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

Categories: Sports

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Ty Lawson, Andre Miller and Kenneth Faried hold the keys to the Nuggets' success.
3. Improve team defense. Calling the Nuggets' team defense "sieve-like" does an injustice to hardworking sieves everywhere. Opponents average 101.5 points per game against the Nugs. Eight other teams give up more than 100 points per game, and of those eight, only three are playoff-bound based on today's standings: the Warriors, Rockets and Nuggets. Again, part of the blame has to fall on the playing pace. The up-and-down game translates to scoring a lot of points for both the Nuggets and their opponents. But when you're turning the ball over at a high clip, you've got to shore up the defense to compensate. The Nuggets actually block quite a few shots -- 6.6 per game, fourth in the league -- and they swipe a high number of steals -- 8.7 per game, third in the league. But those are often individual statistics not indicative of a team's overall defensive performance (see: Howard, Dwight). In order for the Nugs to make a serious run at the post season, they've got to get better at individual discipline, defensive rotations and defending the pick and roll.

4. Make three pointers (or stop taking so many). The Nuggets don't shoot a ton of threes, but they do fall right around the league average (19.7). What sets them apart is their inability to make those shots. For a team averaging more than nineteen three-point attempts per game, a healthy percentage would be about 38 percent. Instead, the Nuggets shoot 34 percent, making 6.6 per game. Obviously, the Nuggets rely on a high-powered offense to be competitive, so threes are an important element of the game plan. But how can their big men -- especially big men whose go-to post move is an offensive rebound -- hope to operate when other defenses don't need to bother respecting the three ball? Floor spacing is key to opening up other scoring avenues, so maybe the Nuggets should reconsider how often they let fly from long range. Other playoff-bound teams shoot the three poorly -- namely Memphis and Chicago -- but they recognize this and take fewer than fourteen per game. To take the next step, the Nugs need to play to their strengths: athleticism, transition buckets and excellent team chemistry.

5. Win on the road. This isn't a completely fair criticism, since the Nuggets played 22 of their first 32 games on the road. But the schedule balanced back out, and now everyone is essentially even. The Nugs are an impressive 22-3 at home, but a sub-par 11-18 on the road. Of the sixteen teams currently in the playoff hunt, only three have lost more than fifteen games on the road: Utah, Houston and Denver. Utah and Houston are battling for the seven and eight seeds, respectively, but the Nuggets, thanks largely to their Pepsi Center dominance, are fifth, with a shot at catching Memphis for the four. Fortunately, the Nuggets' next five road games are all against sub-500 teams (Washington, Charlotte, Portland, Sacramento and Phoenix), with home meetings against the Lakers, Clippers and Oklahoma City sprinkled throughout. It should be a great opportunity to build some momentum for the second half of the season.

More from our Sports archive: "Videos: Top five trades in Denver Nuggets history."


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5 comments
Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

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

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

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

jmpmk2
jmpmk2

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.

charles.trowbridge
charles.trowbridge

@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.

jmpmk2
jmpmk2

@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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