The Denver Nuggets Defensive Problems

Lakers domination

Of their top 10 units, in order by minute’s played, they’ve only got three units that allow under 1 point per possession, according to . That’s unacceptable for a team that was supposed to be one of the top defensively in the NBA by this point.

The addition of Andre Iguodala along with the improvement from other defensive players like Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee and Corey Brewer were supposed to take this team to the next level on that end. Well, right now they’re doing the total opposite–the Nuggets sit at 23rd in the league in defensive efficiency.

The main reason for their shortcomings on the defensive end are their erroneous rotations on in most instances. I say ‘most instances’ because can guard the ball exceptionally well when an offense is stagnant. According to Mysynergysports they’re ranked 8th in defending isolations, 2nd in defending pick and roll ball handlers and 8th in defending shooters off of screens.

They’ve got basic defensive know-how, but once the offense starts to break everything down they don’t recover well.

They’re ranked 25th in defending spot up shooters allowing 1.04 points per possession and are ranked 14th in defending cutters off of the ball but allow 1.17 points per possession in those situations. They also don’t defend well against the roll man in pick and roll situations allowing an equal 1.17 points per possession there.

In a league where pick and roll penetration in most offenses the Nuggets are getting killed. Their lack of discipline and unyielding aggression is destroying them.

They obviously lack the chemistry and the know how to defend offenses when they break down. As hoopologist Ryan Hebert pointed out to me yesterday, it takes a lot more than athleticism, size and speed to defend and play basketball period. Here are some of his tweets.

Those same principles go for the Nuggets on the defensive end of the floor. They’re making the wrong decisions when offenses are playing against them–especially in the transition game.

The offenses are able to scramble them and use ball reversals to shove daggers down the Nuggets’ throats. Here are a few plays that stood out to me during yesterday’s action that perfectly portray what I’m talking about.

Here, off of a Nuggets miss, the Lakers get the ball in transition. Its pushed up the floor by Darius Morris who hands it off to Kobe Bryant on the right wing where he recieves a screen from Pau Gasol. Bryant rejects the screen from Gasol and rolls to the basket. Pau’s defender, Timofey Mozgov, ends up leaving Pau to trap Bryant on the wing, but he and Bryant’s defender, Andre Iguodala, give Bryant enough room to dribble and survey the defense.

There are two players who are spotted up on the other side of the floor–Antawn Jamison on the wing and Jodie Meeks in the corner. Danillo Gallinari leaves Jamison in order to help in the paint and prevent Gasol from diving in too deep for an easy score.

Meeks and Jamison are two guys that you don’t want shooting the ball against you, but in this case you have to pick your poison. Ideally you’d want to take away the easiest pass from Bryant. That would mean that Lawson would rotate to Antawn Jamison and deny the passing lane. Here’s what Lawson should’ve done.

Lawson Correct play

Skip passes are the hardest to do in the NBA, especially under pressure defense. Gallinari would’ve had some time to recover to Meeks and the play would’ve been well defended. Instead of making the proper play, Lawson goes at Meeks in the corner and gives up one of 17 three point makes.

Here’s another play in which the Nuggets give up a three because of work that they failed to do early in the possession. Take a look.

Here’s where Gasol gives another screen and its rejected once again by Chris Duhon. Gasol is the last player down the floor so his man, Mozgov again, loses track of him. Instead of going with Gasol on the pop, Mozgov decides to help out Lawson with Duhon. They give a weak double team and Duhon is able to give a smooth bounce pass to Gasol at the top of the key.

Gasol waits for the next man to rotate over to him before he makes his decision instead of shooting the ball. The guy that rotated over to him was Andre Miller. Miller was supposed to be guarding Meeks over on the strong side and he leaves him open. Gasol uses his jump shot to get Miller in the air and passes the ball to Meeks for another wide open three.

All of this could have been avoided if Mozgov stuck with Gasol throughout the possession. If they weren’t going to aggressively trap Duhon–a player in which trapping should almost never be required–then Mozgov should’ve just stayed on Gasol’s back.

Here’s how things should’ve played out.

Find your man

In this next and final play off of a transition opportunity Denver allows Kobe Bryant a free lane to Antawn Jamison for the easy lay in. This is because Nuggets failed to communicate who had who at the end of the break. Bryant’s penetration was key here, but he only had one passing lane to choose from. Take a look.

As you can see, Andre Iguodala doesn’t make the correct decision here and gives up on the play. He wants to stick with MWP on the outside, but see’s that Jamison is wide open as two other Nuggets shield off the other side of the rim. If Iguodala makes the correct rotation then the ball would have been forced to pull out.

Here’s the correct play.

Proper choice

The Nuggets have been playing this way all season and will continue to sit below .500 if they don’t fix these things. Do I expect them to? Yes. They’re all veteran players and have been good defensively before. All of these issues are fixable with a little bit of communication.


2 responses to “The Denver Nuggets Defensive Problems

    • Karl is too worried about their offensive production with McGee and Faried starting. He thinks that it eliminates the spacing completely for their team and with their lack of a shooting presence so far this season he could be right.

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