Almost two months into this NBA season, it has become exceedingly clear just how important the Denver Nuggets bench has been to the team’s relative success. The starting lineup has frequently struggled, especially in first quarters, and the second unit has come to their rescue all too often.
In my recent post on Wilson Chandler, I compared his net efficiency with that of Timofey Mozgov, suggesting that Timo was, and Wilson wasn’t making a big impact. In the comments section, a Roundball Mining Company reader correctly pointed out that it might not be fair to compare a starter with a bench player, given the discrepancy in the caliber of players they’re going up against.
Henry Abbot, senior writer at ESPN and founder of the TrueHoop blog and network (of which Roundball Mining Company is proud to be a part) recently published an interesting article entitled “Offensive rebounds come with a cost.” In it, in response to John Hollinger’s observation that last season’s Boston Celtics were the worst offensive rebounding team in league history. he poses an intriguing question: (more…)
In a previous post on how Andre Iguodala may bolster the Denver Nuggets perimeter defense, a troubling fact was brought to light: In terms of field goal percentages allowed, in both long range 2-point and 3-point shots the Nuggets were dead last in the league last season. Allowing a long-two field goal percentage of 41.4 and an effective field goal percentage of 57.5 from beyond the arc, there’s really no two ways about it. When it came to defending outside shots, Denver was the bottom of the barrel.
The goal in making this video is to zoom in on the variety of ways in which Denver’s perimeter defense broke down in 2011-12. We should have more analysis on this later, but in the meantime, please feel free to pick these clips apart in the comments. For the time being, the only thing I’d offer as a general, overarching observation is that as I put this video together it became increasingly apparent to me that simply improving communication and decreasing confusion — ie. teaching the young players to develop a better understanding of rotating, recovering, switching, and knowing what to do when they get back in transition — could improve this defense by leaps and bounds. Given this, it may be the case that even more imp;ortant than his individual defensive skills, Andre Iguodala’s ability to quarterback a defense could facilitate a marked improvement in this team.
I mentioned in my game recap of the Denver Nuggets 121-96 victory over the New Jersey Nets that Denver played very strong pick and roll defense. I purposely left the details out because I was planning on putting together some video evidence so here you go. Take note of how the Nuggets defended as a group and every movement was done deliberately with a purpose behind it.
The frustrating thing is watching them defend the pick and roll correctly it really is not that difficult. No one is doing anything superhuman or spectacular. To be fair, defending the pick and roll against Keyon Dooling is slightly easier than when Devin Harris has the ball, but the same principles apply no matter who is dribbling the ball.
The Denver Nuggets proved for at least one night they can lock down even the best offensive team in the league. More than one person I have spoken with over the previous couple of days has claimed that the Nuggets played the best defense they had even seen them play, and these were not young fans either.
The organization, focus and effort the Nuggets displayed on defense against the Lakers was not only stunning for its overall brilliance, but also for how unexpected such a performance was. Just two days before they tried to implement an aggressive trapping scheme for the pick and roll against the Hawks and failed miserably. In that game they looked like five guys at the rec all having received different advice on how to play before they took the floor. Somehow all that changed when the Lakers rolled into town.
I have been critical of how Denver has seemed to rely on flipping the switch to win games, but the game last night proved that they do have a level beyond what is displayed during the average game and that bodes well for the playoffs when everyone tries to raise their game a level. Some teams show that they do not have an extra gear for the postseason, picture the Denver Nuggets of the previous five seasons, but I think this version of the squad just might be able to reach that extra gear. I need to be careful not to jump to conclusions on their performance for just one game, plus it was clear the Lakers were worn out from their early morning arrival in Denver, but their defensive performance was just that good.
As promised I have put together some clips to show how they worked together and how in sync they were as a team. Individuals can carry a team on offense, but if even one player misses an assignment on defense the entire structure can crumble. Cohesiveness is vital to be an exceptional defensive team and for at least one night the Nuggets had a collective consciousness rarely seen in the Mile High City. While watching the clips notice the way they help and rotate. There was practically no wasted motion.
I wish I had done a better job documenting the work that Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith put in guarding Kobe. Kobe lit Melo up, but it was not because Melo was slacking off of him. He was in his face almost the entire time and J.R.’s defense was so strong that George Karl said of his play, “J.R. was a man.”
Going forward I do not think it is fair to expect that kind of defensive performance every night, but it is a sign that we sure as heck should not be subjected to the kind of defense we were the four games prior to the Laker game.
Check out all my videos in the Roundball Mining Company Denver Nuggets Film Room.