Pickaxe Pulse for November 17, 2013

Taking the pulse of the Nuggets every weekend

During the preseason, NBA analysts, pundits, and fans were predicting the Nuggets to finish anywhere from a low playoff seed to near the bottom of the league. After nine games, the 4-5 Nuggets have done little to change anyone’s mind.

Ty Lawson’s current averages of 21 points, 4 rebounds, and nearly 9 assists are all career highs. Wilson Chandler has been shooting extremely well from outside, and Timofey Mozgov has been a force on defense and in the pick and roll. The Nuggets have had fourth quarter leads in all but two games. On the down side, long-term injuries to Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee will keep the Nuggets from reaching full strength until January or later. Aside from Ty Lawson, the rest of the Nuggets’ guards have played inconsistently on both ends, with only a couple of good games each. The defense is still a work in progress, particularly in the frontcourt. Coach Shaw continues to run experimental lineups that are sometimes successful but more often terrible. With three tough tests coming this week, the Nuggets will need to improve quickly to keep pace.

Current record and standings: 4-5 (3-2 home, 1-3 road), tied with Memphis for 10th place in the West.

Upcoming games: Monday @ Oklahoma City, Thursday vs Chicago, Saturday vs Dallas

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 111-Houston Rockets 122

The Nuggets trailed by double digits most of the night, including falling behind by 20, and ultimately fell to the Rockets 122-111.

The defense was invisible most of the night as the Rockets paraded to the rim, ultimately shooting 50.6 percent from the field. But don’t worry, I found all the D hiding in the grades.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 111-Los Angeles Lakers 99

Thanks to a dominating performance from Timofey Mozgov the Nuggets played well late and defeated the Lakers 111-99.

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How not to defend the high pick and roll – a Denver Nuggets tale

Going into the season, we were all mentally prepared for how bad the defense was going to be, especially when factoring in the absence of Denver’s two best wing defenders. But what has occurred over the span of these four games has been an organization-wide breakdown on a fundamental level when it comes to defense, from system to effort to the makeup of the roster. We’ve already covered the big man dilemma as well as the inability to defend the three, now it’s time to dig into the high pick and roll defense.

The basics of Denver’s pick and roll defensive principles is essentially for the traditional centers, McGee and Mozgov, to drop back to around the free throw line when defending a screener and for everyone else (essentially anyone guarding the screener) to hedge high. The theory behind hedging is basically for the defending big is to impede the ball handlers path around the screen enough so to give the ball handlers’ defender enough time to navigate the screen. Considering the kinds of athletes Denver employes at the forward positions, and the diminutive nature of the backcourt, this kind of help and recover system should, in theory, work out well. In theory.

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BREAKING NEWS: JaVale McGee Out Indefinitely

According to the official Nuggets twitter account, JaVale McGee will be sidelined indefinitely due to a stress fracture in his left tibia. 

Head coach Brian Shaw has not decided if he will start Timofey Mozgov or J.J. Hickson at center for Monday’s game against Utah but either way expect to see both players start logging more time at the position.

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Rapid Reaction: Phoenix Suns 114, Denver Nuggets 103

Although Ty Lawson turned in one of his best performances as a young Denver Nugget, his team couldn’t find any form of consistency on the defensive side of the ball and once again allowed the opponent’s front line to have career days all around. The Nuggets are now 1-4 on the season and looking more and more like a lottery team.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 109-Atlanta Hawks 107

Thanks to a late important three from Ty Lawson and a key defensive stop at the buzzer by Andre Miller the Nuggets defeated the Hawks 109-107 to give Brian Shaw his first career victory.

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Roundball Roundtable: Reflections from June 2014

The Denver Nuggets have played two games. Neither has been pretty. And though there’s still 80 more games to be played, the first two outings have gotten our writers to thinking: Just where exactly will the Nuggets be eight months from now? In our latest Roundball Roundtable five of our writers have attempted to answer that very question. These are the answers they’ve presented…

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Juggling flaming chainsaws — Denver’s front court dilemma

It’s hard to know how much to extrapolate from the first couple games of the season, as the morning dew from the new year still lays damp upon both arena and player alike. But if there has been any clear takeaway from Denver’s first two games it’s that the front court rotation is a rolling tire fire right now. No front court combination has logged more than 26 minutes together and Brian Shaw is currently juggling the unwieldy number of five big men in and out of the rotation.

The starting pair of McGee and J.J. Hickson is perhaps the most egregious miscalculation and the one who’s change seems the most immanent. Offensively, neither Hickson nor McGee seems to understand how to properly space the floor, despite J.J. being a threat in the pick and pop.

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Rapid Reaction: Portland Trailblazers 113, Denver Nuggets 98

In what surely had to be one of the more disappointing season openers in recent memory, the Nuggets put forth a confused and defensively-bereft effort Friday night as they succumbed to the Blazers in ugly fashion. Point guards Nate Robinson and Ty Lawson each scored over 20, while Brian Shaw once again juggled with an 11-man rotation that failed to produce any form of cohesion. Additional grades and notes below.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 88-Sacramento Kings 90

Thanks to an unstoppable night from DeMarcus Cousins and a late Ty Lawson miss, the Nuggets dropped their 2013-2014 season opener 90-88 to the Sacramento Kings.

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Nuggets Waive Damion James.

With rosters needing to be finalized and down to 15 players by 5:00 ET on Monday evening the Nuggets announced that they have waived Damion James. 

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Recap: Chicago Bulls 94, Denver Nuggets 89

In what turned out to be an exciting game, the Nuggets ended up losing to the Chicago Bulls in the final few possessions after a back-and-fourth affair all night. JaVale McGee turned in an impressive performance with 15 points and eight boards in 25 minutes, while Ty Lawson looked dominant in the early periods of the game before succumbing to injury. The Nuggets finish the preseason with a 2-5 record and lots of room for improvement heading into the season. Here are a few more notes from Friday’s action…

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5-on-5: #NuggetsRank reflections

Around this time of year everyone’s doing some sort of rankings series. Pundits are ranking teams, players, players on teams (as we’ve done), coaches, general managers, mascots, they’re giving out preseason awards, they’re writing books. It’s kinda crazy, to be honest. And as you might expect from a fairly traditional sports blog, Roundball Mining Company got in on the craziness as well, in the form of our #NuggetsRank series which ran alongside ESPN.com’s larger #NBARank. But unlike most other outlets, here at RMC we like to occasionally take a step back and critique ourselves. Sure, we offer you our opinion in unbridled fashion and proclaim certain players to be “definitively” better than others, but we also realize those pompous proclamations are just our opinions. We know they’re the furthest things from facts; and so, in our latest 5-on-5 we collectively acknowledge the absurdity of rankings and immediately revoke all written analysis we may have previously stated as set in stone. As always, please join us in the comments section below to dish out your thoughts and opinions on #NuggetsRank, and be sure to let us know what we could do better next time to improve.

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Preseason Game 5: Nuggets 111-Clippers 118

The shorthanded Nuggets pushed the Clippers all night long before finally dropping the game in overtime 118-111. Some thoughts on the game:

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