We just lost our first round series to the Jazz, and it was our 6th first round exit in 7 years (although to be fair, we didn't make the playoffs for like a bazillion straight years before that). Also, Chauncey Billups' streak of 7 straight conference final appearances has come to an end, but nobody cares because nobody should care (I just had to throw that out there for some reason). However, during the season, we faced numerous challenges, including injuries galore and our head coach being out since early March, and although I'm sure that Adrian Dantley did the best job he could, he is nowhere near the coach that George Karl is, and, frankly, at this point I doubt that Chauncey would be much better than Dantley (some have said that he should be player coach; the guy who shoulda been player coach was Dantley, as I'm sure he has some game left, and he can take pressure off our big men. But that's off the point). There were also many smaller, but still significant issues, such as our 22 back-to-back games, the incredulous number of games we dropped to crappy teams, the refs' unwillingness to call fouls (David Stern, please don't kill me for typing that), and Melo's odd troubles at converting FTs during March and the beginning of April.
But now, it's time to move on and see what we can do during the offseason to improve the team...
Join me after the jump for whatever I'm going to type next
(By the way, I've realized that nobody really utilizes the transition between the space above the jump and the space below it because you can only see the jump on a mobile device)
First off, I'll start by restating what I've said numerous times: the Nuggets are screwed financially. They were pretty screwed in 2009-10, but they are even more screwed in 2010-11. Here's the chart that I copied and pasted from Sports City (HoopsHype wasn't cooperating):
Players 2009-2010 2010-2011 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014
Yes, that's right. The Nuggets are $8 million to $9 million over the luxury tax for next season, never mind the salary cap. Also, things of note: Afflalo's deal for 2011-12 is a qualifying offer, and he's bound to make more than that given his work ethic and performance. Melo's and Nene's last year of their contract are player options,and Chauncey's is a team option.
The amount with which we are over the tax siginificantly limits our options. Kroenke probably didn't turn a profit with this team last year, and since he is busy trying to buy Arsenal, I doubt that he'll be willing to open his pocketbook for next season. Keep all of this in mind as I go on on this rant-like thing.
During this season, the Nuggets' biggest on-court issue that they had control of (thus, not including injuries) was defense. Our defensive rating of 107.5 was 0.7 worse than last season, but what's interesting is that our Pythagorean W-L record actually went up from 50-32 last season to 52-30 this season. Pythagorean win-loss dictates what a team's record should be based on statistics, primarily offensive and defensive rating. The fact that the Nuggets had 4 more wins last season than the stats say they should have had shows that Karl is a pretty damn good coach. This season, our record was much similar to what the stats said because Dantley isn't nearly the coach Karl is. Our defensive rating ranks 16th, while our offensive rating ranks 3rd and our pace ranks 5th.
Personally, our defense issue is more of a team issue than an individual one. Sure, Chauncey couldn't guard a good deal of opposing guards, and sure, Melo and Nene sometimes slack off on defense, and sure, Birdman gets faked off way too many times, but on paper, our team's defense should be good because of Afflalo and KMart. However, our team defense is what's causing us to be an average defensive team. First off, I need somebody to tell me why the hell the Nuggets almost always switch on screens. It's a good tactic in certain situations, but usually, we end up with Chauncey on Gasol or Lawson on Boozer. An example of this is a game from 2008-09 against the Kings, but the Nuggets haven't changed their defensive plan since then, so this is still relevant, and Jeremy of Roundball Mining Company made a great video out of this!
How to fix this: We could look at trying to sign good defensive players like Wesley Matthews and Tyrus Thomas, or trade for guys like Anthony Parker. What we really need to do is to learn how to defend the pick and roll, by having the guard fight over or sneak under the screen and having the big man corall the opposing guard for maybe half a second. That requires practice and effort, which is something that can be easily done. However, for some reason, I feel that guys like JR aren't going to do anything about this. More on that later...
Our second biggest issue in my opinion was passing. Our average of 20.96 assists per game wasn't shabby at all, but for a team that scores as much as we do, that's a rather low number. I've already mentioned the splits for wins and losses with assists, so I'm just going to say this: the Nuggets need to find a way to pass more. All the good teams just happen to be tops in the league in assists. Boston averages 23.54 per game, Cavs average 22.39, Spurs average 23.70, Dallas averages 23.38 (but they did get out in the first round because of no help for Dirk...), the Suns average 23.32, the Hawks average 21.87, and the Jazz....lead the league by a fucking huge margin with 26.71 assists per game. Yes, that's right. Although we're better than them on paper, their extra 6 assists per game really helped them, and that was the regular season. That wasn't the only issue, but it was a pretty big one.
How to fix this: Do some passing drills. Make a playbook so that we can actually get some passes in instead of JR/Melo isos. Have practices just focusing on making the extra pass. Sure, trading for guys that are more inclined to passing the ball will help, but if the team focuses on being unselfish offensively, we could easily get another 2 or maybe even 3 assists per game, and that might have meant a couple more wins, both in the regular season and the playoffs...
I know that the Nuggets don't rebound much, but they don't show much effort either. I guess those two problems get the tie for the third biggest issue facing the Nuggets. However, those two go hand in hand much of the time, as you can't get any rebounds without showing effort. The Nuggets averaged 41.39 rebounds per game during the regular season, which isn't horrible by any means, but the good teams do better than that. For instance, the Jazz, who aren't any bigger of a team than us, average 42.21. The Hawks, who have a 6'10" guy at center in Horford and a 6'9" guy at PF in Smith (which means that they're also not much bigger than us) average 42.19. The Lakers average 44.33, the Magic average 43.24, and the Spurs average 42.79. I don't know what more I need to say.
How to fix this: First off, listen to Dwight Howard. Sure, he's pretty big and strong as hell, but for rebounding fundamentals and effort are much more important than size. You hearing me, Melo/Nene/JR?!?
What we could do to help us is to add some size. I mentioned a Nene and somebody else for Dalembert, Speights, and the Sixers' first rounder sometime earlier, and although we would be in some trouble offensively for our bigs, we'd be a much better rebounding team, and while Dalembert is selfish, at least he takes it to the fucking rim. Speights would eventially take over the starting job, and a draft pick always helps. We could look at adding JR in that mix, demanding another guy from the Sixers, and drafting Wesley Johnson. Actually, I'll leave the trades for other people. To become a better rebounding team, the Nuggets need to show more effort and add size.
This guy was a better rebounder than the entire damn Nuggets' team combined
Sorry to all you people who had to read through this. Here's some funny videos to cheer y'all up!
The following one shows that the Nuggets do indeed have the ability to pass the ball:
You gotta love Rocky
The next two are mixes of two of our favorite bench players: Petro and Tacos. Who the hell makes these mixes anyways?
All of these must made me feel better...