I can’t lie. I’ve thought about writing this article for years. Years. After each futile, heartless, disappointing exit in the first round of the playoffs, I was so ready to write this article that I couldn’t sleep. This year was no different. This year I wanted it just as bad as I have for the last several years. And yet, here it is, less than a week since Karl was let go, and I’m not sure I even want to write it anymore.
Masai Ujiri leaving the Denver Nuggets has the potential to be one of the most devastating franchise decisions the Kroenke family has ever made. Conversely, the Nuggets might hire the next Masai Ujiri and be just fine. Either way, the decision to let him speak with the Raptors and ultimately sign with his former Canadian squad said something about the Nuggets as a franchise. It said something about the Kroenkes and it said something about the order of the Nuggets’ priorities. Our writers have a few ideas about what that something is, which we’ve laid out below in our latest Roundball Roundtable.
For the third year in a row Roundball Mining Company has arranged an off-season priority list for the Denver Nuggets. The following items are arranged from least to most important. They are moves which the Nuggets would greatly benefit from, yet none are mandatory. After winning 2012-13 NBA Executive of the Year, it’s safe to assume Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri will do everything in his power to improve the Nuggets once again — that is, as long as he’s still around.
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.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 24 MIN | 1-10 FG | 5-5 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 7 PTS | +3
Gallo has been about as inconsistent as you can be to start the season. In seven of the last 10 games he’s scored under 10 points four times and over 20 three times. His shooting stroke seems to be the root of his problems. When he’s hitting shots, everything is great; when he’s not, he’s virtually useless. Gallo is so talented in so many ways, which makes it all the more frustrating seeing him pigeonhole himself into a one-dimensional shooter’s role.
|Kenneth Faried, SF 33 MIN | 3-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS | -4
Faried is another enigma on the season. He didn’t have a bad game but he started off on pace to have an epic one — then it was as if his motor ran out of gas in only five minutes time. This is becoming quite the trend with Faried. His energy just isn’t what it was most of last year.
|Kosta Koufos, C 27 MIN | 8-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 16 PTS | -4
Koufos was the Nuggets’ best player. That’s basically all you need to know to figure out how this game ended. He’s been steadily improving throughout the year and is now legitimately giving McGee a run for his money as to who’s the best center on the team. His defense and toughness were especially impressive against the Clippers.
|Ty Lawson, PG 32 MIN | 5-11 FG | 4-6 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 15 PTS | -8
It’s hard to dock Lawson too much as he was one of the only players actually trying to make something happen. His passes need to be more precise but other than that he was pretty solid.
|Andre Iguodala, SG 27 MIN | 4-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 9 PTS | -1
I still can’t figure this one out. Anybody know what the deal is with Iguodala? Please, share your secret because right now I’m dumbfounded. I knew Nuggets fans overvalued him from the start but I really thought he’d be a lot more impressive than what he’s shown thus far. Against the Clippers he was nearly lifeless. His nine points were a result of easy fast-break points, and that’s about all he did.
|Anthony Randolph, PF 4 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +6
He’s clearly talented. He’s played well this season and had a few nice buckets against the Clippers.
|Jordan Hamilton, SF 17 MIN | 7-9 FG | 0-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 16 PTS | -4
Hamilton was the second best player tonight (maybe the best?) and tied Koufos for the team lead in points despite having played only 17 minutes. If this was not a “wake up” game for Karl and the rest of his teammates, then I don’t know what is. Hamilton played with confidence against the Clippers and it showed. Not only was he scoring at a rate which none of his teammates could match, but his decision-making and vision were in top form. He made some nice passes and didn’t make the “rookie” mistakes he’s been known to fall victim to. The fact is: On nights like this, when nobody is stepping up to score, Hamilton is a great option to play 30-plus minutes because scoring is all he knows.
|Quincy Miller, SF 4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | +6
Miller had a few nice dishes and played good defense. As always, I’d love to see what he could do with a few games of solid playing time.
|Corey Brewer, SF 21 MIN | 0-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 2 PTS | -29
Brewer was just not on. He’ll have games like this every now and then where he’s totally MIA.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | +6
Mozgov got hit in the face with the ball because he couldn’t handle the speed of a pass. That’s all I remember from his run.
|JaVale McGee, C 19 MIN | 4-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 9 PTS | -23
The stats don’t tell just how frustrating this game was from a fan’s standpoint. McGee made numerous decisions (mostly passes) where I couldn’t even begin to understand what he was trying to do. He also had several incredible blocks and nice post-ups, but I could not escape how bad his decisions were on this night.
|Andre Miller, PG 23 MIN | 4-9 FG | 4-5 FT | 2 REB | 6 AST | 12 PTS | -14
Miller started off the game great with lots of aggressions but seemed to fade as it went on. Still, it’s nice having someone who gets up for big games on a consistent basis.
|Evan Fournier, SG 4 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +6
Fournier was impressive as usual. Not a lot of time, but he made the most of it.
Many players received bad grades tonight so it doesn’t make much sense to reward Karl. He’s the one who devises this skewed game-plan of being satisfied with playing like crap on the road as long as you can win most of your home games. While the Nuggets have had a tough road schedule, I still don’t understand how a team this deep and talented can be happy with a 7-13 road record. On a different (but similar) note, I ran into my old high school soccer coach a few days ago and he said he hates watching the Nuggets because they always have an excuse to lose. While the Clippers are on one hell of a tear these days, I can’t help but think Karl deemed this loss as considered “OK.”
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 29 MIN | 7-13 FG | 1-1 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 15 PTS | -2
It’s a shame Gallo’s best overall effort yet had to come in such a lousy game. Gallo was attacking early and looking to be aggressive while the rest of the team seem to lay down as quick as possible. This should be a normal so-so night for Gallo, not one of his best offensive outings of the year. Defensively, Gallo was the only starter to approach a respectable level of pride and effort so he gets a pass.
|Kenneth Faried, SF 27 MIN | 5-8 FG | 4-6 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 14 PTS | -15
He got into foul trouble and really couldn’t get a hold on DeJuan Blair early. At some point the Nuggets will have to be competitive in a game without a double-double from their fourth scoring option. Faried had another efficient 14 points and has been the Nuggets’ best offensive player this season.
|Kosta Koufos, C 19 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -21
Awful. There’s just no two ways about it. He got off to a horrendous start and played most of the first quarter anyway, setting the tone for Denver’s laughable paint defense the rest of the night. He was slow to loose balls and looked just plain out of it most of the night.
|Ty Lawson, PG 35 MIN | 5-13 FG | 3-5 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 13 PTS | -29
Ty played 35 minutes again and scored this time, so if it’s progress you’re looking for there you go. Ty also had 5 turnovers, bricked his first two free throw attempts and just sort of padded his stats in garbage time while racking up a -29
|Andre Iguodala, SG 28 MIN | 3-8 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 9 PTS | -13
A truly invisible game out of Iguodala, who was not looking to get involved on either end and grew increasingly disinterested as the beating got worse. Iguodala has to show more poise and leadership in difficult circumstances like tonight.
|Jordan Hamilton, SF 15 MIN | 1-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 4 PTS | -10
Consider this grade an incomplete, because he played about 6 scoreless minutes in the first half before being benched and never returning again til extended garbage time. The Nuggets just can’t seem decide if they want to play him or not while they try to fix their rotation.
|Corey Brewer, SF 28 MIN | 4-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | 0
Brew put up solid numbers but wasn’t able to hit his rhythm when the Nuggets could have made it a competitive contest. He gambles a ton on defense and his inability to stay solid on that end of the floor makes him difficult to play when the Nuggets need to catch up or protect a lead.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 13 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -22
Mozgov came in early after Faried picked up two fouls. Physically he was moving around much better than we’ve seen since training camp started, but Denver’s defense did not improve with him on the floor. It’s really tough to blame Mozgov for not being all over it in his first meaningful game of the year, but the Nuggets’ frontcourt desperately needed him while Koufos struggled through his worst game yet.
|JaVale McGee, C 20 MIN | 6-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | -1
If there’s a bright spot in these losses it’s JaVale’s improving play off the bench. The last few games he’s come into pretty horrible situations and been able to do some positive things. McGee’s earned his minutes and looks ready for a little more run with the Nuggets’ top lineups.
|Andre Miller, PG 19 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 4 PTS | -14
Let’s be honest, he doesn’t look very in shape yet and will throw up a dud every once in a while as he gets ready to play the season. After a poor start to the first half Miller saw essentially all of his minutes in garbage time.
|Evan Fournier, SG 8 MIN | 4-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 10 PTS | -3
The Nuggets trailed by 20 most of the night but didn’t insert Fournier till midway through the fourth, where Evan proceeded to pour in 10 quick points in the only quarter Denver managed to win. Evan could get a chance to earn minutes going forward with the Nuggets lineup currently in a state of utter disarray.
Ready for something a little different? We’ll continue our extensive coverage of the Iguodala acquisition soon, but the long-awaited conclusion to the Dwight Howard saga presents a great opportunity to change gears a bit and recap the recently concluded 2012 adidas Nations.
As I mentioned in my earlier reports, this year’s Nations had plenty of Denver Nuggets connections despite not being an official NBA event. I caught up with high-school senior Isaac Hamilton, Jordan’s little brother and one of top recruits in the Los Angeles area. On a more somber note, I also witnessed Arron Afflalo attend one of his last official functions as representative of the Denver Nuggets. Here’s the full rundown of these stories and my impression of the talent showcased at the 2012 adidas Nations. (more…)
Many readers have asked, specifically, what the Nuggets gave up and received in Friday’s trade. Though I still can’t find a single article that confirms all aspects of the trade, I have been able to gather bits and pieces from various sources across the Internet. Here are my findings:
Received: Andre Iguodala
Sent: Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, a 2013 second-round draft pick (via Golden State) and a 2014 first-round draft pick (either Denver’s own or via New York)
Both of the picks sent to Orlando may end up being ones the Nuggets obtained from New York in the Carmelo Anthony trade. The 2013 second-round pick is from Golden State while the 2014 first-round pick will either be Denver’s own, or New York’s. According to CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger, the 2014 first-round pick conveyed to Orlando will be the least desirable of the Nuggets two picks that year.
Looking towards the future, the Nuggets now have two picks in the 2013 NBA Draft: their own first rounder and a second-round, top-40 protected selection from the Portland Trailblazers. Denver’s own second-round pick is conveyed to the Phoenix Suns and is also top-40 protected. Assuming the Nuggets re-sign Ty Lawson, they will then have three roster openings from the expiring contracts of Julyan Stone, Timofey Mozgov and Corey Brewer. If the Nuggets retain both picks they will then be left with one open roster spot to sign a free agent, however given Masai Ujiri’s penchant for perpetual activity, there’s a good chance the team’s current roster and draft-pick situation will change yet again.
One cold hard truth the Nuggets were going to have to reckon with sooner or later was the fact that last season their perimeter defense was among the worst – if not the worst – in the league. Although their 103.4 team defensive efficiency rating was a lower-middling 19th in the league, a deeper dig into the numbers confirms what any Nuggets fan who has been paying attention already knows: All season long, opponents drained 3-pointers at will.
The opponent shot location statistics at HoopData.com reveal that Denver put together a respectable interior defense. The Nuggets were 8th best in the league in defending at-rim shots, as their opponents made 61.6 percent of their attempts. Holding steady in 8th place at short range, Denver held its opponents to a percentage of 36.2. Mid-range defense found them faring even better, 5th best with opponents shooting 35.6 percent. But 15 feet out from the basket is where the good news abruptly ends.
In both long range 2-point and in 3-point shooting, the Nuggets were dead last in the league, allowing a long-two field goal percentage of 41.4 and an effective field goal percentage of 57.5 from beyond the arc. None of this should come as a surprise (more…)
First of all, what was Orlando thinking? The centerpiece of the long anticipated Dwight Howard trade ends up being Arron Afflalo? Yikes. Thanks to Orlando’s generosity the three other teams involved in the reported four team deal that will be finalized later today all received much more than they gave. Obviously the Lakers are thrilled with Bynum for Howard. Philly has to be ecstatic to get Bynum for Igoudala, Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless. Denver may not have made out quite as well as those two teams have, but this trade is a slam dunk for the Nuggets.
There are several different aspects of this trade to look at so let’s dive in.
As it stands, I’m at my computer early Friday morning. Yesterday the Nuggets were involved in trade talks that included four teams, with Dwight Howard — most notably — going to the Lakers and Andre Iguodala being shipped to Denver. I hesitated to make anything of it, because let’s face it, we’ve been down this road before. If I had a nickel for every time I heard a Dwight Howard trade rumor this summer I’d have a lot of nickels. However, this time it appears to be for real. According to ESPN.com the Nuggets will receive Andre Iguodala in return for Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington and a future first-round selection in the NBA Draft. If this is true — which it looks to be — here are five initial observations from the Nuggets point of view…
When the news of a potential four team trade that would send Dwight Howard to Los Angeles involving the Denver Nuggets first surfaced this afternoon, I was skeptical. Generally when a rumor involving the Nuggets gets out, it is a sure sign that the Nuggets have moved on and the trade is not happening. Of course, my interest was piqued due to the fact the Nuggets were reportedly pursuing Andre Igoudala, the one player I have gone on record coveting. Even so, I was not going to allow myself to get too excited.
One of my favorite moments of the 2012 adidas Nations took place just as the camp was wrapping up, as the college counselors completed their final scrimmages and prepared to move on towards their NBA goals. Arron Afflalo showed up and actually played in the final game, pitting himself against collegiate stars like Andre Roberson, Steven Adams, Ray McCallum and Isaiah Austin. Afflalo played with a cool, distinguished demeanor most of the game before taking over in the fourth quarter and overtime of what became an intensely competitive, high-level game. Andre Roberson showed tremendous growth throughout the camp and went out with a bang, scoring 14 points on 6-7 shooting along with 11 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. He had a chance at a last second tip-in on the final play of regulation, but wasn’t able to put it down and Arron Afflalo’s heroics sealed the 86-81 overtime win.
Dwight Howard showed up to the gym unannounced and right after the game concluded, he gathered Roberson and the rest of the college counselors to share his wisdom before they parted ways with each other and the adidas Nations team. It was amazing to see how hungry and appreciative Roberson became throughout the course of the camp, and especially how eager he was to soak up every little bit of knowledge he could even as the on-court work was over with. Roberson played with much more confidence in his final game and sustained a high level of effort throughout. Although I already interviewed Roberson on the first day of the event, I caught up with him one last time to see just what he was taking away from the experience.
It was great getting to know Andre throughout the adidas Nations, who you can follow on Twitter @FlyDre21. The 2012 adidas Nations wraps up tomorrow night for the championship round of games in Long Beach, CA. It will be broadcast live on the CBS Sports network, so check the local TV listings and be sure to tune in and watch if you can. As always, stick with RMC for more coverage when the event concludes on Monday night.
Thanks to adidas Basketball, ESPN and the TrueHoop network, I’ve been given the opportunity to cover the 2012 adidas Nations for Roundball Mining Company. For those unfamiliar with the adidas Nations, it’s a global tournament for the best players under 19, both here in the USA and internationally. It’s one of the most prestigious grassroots basketball programs in the world, where top high school talent and some of the best collegiate players in the country train under real NBA coaches.
There are a ton of Denver Nuggets connections in this year’s adidas Nations currently taking place in Southern California. Along with all of the other NBA teams, Denver’s scouting department has a strong presence here and Nuggets assistant Melvin Hunt is part of the core group of NBA coaches instructing the college counselors as well as the high school athletes in attendance. Nuggets guard Arron Afflalo joins Alec Burks, Nolan Smith, Luc Mbah a Moute and Darren Collison as some of the adidas athletes who will act as NBA ambassadors to the program.
This is an exciting event featuring a ridiculous amount of talent from the next three NBA draft classes, and I strongly encourage any hoops fan to watch the championship game on Monday night, which will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network at 6pm Mountain time. RMC will be on hand to provide coverage throughout the event.
Here’s a few of the highlights from day one of the 2012 adidas Nations. (more…)