George Karl is a GREAT coach... Part 1

With all this "Fire George Karl" talk, I wanted to write an article showing why I think it'd be a catastrophic mistake to let him go. This will be the first of two posts.

I beleive George Karl and his staff (maybe it's not just him) are the undisputed kings of developing players. The only coach that can be argued is Poppovich, but even he hasn't earned a reputation for taking underacheivers and helping them to realize their potential.

I'm not even going to go over players Karl has gotten as rookies like Ty Lawson or Kenneth Faried, because quite frankly we do not have a previous NBA coach to draw any data from. I think it does deserve mentioning, however, because the Denver front office seems to get all the credit for great draft picks when some of it should be on the coaching staff for developing these players who other teams passed up on for some reason.

I've compiled a group of players that have played under Karl, and listed their PER and Win Shares in the 3 years prior (when available) and three years after working with George Karl. Bear in mind I HATE WS and PER in a vacuum, but most of the better advanced metrics I like weren't calculated that far in the past.

The "stars" -

Gary Payton (2nd pick overall) -

Pre Karl -

PER 13.2 .073 WS/48
PER 13.1 .074 WS/48

Post Karl -

PER 17.0 .147 WS/48
PER 17.8 .155 WS/48
PER 21.3 .187 WS/48

Gary Payton pretty obviously "got better" under Karl. I find it interesting that he essentially had a flat career arc until Karl arrived. While it'd be foolish to cite Karl as the sole reason for Payton's improvement, it's also foolish to say the two are unrelated.

Shawn Kemp (17th pick overall)

Pre Karl

PER 15.9 .091 WS/48
PER 17.6 .121 WS/48

Post Karl -

PER 21.6 .177 WS/48
PER 20.4 .169 WS/48
PER 22.9 .216 WS/48

One can argue that Shawn Kemps rise is due more to his age than anything else, and you'd have no disagreement from me there. Still, his best years were under Karl and his worst were after they traded him.

Glenn Robinson (1st overall)

Pre Karl -

PER 15.9 .052 WS/48
PER 17.5 .072 WS/48
PER 16.8 .065 WS/48

Post Karl -

PER 19.7 .122 WS/48
PER 17.8 .080 WS/48
PER 20.1 .114 WS/48

Glenn Robinson's case is perhaps the biggest success story for GK, because he took a "bust" player who had supposedly peaked and had hkm improving well into his late twenties. That is quite an accomplishment because his first year with GK was at 26, which is supposedly when a player stops getting better.

The throwaways:

Arron Afflalo:

Pre Karl -

PER 10.2 .092 WS/48
PER 8.9 .069 WS/48

Post Karl -

PER 10.9 .092 WS/48
PER 13.6 .128 WS/48
PER 14.7 .121 WS/48

Not much to be said here. Another player who was destined to be a 12th man only to have his career saved under the system.

JR Smith:

Pre Karl -

PER 10.9 .006 WS/48
PER 12.7 .060 WS/48

Post Karl -

PER 15.6 .120 WS/48
PER 18.1 .126 WS/48
PER 16.8 .124 WS/48

This, along with Glenn Robinson, could be Karl's crowning achievement as far as player development is concerned. Here is a player that was completely forgotten, yet he was able to find a home under this system and be quite effective. I miss smiff :(

Kosta Koufos:

Pre Karl -

PER 15.2 .112 WS/48 (565 total minutes)

PER 7.7 .014 WS/48 (only 172 minutes)
PER 12.7 .027 WS/48 (434 total minutes)

Post Karl -

PER 17.6 .163 WS/48
PER 15.9 .163 WS/48 (188 minutes so far this season.

Kosta is yet another player who was buried on the bench, who has turned himself into an above average starter at his position.

And Karl's latest acheivement, CBrew!

Pre Karl -

PER 11.2 .052 WS/48
PER 12.1 .020 WS/48
PER 11.0 .036 WS/48

Post Karl -

PER 13.7 .085 WS/48
PER 14.9 .121 WS/48 (only 179 minutes)

Koof and Brewer are similar in that they were basically passed around until finally finding a home in Denver.

While I agree that none of these would be significant in a vacuum, the fact that Karl has managed to get the most out of these players has tremendous value. I could have included several more instances (Bird/Nene/Moz/etc) and will if anyone requests, but I think you can see that there is a pattern here. With respect to veterans (Miller/Camby/Iverson/Billups), his value appears to be more linear as those players produced similarly with previous coaching staffs.

I only found two players who performed markedly worse pre Karl--Kenyon Martin and Al Harrington. Both players suffered significant injuries early in their tenures with Denver, so I think we can completely throw that data out.

In conclusion, I think no other coach has gotten as much out of a flawed team as George Karl, and with Denver's market that's exactly what you are going to need to be successful. GK has shown numerous times that he can get the most out of a budding star, and can turn cast off into respectable NBA players. If the Nuggets are indeed operating under a hard cap as we've all ready, you are going to have to find players who produce ABOVE their contract level to go along with the "star" players you already have. George Karl is a master of that, and for that reason I think he's a perfect coach for Denver.

Next installment I'll try to dispell some of the myths, and possibly talk about what I perceive are George Karl's weaknesses.

Write respectfully of your SB Nation community and yourself.

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Denver Stiffs

You must be a member of Denver Stiffs to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Denver Stiffs. You should read them.

Join Denver Stiffs

You must be a member of Denver Stiffs to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Denver Stiffs. You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.