Don’t bogart that ball, McGee – Video scouting report

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…)

Rapid Reaction: Memphis Grizzlies 94, Denver Nuggets 91

Memphis Grizzlies 94 FinalRecap | Box Score 91 Denver Nuggets
Kenneth Faried, F 17 MIN | 3-6 FG | 2-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | -14
Faried played with lots of energy, as usual, but got in foul trouble early which forced Karl to limit his minutes in the first half. However, why he didn’t see more time later in is a bit perplexing considering the Nuggets desperately needed the two things Faried is best at providing: energy and defense.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 21 MIN | 0-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 0 PTS | 0
Gallinari isn’t exactly picking up where he left off. Whether he’s still injured or just extremely out of shape (or both) is up for debate, but either way Gallinari isn’t very effective on the floor at the moment. More playing time should heal his struggles, but it’s a little discouraging seeing how far he’s fallen since injuring his foot in February.
Nene, C 26 MIN | 4-13 FG | 7-8 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 15 PTS | +2
Even though he shot a low percentage from the field, Nene finished with a very respectable stat line overall. His aggressiveness against the much taller Marc Gasol was one of the few highlights of the game.
Arron Afflalo, SG 32 MIN | 4-7 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 10 PTS | 0
Afflalo had another “invisible night.” While he played 32 minutes, it seemed as if he was only on the floor for 10. It’s crucial that he remains assertive on the offensive side of the ball in order for the Nuggets to reach its full potential.
Ty Lawson, PG 31 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 5 PTS | +3
Similar to Afflalo, Ty Lawson was also nowhere to be seen for much of the night. He hit one big 3-pointer near the end of the game but otherwise spent most of the evening shying away from the spotlight. He had more turnovers than assists and deferred to his teammates far too often rather than attempting to make something happen himself. After winning the Western Conference Player of the Week award, Lawson has since been underwhelming.
Al Harrington, PF 30 MIN | 5-12 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 15 PTS | +4
Harrington did what the Nuggets pay him to do: score of the bench. He was one of the few players that displayed constant emotion throughout the game and actually looked as if he wanted to win.
Andre Miller, PG 30 MIN | 5-12 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 7 AST | 14 PTS | -4
Looking at Miller’s stat line is the epitome of deception. Getting 14 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals from your backup point guard is every team’s dream; however, you’d also think a win would come included with such numbers. And that, right there, is really the problem with Andre Miller. His game and numbers right now don’t translate into winning basketball. He plays no defense, is selfish on offense and is consistently inconsistent. In the fourth quarter, with only seconds left on the clock and the Nuggets down by three, Miller committed one of the more baffling turnovers I’ve ever seen. He essentially just handed the ball over to Memphis without any defensive pressure whatsoever. At this juncture, Miller seems to be hurting the team more than he’s helping it.
Chris Andersen, C 19 MIN | 2-6 FG | 3-4 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | -3
Birdman finished with yet another solid night. He rebounded particularly well and didn’t commit any glaring errors. With a more steady role, Birdman would likely flourish, which is why a trade might be best for both he and Denver moving forward.
Corey Brewer, SF 29 MIN | 6-13 FG | 3-5 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 15 PTS | -1
Brewer was fantastic in terms of energy, which also reflected in his stat line. He had numerous fastbreak dunks and showed passion on defense. Late in the fourth quarter when the Nuggets were desperately in need of some points, he followed up one of Nene’s missed free throws which resulted in him shooting a few of his own. This is the type of effort the Nuggets absolutely must get from Brewer on a nightly basis.
Jordan Hamilton, G 5 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | -2
Hamilton didn’t see much time, which is somewhat unfortunate as he played well in the five minutes he did see. In a game where the Nuggets needed something, Hamilton might have been able to provide it, as none of the normal rotational players were able to get it done.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 97 Memphis Grizzlies 100 (OT)

Denver Nuggets 97 Final
Recap | Box Score
100 Memphis Grizzlies
Nene, C 33 MIN | 6-9 FG | 2-3 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | -16
It’s tough to put a lot of blame on Nene for what transpired tonight, especially because he’s carried the Nuggets throughout the last two games. While Nene’s production trailed off it’s hard to ignore just how badly he was outplayed by Marc Gasol. Although Nene had a decent individual performance, he took a grand total of three second half shots and disappeared late when the Nuggets sorely needed him to step up
Danilo Gallinari, SF 25 MIN | 1-10 FG | 6-6 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +2
Did not show up to play. It’s a simple as that. Hardly worth mentioning anything he did because it was just a bunch of terrible jumpers. Gallo found himself benched for most of the fourth quarter and entire overtime (for the second time this season).
Timofey Mozgov, C 10 MIN | 0-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 1 PTS | -8
Five fouls in 10 minutes is too much. He started off on Speights instead of Gasol so it’s actually hard to even credit his defense on the Memphis bigs. While he was more physical in terms of defending the rim and blocking shots, he just looked lost and couldn’t stay on the court long enough to help. The turnovers need to stop at some point too.
Arron Afflalo, SG 36 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 8 PTS | -9
He’s regressed big time. Afflalo was one of the best role players in the game last season and he’s currently lost with no idea what his role should be. The shots he is taking are indefensible. Fadeaways with 20 on the clock and contested turnaround jumpers over Rudy Gay? Welcome to this year’s Arron Afflalo. He’s hardly looking for his three point shot anymore which makes spacing a big issue too. More importantly, he just isn’t having the sort of positive impact on defense we’ve all been accustomed to.
Ty Lawson, PG 34 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 12 PTS | -11
There was a stretch in the third quarter Lawson came alive and looked poised to take over the game. Unfortunately it didn’t last very long as Lawson spent most of his time struggling to find a rhythm after missing nearly three games with an ankle injury. The turnovers keep piling up and although his threes started falling, Lawson looked tentative going to the rim. He lacked his usual bursts of speed off the dribble and let’s hope he continues to work himself back into form for the upcoming stretch of three games in a row.
Al Harrington, PF 38 MIN | 8-16 FG | 4-4 FT | 10 REB | 4 AST | 23 PTS | +3
The Nuggets can’t waste a game like this from Al Harrington. He was outmuscled and outmatched on defense and still managed a double-double with 24 points off the bench. Harrington’s primary role is to score and he delivered. Buckets nearly made what could have been the play of the game by almost taking a charge on Memphis final possession of regulation that ended up tying it. Harrington badly wanted to win this game and it has to be disappointing seeing his teammates lacking the same resolve.
Andre Miller, PG 39 MIN | 8-13 FG | 3-6 FT | 6 REB | 6 AST | 20 PTS | +5
It’s a tough grade to give Miller, because he really played pretty well. Except of course for the most crucial moments where he made a ton of uncharacteristic mistakes as the Nuggets melted. Missed free throws, untimely turnovers and just flat out bad decision making. It might be a little unfair to say this, but if he just makes one less bad play the Nuggets win – and he certainly had every single opportunity down the stretch.
Chris Andersen, C 7 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | +6
Birdman gets an incomplete. At some point this has to stop — either give him a role or take him out of the rotation. Although I was disappointed in Birdman’s defense, it’s not fair to expect him to play well under these conditions. George Karl needs to show some faith in him or just put him behind Koufos in the rotation. This can’t continue.
Corey Brewer, SF 13 MIN | 3-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | +1
A little too high? I really don’t think so — Brewer was a part of the big runs that gave the Nuggets every opportunity to close out this game. He outplayed both Afflalo and Fernandez. Although he was in for defensive purposes late, it was disappointing to see him have such a good game and be off the court for the most important stretches of play. Brewer’s body of work is starting to suggest he should be seeing close to 20 minutes every night.
Rudy Fernandez, SG 19 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | +6
Rudy was the only Nugget to go scoreless and clearly didn’t have it tonight. Although he’s coming off two solid scoring performances his defense has been incredibly erratic and unreliable. Combine this with turnovers and he just had a pretty disastrous overall game.
Kosta Koufos, C 12 MIN | 0-0 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 PTS | +6
Koufos played only a few minutes in the second half due to Mozgov getting in foul trouble. Although he played nine minutes, one rebound is the only evidence he isn’t actually the invisible man. Although the stats are lacking, Koufos played respectable defense and I was impressed with his hustle in the limited minutes he received. I wouldn’t mind seeing Koufos get regular minutes as the first big off the bench as he’s had his moments and a little confidence might go a long way into making Koufos a more reliable option.

Nene on brink of making decision? [UPDATED]

According to CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger, the Nuggets are awaiting word from Nene on whether he’ll accept New Jersey’s contract offer or re-sign with Denver. Additionally, Berger is reporting that Marreese Speights continues to be of interest to the Nuggets regardless of where Nene ends up. Philadelphia 76ers beat writer, Kate Fagan, insists that the Nuggets are “definitely in the mix” for Speights.

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CBSSports.com attempting to ruin Nuggets’ dream offseason

Two reports filed in the last 24 hours by CBSSports.com are undoubtedly heartbreaking for Nuggets Nation. First, Royce Young published this article claiming — contrary to owner, Michael Heisley’s earlier statements last season — that the Grizzlies will match any contract offer presented to Marc Gasol, according to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. Today, Ken Berger is reporting that, “One of the surest bets of the soon-to-begin 2011 NBA free-agent period is that Nene wants out of Denver.” Berger later goes on to state how Dallas and Miami are on top of Nene’s wishlist, but due to neither team having enough cap room to sign the 29-year-old free agent, a sign-and-trade would have to be completed in order to finalize the deal.

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Nuggets News: CBA rumblings

Since news broke that a new CBA has been reached, the digital media universe has been teeming with rumors about possible changes from the previous structure. Everything from an amnesty clause to a mandatory pay scale has been floated around, with wild speculation not far behind. In this version of Nuggets News, we’ll take a glimpse at some of the hottest topics of discussion and evaluate how they might affect the Denver Nuggets moving forward. (more…)

Nuggets News: Post-lockout edition

Early Saturday morning news broke that the NBA lockout has finally concluded after 149 days of fierce negotiations. Though the deal has yet to be finalized, a “handshake” agreement is said to have been reached between the owners and players. All signs are pointing towards a season starting Christmas Day, with training camps and free agency beginning as soon as Dec. 9. Between now and the Nuggets first game of the 2011-12 season, which will likely be at Utah on Dec. 26, we’ll be covering a lot of material, but before we begin our analysis, here are some links to help get you acclimated with the new CBA and how it affects your favorite basketball team. (more…)

Nene forces Nuggets to take option of insecurity

Thursday, the deadline for Nene to re-sign with the Denver Nuggets officially expired and no deal was reached. Though Masai Ujiri and the rest of Nuggets’ management feverishly attempted to cajole Nene into guaranteeing his services to the Nuggets organization for another handful of years similar to the deal he struck back in 2006, apparently Nene was not moved. Many believe this places the Nuggets in a somewhat precarious trench sandwiched between the grounds of stability and a total rebuilding of the franchise — at least until a new collective bargaining agreement is realized — but is it possible that this maxim is nothing more than an ostensible notion? Could the Nuggets be just fine without Nene’s services? Or will losing Nene force the Nuggets to officially re-build? Most importantly, by forgoing the opportunity to extend his career with the Nuggets, what exactly did Nene say? (more…)

Prospecting: Digging for gold in the 2011 NBA Draft

With the Denver Nuggets already out of the playoffs and the NBA Draft a little over a month away, speculation on how the Nuggets will approach the draft and who it will take with the 22nd pick is firmly underway. Equipped with an enticing asset in Raymond Felton as well as the less attractive Al Harrington — both of whom are overshadowed at their respective positions by other teammates, thus making them somewhat trade-able — the Nuggets have the option to make a variety of moves if prompted. (more…)

2010-2011 Game 55: Denver Nuggets 108 Memphis Grizzlies 116

Box Score | Highlights

I have to admit, after reliving that incredible fourth quarter comeback against Dallas I almost bought back in. It’s been tempting at numerous times this season when the Nuggets occasionally act like the good team they think they are. Even through the first half of this game I thought it was the best Denver has looked on the road all season. Something just made me uneasy about saying with another half to play and unfortunately it turned into a cruel reminder of why I can’t get fooled anymore.

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Nuggets 108, Grizzlies 107: Afflalo, Nene carry Nuggets to seventh straight win

Somehow, the boys in powder blue and gold keep on doing it; “it” being finding a way to win, in this case for a seventh straight time. Thanks to Aaron Afflalo’s career-high 25 points on 10-for-14 shooting and a gigantic 27 and 11 from Nene the Nuggets were able to hold onto a lead that at one point was as large as 21 with a single-point victory.

Despite blowing their huge lead in a third quarter in which they were outscored 30-14, Denver resurrected itself in the fourth thanks in large part to some solid bench minutes from J.R. and Ty (though their stats may not show it) and Afflalo’s career night. A game which could have been a disastrous loss for the Nuggets instead remains part of a winning streak that couldn’t have come at a better time for Denver, who will head into a brutal four-game roadtrip out east starting in Charlotte tomorrow night and finishing at the Garden against the Knicks on Sunday.

Here are some thoughts from the game, in bullet format to speed things up a bit-

  • About Afflalo’s game and this season in general; yes, he is a primarily a catch and shoot player who is streaky (like his backup J.R. Swish, at least in the streaky part) and gets most of his points from long range. But that is not what makes Aaron dangerous on offense (nor why he is having a breakout season). He is posting up smaller guards and using good elevation on his jumper to hit that mid-range shot (which he is fairly accurate with). He is running the floor and finishing in transition, not afraid to keep the ball himself and take contact instead of dishing it to a running mate. And he isn’t settling for treys, putting the ball on the floor and knocking 15-footers (most of which are contested and tough shots to make).
  • I am loving Denver’s bench more and more with each passing game. I am a huge Birdman fan (which makes me even sadder that he’s injured again) despite people knocking him for his lack of toughness and on-ball defense; the guy is good at a few things (knocking down an open shot, passing) and great at a few (help defense aka monster blocks on unsuspecting guards, running the break, hustle rebounding) and his contract isn’t that ridiculous. Trust me, the Nuggets could do a lot worse with $4.5 million a year. You gotta love Forbes’ energy; Harrington (despite shooting terribly from long distance recently) has played much better-than-advertised defense and can always explode for 25 a night; J.R. has played his way out of George’s dog house and is reminding Nuggets’ fans of how this team got to the Western Conference Finals; and Ty Lawson is a top-flight backup point guard in this league. (and probably could start for some teams)
  • I said in my season-preview that Nene needed to make that leap into the next echelon of centers, and his play of late is suggesting he may be moving towards that. Yes he is still inconsistent, but his ability to steal the ball as a center, run the floor, finish in the lane with authority and contact (can Nene’s patented palming the ball, two big gallops and one-handed throwdown be called the “Nene” from now on?) and out-muscle centers bigger than him makes him a threat no matter who he is matched up against. If he can play like this against the Lakers, Spurs, Mavericks, etc., lookout Western Conference.
  • Memphis’ 4-5 combo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol is one of the best in the league, and Grizzlies’ coach Lionel Hollins should have gotten those two the ball more. Yes, I love Rudy Gay too and he is slowly but surely working his way into a top 20 (dare I say 15?) talent in this league, but Gasol and Randolph will outwork, outbang, out…power (is that a word?) any tandem in the league. Gasol only put up 6 shots (and made five, despite tough D from Nene) and while Z-Bo put up 21, he didn’t seem to get in the rhythm of tha game. Conley is solid, Mayo and Gay can light it up, but if Memphis can get their two bigs involved every game they should make a playoff run (if you don’t believe me, ask the Miami Heat).

One last thought that passed through my mind before we turn the page; as I watch this group play more and more, the more and more I think they could survive (nay, dare I say thrive?) without Melo. Some are speculating that Chauncey would want out if Melo is dealt, but Mr. Big Shot loves playing here and wants to retire a Nugget. And what other competing team needs a point guard (ok, there is a team in South Beach but unless they offer Haslem and….five first round picks (that’s what I’m saying, not gonna happen!) why would you make that deal if you were Denver? Miami offers nothing the Nuggets would want, and in Denver you have-

  • A top 15 center (Nene)
  • Some quality role players (Affalo, Lawson, Andersen, Harrington)
  • A top-notch sixth-man, if he’s not in the coach’s doghouse (J.R.)
  • And a HUGE expiring contract (K-Mart)

The Nuggets proved they could win when Melo was gone and even on these recent nights when he’s struggled to find his shot (as Chauncey has) they’ve still found a way to win. They can parlay Melo and/or K-Mart’s deals into some good (maybe great pieces) to build a contender around. Who you might say? Well we’ll save that for another day. Just know the Nuggets are heading to Charlotte (close to Karl’s old stomping grounds in Chapel Hill) with a chance ot get their coach his 1,000th all-time victory. My quandary is, would number 1,000 be better in the head man’s alma mater or on national TV, in the Garden, against the defending Eastern Conference champs? Just saying…