Going Higher Than a Mile
The Denver Nuggets are a team that has some pretty high expectations this season. With newly added wing, Andre Iguodala, they’ve improved at a position where they needed some life.
Of course, Arron Afflalo was no slouch. However, there is no arguing that Iguodala is an upgrade at that position. He’s coming off of a season where he won a gold medal, was named an All-Star and probably could’ve won defensive player of the year.
Arron Afflalo is a better offensive player, no doubt. He’s much more polished and efficient on that end of the floor as opposed to Iguodala who’s shown flashes of that. Last season Afflalo averaged a career high 15.2 points per game on 47% shooting from the field.
While Iguodala isn’t as efficient or skilled when it comes to putting the ball through the hoop, he can do everything else better than Afflalo. He’s a better passer, ball handler, and defender than him. He’s a much more needed player on that team at this time than Afflalo is.
Defensively the Nuggets obviously need help.
They were in the bottom of the pack when it came to the most important defensive categories last season according to basketball reference. They were 29th out of the 30 teams in points allowed per game with 101.2 and they were also 20th in defensive rating allowing 106.2 points per 100 possessions.
While their defensive rating isn’t as atrocious as their points allowed, it needs to be better. Iguodala should make it much better. He’s an upgrade from Arron Afflalo who allowed 111 points per 100 possessions. Iggy was stingy on the defensive end all season allowing only 97 points per 100 possessions which is tremendously better.
He’s great at playing PnR defense as well as isolation defense. He doesn’t give up much space as a defender but doesn’t foul at the same time. His wingspan is also a huge factor in his defensive ability. It allows him to disrupt ball handlers quickly and recover from getting beat.
The Nuggets defense will come a long way with a full season of Kenneth Faried, Javale McGee and Andre Iguodala. They’ll be able to defend well enough on the wing and in the paint to possibly make a deep postseason run.
Now–maybe just as importantly–they’ll be able to guard the perimeter players that they’ve struggled defending in the past. They’ll be able to stick Iguodala there depending on the match up.
Runnin’ and Gunnin’
The Nuggets are going to be a team that’s going to focus on defending and getting the ball back quickly and getting out on the break. They’re not a team that’s going to flourish in half-court sets. That’s just not what suits their team.
This is probably one of the few cons that they have in trading away players like NeNe and Arron Afflalo. They were guys who you could depend on in half-court situations when the game slowed down.
NeNe was a viable option in the half-court as he flourishes in the post and also dribble handoffs. He’s a great screener and is probably one of the best give-and-go players in the NBA. Trust me, as a Wizards fan I know. NeNe was amazing in feeding cutters as they use his post-up for a screen.
Afflalo had some of the same features. He wasn’t necessarily good at creating for others, but when it came to getting his own shot he could do that with ease. He was always efficient and knew how to work off of the ball. He shot the three with ease as well.
Now, their players who can function in the half-court come few and far between. Their best players there, other than Lawson, are probably Gallinari and Iguodala.
According to Synergy Sports Technology, when breaking down where most of Iguodala’s scoring opportunities came from roughly 38% of them were in transition or as a spot up shooter.
Gallinari is a proficient enough ball handler to run the pick and roll out of creative sets where he got 1.01 ppp and he’s also a very good player in transition as well. The Nuggets have to hope that Gallinari grows in these areas, and others, so that they can prosper in the half-court.
The Nuggets minutes are going to go deep into their roster. They’ve got a lot of rotation guys who will give good minutes. Some could even be starters on other teams.
One thing that I think they’ll need to take a look at is the center position. Last season, Mozgov was starting for a large portion of the time after NeNe was shipped out. Javale McGee proved to be a viable option as a sixth or seventh man in the rotation, but may be a good option as a starter.
With their need on the defensive end, McGee can help the Nuggets start fast and start early as opposed to Mozgov. Either one is a good option to have, and I think that they’ll continue to stick with Mozgov until they see the need to make a change.
Ty Lawson- 32.8 Mpg
Andre Iguodala- 32.1 Mpg
Danillo Gallinari- 33.3 Mpg
Kenneth Faried- 35.3 Mpg
Timofey Mozgov- 20.2 Mpg
Andre Miller- 22.3 Mpg
Wilson Chandler- 27.2 Mpg
Corey Brewer- 21.2 Mpg
Kosta Koufos- 19.7 Mpg
Evan Fournier- 18.2 Mpg
Jordan Hamilton- 18.4 Mpg
Javale McGee- 28.4 Mpg
Anthony Randolph- 19.2 Mpg
Anthony Carter- 12.2 Mpg
Quincy Miller- 16.3 Mpg
Today, John Hollinger his annual season forecasts and he had the Nuggets as the number two seed in the West. That comes to the surprise of many after seeing the move that the Lakers made and the expected improvement of the Oklahoma City.
As outrageous as it seems, I think that’s a pretty feasible spot for them. They’ll be a top two or three seed in the West. They’ve got players who all play the same style, a great coach, and a very good-to-great point guard.
I think they’ll be a threat to come out of the Western Conference.