala, an air-balled foul shot and an air-balled three were the low-lights, but offense wasn’t the reason the Nuggets brought in Iggy. They brought him in for the other end of the court and tonight he delivered, helping forcing Paul Pierce into a dreadful 2-14 night. Iggy also contested a Bradley layup late and forced the Celtic’s youngster into a miss that probably will get overlooked. The seven assists were a nice addition too.
|Corey Brewer, SF 20 MIN | 4-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +3
Like Iguodala Brewer’s offensive numbers don’t look great but Brewer had a couple of important buckets late and his energy helped the Nuggets stay in the game in the first half, when for the most part they weren’t good.
|JaVale McGee, C 18 MIN | 2-5 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | +4
There was the good for JaVale tonight, the two dunks, one of which was a three point play, and the bad for JaVale tonight, getting sealed by Jason Collins and the two goaltends. The two rebounds also aren’t good for JaVale as he mostly plays with lineups not featuring Faried so the Koufos reasons don’t apply to him. Against a bad rebounding team he needs more than two rebounds.
|Andre Miller, PG 23 MIN | 4-6 FG | 2-3 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 11 PTS | +2
Much like Iguodala and Brewer’s grades reflect the defensive end so does Miller’s. I am not sure I have seen a player who refuses to fight through screens as consistently as Miller. And in a game like tonight when Boston killed the Nuggets by creating switches and forcing help, Miller’s slow feet were a large part of that. The 11 points were nice, but on the other end of the floor Miller helped give them all back plus some.
|Wilson Chandler, SG 18 MIN | 0-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -1
0-7 from the field is never good for someone who is expected to come off the bench and bring with them some shooting and scoring punch. Chandler did well on the glass with 7 rebounds but he also was one of the guys who spent time on Jeff Green and allowed him to pour in 20 points, way to much for such an average player.
I know the Nuggets won, but if you follow me on Twitter you know that I was not a fan at all of Karl’s decision making tonight. Boston really had no player on their roster that should have been able to beat the Nuggets off the dribble to the basket or any option in the post. But the Nuggets continued their switch on everything ways and got caught trying to run out to wide open shooters all night. If any game was built for staying home and on your matchups this was it, the personnel matched perfectly. Instead the Nuggets ended up in a battle that they shouldn’t have.
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.
A little over two months ago I posted a video piece on Andre Miller’s clutch play that helped seal Denver’s victory against the Indiana Pacers on Dec. 7. With eight points and an assist in just 104 seconds, Miller poured it on in crunch time to lead the Nuggets to a big road win at a time when they were struggling.
Unfortunately, we are back in the Film Room today to visit what essentially was the opposite scenario. In their heartbreaking road loss to the Celtics on Feb. 10, the Nuggets were down just two points with 48 seconds remaining in the game’s third overtime when Miller retrieved the rebound off a missed Kevin Garnett jumper. And as every Nuggets fan not living under a rock is well aware, from there the train rapidly derailed from the tracks.
The Film Room video, followed by analysis of Miller’s play and George Karl’s coaching, is after the jump.
[Note: Our apologies for the delay in the Rapid Reaction tonight. We were having site issues which prevented it from getting posted in a more timely manner. And just so you know, this post was written by new Roundball Mining Company contributor Matt Cianfrone. You can follow him on Twitter at @Matt_Cianfrone. -Joel]
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 38 MIN | 5-11 FG | 5-8 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 18 PTS | -2Gallo was invisible in the first half of this game, partially due to foul trouble, and outside of a spurt in the third quarter and a nice drive late, it continued into most of the second half as well. He did a good job of making things tough on Kevin Durant when he was matched up with him though which raised his grade a bit.|
|Kenneth Faried, SF 40 MIN | 7-12 FG | 2-6 FT | 10 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 4 BLK | 3 TO | 16 PTS | +5The only thing that kept Faried from getting an A+ for tonight’s game were the two big free throws he missed with just 10 seconds remaining in overtime. It ended up not mattering because Nick Collison picked up a offensive foul on the ensuing inbounds play, but the results could have been disastrous for the Nuggets and that has to be taken into account. But the rest of the night Faried was incredible, his numbers don’t tell anywhere near the story of what he did. He brought great energy from the outset of the game and seemingly frustrated the Thunder bigs into ineffectiveness. It was a fantastic effort from the Manimal, and one that the Nuggets needed to see against a physical front line.|
|Kosta Koufos, C 21 MIN | 5-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 10 PTS | +4While Koufos didn’t have quite the impact that Faried did due to foul trouble, when he was on the floor he was incredibly effective. Koufos had only three offensive rebounds but was able to keep balls alive all night that his teammates then controlled. He also did a great job at flashing to right in front of the rim as his teammates drove and finished most of the opportunities those flashes gave him. The foul trouble limited his minutes and therefore his grade but for the 21 minutes he played Koufos was every bit as important as any Nugget on the floor.|
|Ty Lawson, PG 45 MIN | 4-13 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 9 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 7 TO | 11 PTS | +8The nine assists are nice but the rest of Lawson’s night was dreadful, especially his play on the final possession of regulation. Lawson dribbled out the clock and didn’t even get a shot up in time which is the worst play someone could make in a close game. Even if the shot was released in time it was a terrible one, as Lawson seemed to lose track of the time left on the clock and started his drive too late. And that doesn’t even account for his turnover two possessions before. Just not a good night for Ty.|
|Andre Iguodala, SG 27 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 9 PTS | +6Offensively Iggy struggled again tonight finishing with only nine points but he did a good job on the other end of the floor, where for most of the night he was matched up with Russell Westbrook. While Westbrook had 36, he was only 10 of 26 from the floor, and most of the makes came late in the game when Andre Miller was defending him, not Iguodala. Part of why the Nuggets got Iggy though was to help create offense, and with only 9 points and 3 assists he didn’t do that, and he wasn’t in the game late to help on defense, so its hard to go with much more than a C+.|
|Corey Brewer, SF 34 MIN | 9-17 FG | 5-7 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 26 PTS | -7While Faried’s energy helped frustrate the Thunder bigs, Brewer’s energy helped frustrate the Thunder perimeter players all night. And that doesn’t even take into account his offensive explosion that included three long balls. It was a fantastic night for Brewer who helped guard the trio of Durant, Westbrook, and Kevin Martin and did a pretty good job on all three, minus some dubious calls on Durant throughout the night. A great night from Brewer overall, who was easily the Nuggets best player on the night.|
|JaVale McGee, C 17 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-3 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | 0JaVale’s night started good with a running hook on Serge Ibaka but that was about the best it got for him. He was late on rotations, forced multiple shots from the block and even missed put backs from point blank range. Throw in a goaltend and its safe to say that the 17 minutes were more than enough, if not too many, for McGee on the night.|
|Andre Miller, PG 28 MIN | 4-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | -3The Thunder are a really tough matchup for Miller and his specific skill set and it showed in this game. There isn’t really a player that Dre can beat on the offensive end of the floor, which showed in his 4-10 shooting, and defensively there isn’t really a player for him to guard except Thabo Sefolosha. But George Karl continued with his philosophy of playing his two point guards late and Miller got eaten up on both ends of the floor. In fact on Gallo’s drive late in the 4th quarter Miller stood out-of-bounds, taking an already non-threat because he can’t shoot, completely out of the play. Miller wasn’t very good on the night, but Karl didn’t help him by playing him as many minutes as someone who could help more in a game like this such as Iguodala.|
|Wilson Chandler, SG 16 MIN | 4-8 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | +4Chandler knocked down the two biggest shots of the game for the Nuggets, the two free-throws that put them up 3 with just 5 seconds left. He continued to be aggressive attacking the basket when he is in the game and helped the Nuggets defend the final couple of Thunder possessions well. The shooting once he gets to the rim should improve as he continues to work rust off too, which will only open up the outside for him more.|
|George KarlI was fully ready to give Karl an A for the night until the final few minutes of regulation, when due to some poor decisions the Thunder came roaring back into the game. First of all why was Andre Igoudala sat in favor of Andre Miller? Miller was getting torched by Russell Westbrook, who had 7 points, two assists and a missed layup in the final 2:50 of the fourth quarter when Miller was the primary defender on him. On the offensive end things weren’t much better in that time, as Miller was blocked on his only shot attempt and literally stood out of bounds on another possession. Then on the final play of overtime Karl drew up an isolation for Lawson and we all know what that brought. Yet in overtime nothing changed as the same group that finished regulation and blew the lead for the Nuggets started the extra period. What Karl did well though was keep his team under control and focused in a game that was terribly officiated, and mostly on the wrong side for the Nuggets. But the late game decisions just don’t allow me to give Karl anything more than an average grade.|
On New Year’s Day versus the Los Angeles Clippers, JaVale McGee did something which for him was quite remarkable.
And no, this is not about his stunning buzzer beating 3-pointer, though that is certainly what will cement his performance permanently in the collective memory of NBA fandom.
But just as notably, he matched his career high of three assists. He had accomplished this only once before, on Mar. 20, 2011. Thus far this season, McGee has had 20 games with zero dimes, 12 games with just one, and now, a single game with three.
About a month into the 2012-13 season, I did a video scouting report calling for JaVale to make a more concerted effort to pass the ball out of the post rather than forcing so many hasty, contested shots. In this recent game we had a chance to see just how effective McGee can be when looking to share the ball, so it offers a great opportunity to follow up on the topic. (more…)
When JaVale McGee is on the court he uses a big chunk of Denver’s possessions. According to Basketball-Reference.com, among regular rotation players, he has the highest usage rate on the team at 23.9 percent. Despite this, he also has the third lowest assist rate at 3.6 percent. Kosta Koufos has the second lowest, 3.1 percent, and Kenneth Faried the lowest assist rate, 2.0 percent. Naturally, all three of the Nuggets’ main frontcourt players earn their keep around the rim, finishing plays and putting back offensive boards, the big difference between McGee and the other two is that he actually spends a significant amount of time with the ball in his hands.
Compare his usage rate with that of Koufos, lowest among rotation players at 12.4 percent, and Faried, third lowest at 18.6 percent. (A surprising side note here is that Andre Miller is second lowest with a 17.6 percent usage rate that’s very modest considering how much he handles the ball). In short, Kosta and Kenneth should be given a free pass for their low assist rates, because the vast majority of the time, when they get the ball, they’re right there at the rim, and the best thing to do is immediately put it in the basket.
This is not always the case with JaVale, who handles the ball in the post much more than the other two. (more…)