Nuggets News: Mini Road Trip Preview

After three straight solid home wins, the Nuggets are carrying nice momentum into their second road trip of the season. It’s a quick back-to-back in New Orleans and San Antonio against two teams which provide unique challenges for this new Nuggets team. While the Hornets and Spurs appear to be reeling from injuries, let’s not forget these are still road games against well-rested opponents.

(more…)

Rapid Reaction: Nuggets vs. Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers 90 Final
Recap | Box Score
99 Denver Nuggets
Nene, C
4-7 FG | 5-6 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 13 PTS | -1
It was a little funny seeing him stare down his teammates and almost scream out for help whenever Bynum or Pau made a move on him. Nene was solid but not much of a factor in the win to be honest. The Lakers bigs easily pushed him around down low while he continues to put up poor rebounding performances. As I said before, the move to power forward is not paying off for Nene and I am confused why he had to throw such a fit about playing center – where he is better.
Danilo Gallinari, F
7-16 FG | 5-7 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 20 PTS | +11
The Rooster still can’t find his touch from distance, but he did shoot 6-9 on non 3-point attempts. Gallo also recorded five steals and was a key factor in the fourth quarter run that sealed the victory. It wasn’t a perfect game from Gallinari, but he played his best when it mattered.
Timofey Mozgov, C
0-0 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | -14
Mozgov racked up five fouls in 13 minutes and clearly let the officiating get into his head. He spent most of the night trying to get a call and once again struggled denying Bynum position. Timo showed a few flashes defensively but he needs to learn to fight for position and contribute on the glass like a starting center should.
Arron Afflalo, SG
2-7 FG | 2-3 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | -10
He’s contributing defensively like you’d expect, but it’s been a rough road getting Afflalo involved on the offensive end. He looks tentative, dribbles too much and jumps away from contact rather than finishing through it. The Nuggets need to get him some shots and work him into the offense more.
Ty Lawson, PG
5-11 FG | 7-8 FT | 3 REB | 10 AST | 17 PTS | +18
Everything was there for Lawson tonight. The Nuggets came alive with him on the floor and were consistently able to speed up the game and run on the tired Lakers. He scored, he got 10 assists despite poor shooting from teammates and his defense was the key to the fourth quarter run that sealed the win. His presence makes Andre Miller extraneous late in games and the Nuggets need the ball in their best player’s hands every big possession.
Al Harrington, PF
3-7 FG | 6-6 FT | 11 REB | 2 AST | 12 PTS | +15
Once again, Harrington was all the Nuggets had going the first half of this game. As I tweeted earlier things could be looking grim if Al were to cool off before the offense got itself sorted. Luckily, Ty Lawson stepped up in the second half and Al Buckets wasn’t asked to carry the Nuggets again. Harrington continues to contribute in all areas of the game and grabbed a team-high 11 boards. I would have liked to see more Afflalo in the fourth quarter but you can’t deny Harrington is playing well right now.
Chris Andersen, C
5-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | +17
After playing a combined 12 minutes in the past two contests, Birdman bounced back with his best game of the season. His conditioning and leaping ability still aren’t there, but he continues to give a better effort on the floor and finally saw some results. His defense remains wildly inconsistent, but Bird was solid tonight. He scored with efficiency, rebounded well and recorded his first blocked shot of the season.

Five Things We Saw

  1. Rebounding matters. For the first time in two games the Nuggets hold up their end on the boards and match their opponent’s total. They continue to struggle on the offensive glass, grabbing only five despite missing 38 shots.
  2. Pace is the key to victory. The Nuggets were only able to pull away thanks to Ty Lawson pushing the tempo. The half-court offense remains a mess and unless they want to play Lawson 40-plus minutes a night, the Nuggets must get better in the half-court game.
  3. Getting to the line equals wins. It’s as simple as that. The shooting struggles continue yet Denver stayed alive by attacking the Lakers big men and forcing the issue at the rim. Thirty seven free throw attempts is a season high and the Nuggets made a respectable 31 of them.
  4. The bench is missing something. As much as I hate the constant dwelling on the departure of JR Smith, the Nuggets are missing his explosiveness and energy off the bench. The offense is bogged down and slow with Andre Miller. Rudy Fernandez is little more than a passer and spot up shooter. The Nuggets couldn’t take advantage of Kobe resting and part of what kept them in the game is the fact the Lakers lack bench scoring as well.
  5. The defense is promising. Kobe had an off night shooting the ball, but the Lakers as a team shot less than 40 percent. This was a rare feat for past Nuggets teams and they have shown an ability to compete in low scoring affairs. The Nuggets continue to communicate and improve their team defense despite foul trouble. Strangely, their offense is letting them down in their 2 losses.

(more…)

Rapid Reaction: Nuggets at Lakers

Denver Nuggets 89 Final

Box Score | Recap

92 Los Angles Lakers
Ty Lawson 3-8 FG | 2-4 FT | 3 REB | 8 AST | 9 PTS | -13
After a torrid start to the season, Lawson cooled off and struggled to find his rhythm offensively. He made a concerted effort to get others involved finishing with a season high 8 assists. Unfortunately Lawson had four turnovers, missed 2 big free-throws and failed to get anything going in the half-court. It behooves him to be a little more selfish and stay aggressive as that often creates better openings for his teammates than simply passing to them.
Arron Afflalo 26 MIN | 4-10 FG | 2-5 3PT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | -9
Afflalo has not been a key factor in any of Denver’s games and continues to struggle finding a role. Despite that, this is the best he has played all season and we finally saw his familiar defensive presence show up in a meaningful way. The Nuggets defended much better than they have in their first 3 games and Afflalo’s solid effort on Kobe helped set the tone. Offensively, Arron still looks hesitant and isn’t shooting the ball with confidence.
Danilo Gallinari 3-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 7 PTS | -5
Is this guy having a bad week or what? Considered by many to be Denver’s best offensive talent primed for a breakout season, Gallinari has flopped. He continues to shoot horrible jumpers and refuses to get to the free throw line. The Nuggets need Gallinari to play better to have any hope of contending, and there is no choice but to let him keep shooting. The shooting slump is not what bothers me though – it’s his timid attitude and awful decision making down the stretch. Gallo only avoids a grade of ‘F’ for some solid pick and roll defense on Kobe Bryant. There simply was no excuse to miss that layup.
Nene Hilario 5-10 FG | 3-5 FT | 8 REB | 0 BLK | 13 PTS | -11
Is playing at Power Forward finally unleashing the full power of Nene’s game? In a word – no. From what I’ve seen in four games, the Nuggets are worse with Nene at Power Forward. Mainly because he hasn’t had success scoring outside of a small lineup where he plays Center. Nene finished with his career averages, about 13 and 8. He also missed a dunk that would have extended the Nuggets lead late and wasn’t a factor down the stretch.
Timofey Mozgov 26 MIN | 4-7 FG | 10 REB | 4 BLK | 8 PTS | +3
Mozgov is agile for a big man, moves his feet well has decent enough hands to handle precision passes under the rim. Him and Al Harrington were the most reliable Nuggets bigs in terms of hedging on pick and rolls and keeping L.A. out of the middle. Mozgov also grabbed a team high 10 boards and was the only starter to finish with a positive plus/minus. Although he couldn’t keep Bynum from getting good position down low, Timo is developing just fine in the starting lineup.
Al Harrington 8-17 FG | 3-8 3PT | 3 REB | 21 PTS | +5
Can we just admit it now – Al Harrington is the second best player on the Nuggets roster through 4 games. He made big shots when Denver needed it and is consistently giving all-out effort on defense. Harrington has a lot of shortcomings as a defender and rebounder, and grabbing only 3 boards while playing at Power Forward all game is a little disappointing. That’s not really what Harrington does though, and there’s no denying his offense carried the Nuggets in a game they were in a fantastic position to win

Five Things We Saw

  1. This is by far the most complete defensive performance of the young season. The Nuggets have had trouble rotating to shooters off double teams and fortunately no team except the Blazers made them pay. The Nuggets locked down on perimeter defense today and in the second half, played better Pick and Roll defense than we’ve seen in years. The bigs did a great job hedging, making Kobe pick up his dribble and denying him the middle of the floor. The Lakers were forced to go through Bynum and Pau for offense and unfortunately for Denver, both of them were on and they delivered.
  2. Andrew Bynum is a force down low. His return changes the whole complexion of the L.A. Lakers from a purely perimeter team to an inside-out contender. Bynum did a solid job running the floor and getting deep post position where the Lakers guards consistently got him the ball.
  3. On offense, the Nuggets didn’t attack Bynum on the pick and roll outside of a single possession where Lawson fed Nene for a thunderous dunk ending with an and-one (Nene predictably missed the free throw, then fouled Bynum on the other end). I am not sure why they didn’t do this more or attack the Laker’s point guards one-on-one in order to draw Bynum out of the paint. Bynum was free to roam the middle on defense and he finished with only 2 fouls and 2 emphatic blocks.
  4. To expand on the last bullet, the Nuggets’ half court execution is deplorable. They simply don’t create good looks a half court offense, and I’m not sure it would have mattered because nobody wanted to shoot. Watching a top flight playoff outfit like the Lakers run set plays, there’s no comparison to the Nuggets fumbling and bumbling their way into long jumpers. They aren’t built to win games in a slow, deliberate style and as I pointed out earlier it is a huge red flag. Making their shots would help, but it doesn’t change the fact Denver has extremely limited options for constructing shot opportunities late in games.
  5. Birdman played 5 minutes and committed three personal fouls. Personally, I thought Bird looked a little better than he has in the past and seemed to making an effort to stay on his feet and hold his ground down low. I said in the Blazers recap I did not think Bird was paying attention and fully engaged on defense. He seemed to be giving better effort but it didn’t result in the coaches showing anymore confidence in his game. Birdman can’t really jump anymore and isn’t a reliable source of blocks and weak side help. I do believe the coaching staff is evaluating bringing him in as the first big off the bench and my guess is rotation changes are definitely in play.

2011-12 Game 3: Denver Nuggets 102 Portland Trailblazers 111

Box Score | Highlights

The Nuggets played the first of what will undoubtedly be many ugly games in Portland tonight. It was a messy affair from the start, dominated by fouls, turnovers and questionable shot selection. Ultimately the game came down to a 2-minute stretch in which the tougher, more composed Blazers held it together and came out on top.

(more…)

2011-12 Game 1: Denver Nuggets 115 Dallas Mavericks 93

Box Score | Highlights

The Nuggets crushed the Mavs in Dallas for their third straight blowout victory in a season opener. Just like the last few years they showcased a high powered offense with plenty of depth and cruised to a big lead they never surrendered. Ty Lawson was the star in this one, scoring 27 points with incredible efficiency and generally picking apart the slow, flat-footed Mavericks defense.

(more…)

George Karl talks about defending the Pick And Roll

Benjamin Hochman’s Christmas special is up at the Denver Post, and it’s an absolute must read for Nuggets Nation. Hochman breaks down the opening day roster and George Karl shares some candid thoughts on his offensive philosophy and the challenges of winning without superstars. The most interesting bit comes at the end when Karl admits the Nuggets are likely to move away from the most maddening aspect of Denver’s pick and roll defense – switching screens.

Having Kenyon with Nene was huge, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it with team concepts and philosophies and giving guys pride and responsibility to do it on their own. … He was a veteran, defensive-minded guy who was a big part of our toughness. Filling Kenyon’s minutes is probably the most difficult to do, but in the same sense, I think it can be done. Nene was basically always the B defender. Now he has to be the A defender. Nene can be in a similar category. The only problem is when you had two of them, you didn’t worry about foul trouble. Now can we get a team concept to camouflage that (by rotating in other big men for short snippets)? We also might jump in the pick-and-roll rather than switching all the time

Karl says a lot of interesting things with this statement and makes it well known that replacing Kenyon’s presence on defense is no easy task. Kenyon was a quick, physical defender whom the Nuggets could trust to guard one through five and either force a tough shot or funnel the ball into help. There is no player on the roster who can replace what he brings to the table defensively and it’s a very good sign the coaching staff realizes that.

Instead of switching, Karl suggests the Nuggets are going to use more traps and hedges against pick-and-rolls. Jeremy Wagner and I have been clamoring for the Nuggets to stop switching and adopt such a scheme since before this blog even existed.

This strategy itself won’t be a cure-all for Denver’s defense without Kenyon. The Nuggets bigs have the added responsibility of jumping out to stop the ball while being able to quickly recover to their man. Nene will have to do a better job as he’ll often show a very soft hedge and sag back allowing the ballhandler plenty of room to drive towards the basket and make a play.

When defending the pick and roll in any situation, the team has to make the right reads and rotations together as a cohesive unit. Instead of relying on Kenyon’s versatility to dictate  the scheme, I feel that hedging more will encourage a more aggressive team defense and create accountability for everyone on the floor to be active on the defensive end.

By using these team concepts and a “camouflage” approach, Karl also suggests he’ll use a deep frontcourt rotation and Kenyon’s minutes could be divided among three or four players given the situation. This is good news for those hoping to see the Manimal crack the rotation sooner rather than later. The Nuggets need to evaluate not only Faried but the rest of the young big men on the roster. Which one of these athletic young guys can hedge and recover on picks, while also being able to get back and compete for the rebound? That’s the one who deserves minutes and the Nuggets won’t know without letting all of them compete for the job.

The problem isn’t the concept of switching itself, but the extent to which the Nuggets used it as a primary method of defending pick and rolls. After playing great team defense and reaching the conference finals in 2009, the Nuggets kept reverting to switches like a bad habit. They would do it impulsively on every screen regardless of who was being switched onto who. Anytime you voluntarily enter into any mismatch on the floor, a good offense is going to be patient and find the weakness. That happened far too often in past years and I think we are finally seeing the coaches realize the time for change is long overdue.

It sounds small, but it’s tiny fundamental changes like these that are going to dictate whether or not the Nuggets can build a contender this season.

3-on-3: Arron Afflalo’s Shiny New Contract

Nuggets fans the world over are rejoicing in the new 5 year, $43 million contract Arron Afflalo has agreed to with the Nuggets.  Now that Afflalo has been retained the Nuggets have fulfilled their vision of re-siging Nene and Afflalo and once again have a tremendously deep team to put on the floor.  With the team now in place and Afflalo’s contract ready to go let’s do a little 3-on-3 to see if Denver has spent wisely, or if they will end up back in the financial doghouse.

(more…)

How Good Can the Denver Nuggets Be?

How good are the 2011-12 Denver Nuggets?  Now that the opening night roster is largely in place, Arron Afflalo is not officially signed, but I anticipate he will be in the next few days, we know what Denver has to work with.

Earlier today we Kalen, Charlie and myself made some high level projections in our second 3-on-3 installment as to how good Denver will be this season.  As I am wont to do, I would like to delve into the roster with a little more depth as we attempt to determine what should be expected of this team.

(more…)

A Day of Action – Nuggets Re-sign Nene and Trade for Two

Well Nuggets fans, you wanted activity, how did today treat you?  In addition to adding Rudy Fernandez, Corey Brewer and DeMarre Carroll today, Denver has reportedly reached an agreement with Nene on a five year, $67 million contract.  The fifth year apparently was a key to sealing the deal as the average salary is well shy of what was available to him from other teams.

(more…)

Nene and Market Forces

The free agency big man logjam is starting to clear out a bit, but four days into the signing period, we still do not know where Nene will be playing this year.  However, fellow centers Tyson Chandler (four years, $56 million), Marc Gasol (four years, $58 million) and DeAndre Jordan (four years, $42.7 million) have completed deals and the market value for Nene is becoming apparent.

(more…)

Cap Holds and You

For fans looking at sites like Hoops Hype that show the Denver Nuggets with nearly $30 million in cap space and wondering why on earth Denver is not making plays for some of the big names on the free agent market I have two words for you.

Cap hold.

Personally I had not factored the various cap holds oppressing the Nuggets until I noticed that John Hollinger, in his piece analyzing the free agent signings on Saturday, noted that Denver signed Luc Richard Mbah a Moute using their mid-level exception.  The mid-level exception is for teams over the cap.  How can Denver use it when they are so far under the salary cap?  It is due to the immense power of the cap hold.

(more…)

Free Agency Digest: Day Two

For those that followed our last installment yesterday, this is more of the same. News and commentary updated here as it comes out. Feel free to follow Jeremy, Kalen and Charlie on twitter to find out when we post an update. Not to get anyone’s hopes up but rumors are out that more decisions are expected today, particularly in the case of Nene to the New Jersey Nets.

(more…)

Free Agency Digest: Day One

Free Agency hasn’t started yet, but that has caused no shortage of drama in what is sure to be the craziest NBA offseason ever. By now you’ve all heard news of the Chris Paul deal that wasn’t. The league office will open for business at 12pm MST today and it will be very interesting to see how fast the frenzy will unfold one day after the infamous Veto. This post will be updated with any Nuggets developments and our thoughts on them, so check back throughout the day.

(more…)

Denver Nuggets 2011-2012 Schedule Released (UPDATED)

This post is a compilation of analysis and breakdown of 2012 schedule in the hours after it was released. To view the official schedule visit the Nuggets website at NBA.com. If you prefer a printable version of the schedule to reference click here for a link to the PDF. Scroll down to read updates and new developments on all things schedule related.

(more…)

Nuggets News: Winning without a Superstar?

Free agency is right around the corner, and with it comes somewhat of a watershed moment for the Denver Nuggets franchise. Two of their best starters are among the most desired free agents and the Nuggets want to keep both while being extremely careful with their salary cap. Masai Ujiri can try all he wants to accomplish all three of these goals, but the most likely solution means compromising on one or two of them. Most importantly, each and every one of these choices must fall in line with a plan that makes progress towards the ultimate goal of a championship. Do we know what that plan is yet?

(more…)

« Previous PageNext Page »