Will the two point-guard lineup make a return?

Head coach George Karl enjoys the Andre Miller and Ty Lawson combination.

Last season Ty Lawson and Andre Miller played a combined 310 minutes on the floor together in the regular season, for George Karl's Top 20 most used five-man units. Those 310 minutes add up to roughly 6.5 games. Ty Lawson played in 61 out of a possible 66 games - next season the NBA will again play 82 games. Now that George Karl has, at least, 3,936 minutes at the shooting guard position to fill, how often will we see Lawson and Miller on the court together during the 2012-13 season?

Like me, Andre Miller celebrates his birthdays on March 19th. This March 'Dre will turn 37 years-old and, on paper, it appears that Father Time might be catching up with him.

During the 2011-12 season, Miller averaged a career low in points scored with just 9.7 ppg, which is about five points less than his career average of 14.1 ppg. Miller's 27.4 minutes per game were the second lowest of his career - his lowest numbers, and the only other time he hasn't averaged over 30 minutes per game, came during his rookie season with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1999-2000 season when he played 25.5 mpg. He free throw shooting percentage dropped from the season before from 85% to 81%. His field goal percentage dropped from 46% in the 2011-12 season to 43.8% last season.

About the only statistic that remained about the same was Miller's assist numbers. His career assists sit at 7.2 per game, last season he dished out 6.7 assists per game. Are we starting to see a dip in Miller's on-court production or was settling into a backup role the cause of his deteriorating numbers? A case could be made for each.

There were times during the season where I'd watch Miller on defense and instead of sticking with his man, he'd stay in the paint as his guy would run through the lane and out to the three-point line. This led to more-than-a-few open three pointers either for Miller's man or for the guy another Nugget defender had to leave open to try to make-up for Miller's miscue. Perhaps Miller was trying to get creative on defense and anticipate a steal or maybe the wily veteran was just looking to conserve some energy.

As stated in the opening paragraph, Karl played Lawson and Miller together for a combined 310 regular season minutes in his top-20 most used lineups. Sometimes injuries forced the coach into these situations and other times it was planned as Karl has stated he likes having multiple play-makers on the court. Well, in the seven different lineups where Lawson and Miller were featured, the pair combined for a +31, meaning the Nuggets outscored their opponents by 31 points with the pair on the floor together. For a point of reference, the Nuggets' top-three most played lineups combined to play for a total of roughly 353 minutes and combined for a +/- of +42 ... not a major difference.

Although, the Nuggets' second worst five-man unit, as far as +/- goes, featured Lawson, Miller, Corey Brewer, Al Harrington, and JaVale McGee. Those five played a total of 39.2 minutes together and combined to go -24 and the Nuggets turned in a 4-7 record in game in which that combination appeared. And to put a little scare into you, the Nuggets' worst five-man unit, +/- wise, was the starting lineup of Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, and Timofey Mozgov who played a total of 48.7 minutes together and combined to go -35 together (that easily could have been the starting lineup Halloween night on Oct. 31, 2012!).

With Afflalo now in Orlando and Rudy Fernandez back in Spain, shouldn't Miller see more minutes at shooting guard this season?

Not so fast, the Nuggets still have a gluttony of wing players in:

  1. Andre Iguodala (can play 30+ mpg)
  2. Jordan Hamilton (should see 10-15 mpg)
  3. Corey Brewer (can play 15+ mpg)
  4. Danilo Gallinari (can play 30+ mpg)
  5. Wilson Chandler (can play 30+ mpg)
Those five guys can easily eat up the 96 minutes per night at the wing spots (and I didn't even mention Evan Fournier, who could use some minutes). But what if Gallo sees more time at the power forward position now that Al Harrington is gone? What if Faried is the center during crunch-time?

I think we can expect Miller to average close to the 27 minutes per game we saw from him last season. I believe Karl will look for spots and times to rest the veteran guard, but I also believe that Miller will find his way into a lot of crunch-time lineups.

Lost a bit in the shuffle of the Nuggets' summer shakeup is Miller. He played alongside Iguodala in Philadelphia for three seasons. Miller is still one of Karl's favorite players. He signed a new three-year contract in the offseason for roughly $14.6 million.

Miller is a part of this Nuggets' team. He showed that he can still turn it up when he needs to and that he can make his teammates better, especially McGee. Just how much of Miller and the two point guard lineup will we see? Only Karl knows for sure.






Nate_Timmons on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nate_Timmons
ntimmons73@yahoo.com

Let's see if one of our Australia readers can come in "first" on this post ... early bird?

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