Nuggets at Pistons preview: Karl lining things up in Detroit

USA TODAY Sports

By all accounts the Pistons are not a good basketball team. At just 7-16 and coming off a loss in Philadelphia last night, the Nuggets should be able to get a win in Michigan. But the 5-10 road record Nuggets have been anything but a lock on the road this season.

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2012/2013 NBA Regular Season: Game 22
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vs
Detroit Pistons (2002 - 2005)
10-11 (5-10 on road)

7-16 (5-5 at home)
December 11, 2012, 5:30 PM (MT)
The Palace of Auburn Hills - Detroit, Michigan
TV Altitude / 950 AM / 104.3 FM The Fan
Probable Starters
Ty Lawson PG Brandon Knight
Andre Iguodala SG Kyle Singler
Danilo Gallinari SF Tayshaun Prince
Kenneth Faried PF Jason Maxiell
Kosta Koufos C Greg Monroe
Notes
Denver Stiffs Blogs Detroit Bad Boys
Chandler, Stone (out) Injuries None
Gallo's career-high assists: 8 Stat Lost in Philly last night: 104-97

Two recent games stick out in my mind for the Nuggets:

1.) The Nov. 15th loss at the Pepsi Center to the Miami Heat: 98-93.

2.) The Dec. 9th loss in New York to the Knicks: 112-106.

The Nuggets dropped both of those games to teams playing the second of a back-to-back set. The Heat loss is a little more alarming due to the fact that the Nuggets typically run teams out of the gym in the second half at the Pepsi Center when their opposition is coming in after playing the night before. The Knicks had the slight advantage of having their home crowd there to pump them up. Well, the Pistons played last night in Philly and were handed a loss at the hands of the 76ers.

Sure, the Heat and Knicks have a combined record of 29-10 to the Pistons' 7-16 mark, but the Nuggets have to figure out a way to make the Pistons' carriage turn back into a pumpkin at The Palace tonight. There must not be a fairy tale ending for Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond this evening.

Drummond is an interesting player. After playing just one season at the University of Connecticut he entered the NBA draft. When he was a high-schooler there was plenty of hype surrounding him. Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated had this to say about Drummond back in July of 2011:

After seeing him compete this week for his Connecticut Basketball Club at the adidas Super64 tournament in Las Vegas, I can report that Drummond is a special, special talent. I'd go so far as to say he's the best big man I've seen come out of high school basketball since Greg Oden six years ago.

Drummond is a bona fide freak. He's built like a man, yet he has great control of his body. He runs the floor like a gazelle, and just when he starts looking lost with the ball, he'll fire a pinpoint, no-look pass from almost anywhere on the court. From a skill standpoint he is far from a finished product -- his free throw shooting is so atrocious he launched two air balls during one game -- but that is curable. As I sat with a bunch of college coaches with our jaws agape, we conducted a running debate over which NBA player Drummond reminded us of the most. The most popular answers were Amar'e Stoudamire, Dwight Howard and the young Shawn Kemp.

How about Stoudamire, Howard, and Kemp as comparisons? Well, something funny happened along the way with Drummond, notably his freshman season at UCONN. Drummond averaged just 10 points per game to go along with 7.6 rebounds and free throw shooting of just 29.5 percent. Not dominant numbers by a guy expected to be a lottery pick in the NBA. There were concerns about his post game, his motor, and foul shooting. But there were also those who thought perhaps his teammates at UCONN could be to blame for his lackluster offensive production - as he was playing on a shot happy team.

When the NBA draft rolled around, Drummond might have slipped a little bit. One could make a case that each of the eight teams that passed on Drummond could have used a franchise center in the Hornets, Bobcats, Wizards, Cavaliers, Kings, Blazers, Warriors, and Raptors. But it would be the Pistons who took the young big man with the No. 9 pick.

Detroit is bringing Drummond along slowly as he comes off the bench (0 starts) and plays 17.8 minutes per game.


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2012 - Andre Drummond 23 17.8 2.7 4.7 57.9 0.0 0.1 50.0 0.8 2.0 39.1 2.5 3.4 6.0 0.4 0.7 0.8 1.3 2.0 6.2


But already Drummond is showing some of the promise that had scouts drooling over him as a high-school prospect. His body control is indeed impressive, his shot selection is where you want it and he's converting at a high percentage (57.9%), and he's rebounding the ball on both ends of the floor and showing the desire to play and improve that some doubted. He's had four games with 11+ rebounds and his best performance as a rookie came against the Thunder on Nov. 9th when he went 8-10 from the field, 6-9 from the foul line for 22 points and 8 rebounds in an 11-point loss to Kevin Durant and Company.

At just 19 years old, Drummond has all the time in the world to grow as an NBA big man. Consider that Andrew Bynum, at 25 years-old, is just starting to come into his own as a big man. Howard is still developing in Los Angeles at 27 years-old, and even Drummond's talented teammate Greg Monroe is just a baby (NBA age wise) at 22 years-old.

Drummond was pretty much a non-factor in the first match-up between these two teams back on Nov. 6th in Denver as the Nuggets won 109-97. Drummond played just 12 minutes and put up 7 points and 2 rebounds in that contest, but I'll be watching him close tonight - especially if he matches up with JaVale McGee when the second units come into the game.

And speaking of units, the Nuggets' floor combination with the most minutes logged is the starting unit with 225.8 total minutes played. That unit of Lawson, Iguodala, Gallinari, Faried, and Koufos is also leading the way with a +20 on the season, according to 82 games.com.

The worst +/- five-man unit for the Nuggets, among the most minutes played, is Lawson, Iguodala, Gallinari, Faried, and McGee with a total of -44 on the season. Seems very odd that switching out just one player (McGee for Koufos) could cause such a disruption in production, but the numbers on the young season don't lie - as Rasheed Wallace might say. And that pairing has only played a total of 49.3 minutes together this season - as McGee is typically not the first man off the bench for Denver.

The five-man unit numbers got me curious as to how Karl's favorite crunch-time lineup of Lawson, Andre Miller, Iguodala, Gallo, and Faried has been doing. That unit ranks third in most used rotations, as they generally close out games and have a total of 46.8 minutes played and a plus/minus of -4 on the season. Not surprising since the Nuggets have lost some tight games this season.

But think about that for a second. The starting lineup for Denver has logged 225 minutes together on the court during games this year. The closing unit has only logged 46 total minutes together on the court this year. Sure, they practice together, but it takes time to know all your teammates nuances.

Hopefully we'll see those plus/minus numbers improve as the season wears on for the closing unit. Tonight would be a good place to start getting back in the right direction.

Views you can use:

-Within the first 0-10 seconds on the shot clock the Nuggets shoot the ball 42% of the time and they are making those shots with a eFG rate of 54.2%.

-Within 11-15 seconds off the shot clock the Nuggets shoot the ball 23% of the time and they are making those shots with a eFG rate of 49%.

-Within 16-20 seconds off the shot clock the Nuggets shoot the ball 20% of the time and they are making those shots with a eFG rate of 45%.

-Within 21+ seconds off the shot clock the Nuggets shoot the ball 14% of the time and they are making those shots with a eFG rate of 41.7%.

The takeaway - play fast Nuggets. Yes, the Nuggets are a little skewed because of fast-break points, but that also goes to show that Denver puts up a little better offensive numbers when they are playing at a higher pace and controlling the tempo of the game. That has been the key for Nuggets basketball under Karl.

Data courtesy of 82 games.com

***

DENVER NUGGETS TICKETS

Nate_Timmons on Twitter
ntimmons73@yahoo.com

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