The Nuggets may be 5-1 since our boy came home, but it does not mean that we are controversy free. There most frequent debate amongst Nuggets fans is over whether or not J.R. Smith should be starting ahead of Dahntay Jones. I guess it is a good sign when the biggest thing we have to argue about is how to best allocate a handful of minutes.
George Karl’s reasoning for starting Jones ahead of Smith is basically that Smith is better. Don’t worry, you read that correctly. It may sound like the basis for a Monty Python skit, but honestly, I do not have a problem with it. I certainly can see where Karl is coming from as the bench would be awfully light on scoring if Jones came in with the second unit instead of J.R.
At this point the only real reason to start J.R. over Jones would be if the first unit was regularly getting abused by the opposition and they needed more firepower. If that is the question then what else is there for me to do, but look at how the Nuggets start off the first and third quarters when Jones is on the floor with the other starters. We have a pretty small sample size, with only six games since Chauncey started wearing the powder blue and white, but let’s not allow that from letting us jump to some important conclusions.
Against Dallas despite a fast start early the Nuggets starters were outscored 12-17 before Jones left the game. In the second half the Nuggets were outscored 16-18 before Jones took a seat on the courtside padded chairs. In the second game of our little study, a home game versus Memphis, the Nuggets starters scored 19 points to Memphis’ 18 while Jones was on the floor. To star the third the Nuggets outscored the Grizz by four, 16-12 when Jones moved over by Coach Karl.
Next we have the game in Charlotte where the Nugget starters were outdone nine to 13 before Jones took a break, but they kicked off the third quarter in style as they put together a 15 to six run with Jones on the floor. Against Cleveland Jones left the court with the Nuggets up 25 to 23 in the first quarter, but they were not so fortunate to start the third quarter as the Cavs threw down a 15 to six spurt.
In Boston the Nuggets were outscored 13 to 15 to start the game, but got those two points back to start the third with Jones on the floor putting up 13 points to Boston’s 11.
Finally in the last game against Minnesota the Nuggets jumped out to a big 20 to ten lead in the first quarter, but suffered a reversal of that advantage in the third quarter as they were out produced 15 to five with Dahntay’s high socks under the bright lights.
Based on those numbers there is no disturbing trend for the starters that I can see. Looking at the game to game totals the Nuggets starters were outscored by seven against Dallas, they outscored Memphis and Charlotte by five, Cleveland outscored them by five, they were even with Boston and even with Minnesota. The total difference was a minus two. Breaking the numbers down by half Denver was a plus two in the first half and a minus four to start the second. Again there is nothing disturbing there. You would like to see your starters consistently outscore the opposition, but that is not where games are decided.
Of course I do care about who is on the floor when the games are in fact decided and I prefer the best lineup be on the floor to finish games than to start them off. In Dahntay Jones case, he may be a starter, but he is never a finisher. In every game since Chauncey arrived the shooting guard spot during the fourth quarter has been manned by J.R. and Anthony Carter.
So no, I do not have a problem with the way the Nuggets trot Dahntay Jones out to start the first and second halves. But, I do have a problem with the allocation of minutes amongst the threesome of Jones, Smith and Anthony Carter. You didn’t think I could get through a post without complaining about something, did you?
The argument for keeping J.R. on the bench was always his deficient defense. He has made great strides in that area and the drop off at this point from Jones to J.R. is only a slight one. However, the offensive upgrade with J.R. is significant.
So far (again with all numbers post Billups trade) Jones is averaging 17.7 minutes, Smith 21.5 and Carter is playing 24.2. As I said I have no problem trotting Jones out there with the starters, but I think 17.7 is a little high and there are a couple of minutes there that should go to J.R. Carter’s floor time is the issue that leaves me scratching my head. His minutes have only dropped slightly after Chauncey when compared to before Chauncey. As a starter last season he played 28.0 minutes a night. That is a pretty minimal drop down to 24.2. He was viewed as a problem when playing 28 minutes a game, but now he is an asset because he comes off the bench even though there was a small 3.8 minute reduction in playing time? I have no problem with AC playing some shooting guard alongside Chauncey. He had a great start to the season and does a good job of pushing the pace, but like Dahntay, I would like to see a few minutes dropped off of AC’s playing time and given to J.R. as well.
There is another potential fly in the ointment and that is the possible entrance of Chucky Atkins into the rotation. In fact he may be activated for the Milwaukee game later today. I trust that Karl will give him the Steven Hunter/Cheikh Samb break glass in class of emergency treatment, but if Atkins gets seven or eight minutes it cuts into J.R.’s time a little more.
I did not expect J.R.’s playing to be an issue ten games into the season, but I guess those are the kind of things fans of good teams fret about.
Anderson out just one more week?
In other news, I heard an interview with Chris Andersen today and he hopes to return in another week. Hopefully he will.
Kenyon not so fragrant
Oh wait, I meant flagrant. Sorry Kenyon. Anyway, Kenyon Martin’s flagrant 2 foul that Joey Crawford tagged him with after the forceful way Kenyon attacked an Anderson Varejao screen late in the Cleveland game was reduced to a flagrant 1. That is significant because after you accrue five flagrant foul points you are suspended a game. I did not make a bigger deal about that at the time because I thought the flagrant point level required for suspension was much higher. I promise I will not fail you all so completely again.
Player of the week
Congratulations to Chauncey Billups who was named the Western Conference player of the week in his first full week of playing in the Western Conference. Let’s hope he can keep it up.
One final note, I will be attending the Nuggets/Bucks game tomorrow, but I am not sure if I will be able to live blog it from inside the arena. I am still waiting to see if I can sneak my laptop into the suite.