Top five things the Denver Nuggets need to improve after the All-Star break

Categories: Sports

george karl on pti march 2011.JPG
George Karl.
The All-Star break is over, Kenneth Faried manimaled his way to some long-overdue national attention, and fastest team in the NBA West got a few days off to recharge its batteries. After the Nuggets beat the Celtics last night to avenge that frustrating triple OT loss heading into the break, it's official: The second half of Denver's season is underway, and it's time to begin the push to the post season. But what do the Nugs need to fix along the way? Five things at least.

The Nuggets are a "team" in the truest sense of the word. No single superstar carries them on a given night, although Faried, Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari have done great spot impressions throughout the season. Moving forward, it's no surprise that in order for the Nuggets to climb in the rankings and avoid a first-round match up with the Memphis Grizzlies (their antithesis, essentially), they need to do better in the following areas.

danilo gallinari.JPG
Danilo Gallinari.
1. Cut down on the turnovers. The Nuggets' turnover numbers are a bit inflated due to the pace at which they play. More trips up and down the court and a fast-paced offense are not usually conducive to low levels of turnovers. As it stands, the Nuggets are 28th in the league in this category, at 15.5 per game. No single player is to blame. High-usage players like Lawson, Andre Iguodala and Andre Miller turn the ball over the most, but that's to be expected. Only Houston (16.3) and Oklahoma City (15.6) average more turnovers per game, but Houston plays at an even faster pace than the Nuggets, and Oklahoma City currently has two of the ten best players in the league to make up for their lost possessions.

2. Make free throws. The Nuggets are dead last in the NBA, shooting a woeful 69 percent from the stripe. The league average is around 74 percent. Andre Miller is the best free throw shooter on the team (if only his jumper would follow suit) at 85 percent, and Gallinari comes in around 81 percent. After those two, the bottom falls out. Every other player on the team shoots less than 80 percent. Koufos, McGee, Iguodala and Faried combine to shoot 59 percent. Those guys are on the floor quite a bit. It's actually pretty impressive how many points the Nugs put up on a nightly basis while shooting free throws so, so poorly. But they've got to make the most of the opportunities. They're called "free" for a reason.

Continue reading for more areas where the Nuggets need to improve.

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Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

Is it true they're going to change their colors to green and call themselves the "Nug hits?"


Get the tallest & fastest black guy available .....


Your defensive metrics are misleading.  Point-per-game completely ignores the pace of the game; and when you're a team like the Nuggets, who are purposely pushing the ball up the floor and taking shots 10 seconds into the shot clock, the game is going to experience more possessions than your average NBA game.

ESPN currently has Denver ranked 13th in defensive efficiency, right with Miami and New York.  Can the Nuggets improve?  Absolutely.  And if you look at their recent trends, they've been playing much better team defense.

Some time off between games in the second half of the season and getting Wilson Chandler back has helped a lot.


@jmpmk2 You are right that the points-per-game doesn't take into account the pace of the game -- it's a lot like D'Antoni's Suns squads being maligned for poor defense when, in reality, they usually hung just a little below league average. However, I did note that in the section. They've definitely improved on defense in the recent weeks. It's also true, though, that their high number of turnovers puts extra pressure on the defense -- often leaving players in poor positions with low success rates. Collectively, they're missing that anchoring defensive player. Brewer and Iguodala are great individual defenders, and Faried always puts in the effort, but they still have too many lapses to be considered title-worthy at this point.


@charles.trowbridge @jmpmk2 Absolutely.  

They're also the 3rd youngest team in the NBA and the path to improvement is clear.  Faried and McGee have the most to learn, and are also the two pieces that can make this a Top-10, or even Top-5, defense.  It's not likely to happen this year, but this team, as currently constructed, is still built as well for the playoffs as any that Carmelo played on.

Watching both of these Boston games gives me confidence they can play that style of game and get out of Round 1.

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