Top five things the Denver Nuggets need to improve after the All-Star break
|Ty Lawson, Andre Miller and Kenneth Faried hold the keys to the Nuggets' success.|
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.