I agree with Nuggets head coach George Karl on a few things philosophically: I hate long two-pointers and I want my team to get to the free throw line frequently. On the first point, if you're going to take a long two-pointer you might as well make it a three-pointer, as the shooting percentage should be about even between the two long-range attempts.
And on the second point, frequent trips to the free throw line do many positive things for your team: gives you the opportunity for three-point plays, puts pressure on the opposing defense (while hopefully getting their best big men in foul trouble), inspires a quicker pace overall and steals a few moments of rest for your own players when many free throws are being attempted.
So there's a method to Karl's madness, if you will, and it has translated into him winning nearly 60% of the regular season games that he has ever coached. This strategy worked particularly well when Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups and J.R. Smith wore Nuggets uniforms, as all three could competently make a three-pointer, get to the free throw line and reliably connect on their free throws.
Most unfortunately, the same cannot be said of this current incarnation of our Denver Nuggets and I'm wondering aloud if Karl's philosophy has to be altered to better cater to the roster he currently possesses. As we Nuggets fans know all too well, the Nuggets rank third-from-last in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage and are dead last in free throw shooting percentage. Meaning Karl's two historical areas of emphasis could be his two biggest weaknesses this season, as the Nuggets sputter from behind the arc and the charity stripe.
But while Karl's Nuggets have slid backwards with their outside and free throw shooting, they have leaped forward in another category not typically led by any Nuggets squad: rebounding (both offensive and total). And this isn't related solely to the Nuggets laying bricks from three and from the free throw line ... after all, the Nuggets rank fifth in the NBA in overall field goal percentage. Therefore, maybe Karl should tweak his style somewhat for the remainder of the season?
Changing one's coaching philosophy halfway through a sports season isn't unheard of, especially locally. Just one year ago, Denver Broncos head coach John Fox revamped the Broncos' offense after a 1-4 start to best suit the limited "talents" of his young, scrambling quarterback Tim Tebow. And whether it was a fluke or not, Fox was able to guide the Broncos to a division title and a playoff victory with an offense tailored around Tebow and a run-first-don't-make-risky-throws strategy. This season, Fox has turned over the offensive reigns to his new quarterback Peyton Manning and even though the Broncos have the same head coach, they look like a completely different team offensively.
When the Nuggets win games, it's not because they're draining three-pointers or even that they're out-free-throw-shooting their opponents, but rather it's because they're handsomely out-rebounding their opposition. In recent home wins against the Spurs, Lakers and Clippers, the Nuggets out-rebounded their opponents 58-45, 48-38 and 52-46, respectively. And while the Nuggets were slightly out-rebounded last night in their victory over the Lakers in Los Angeles, it was their 17 offensive rebounds and activity around the rim that saved the game.
In my Monday column a few weeks ago, I suggested Karl switch his focus away from an offense-oriented team to a more defensive-oriented team to take advantage of the Nuggets youth, depth, athleticism and height. Good rebounding comes with all of that, as well. And while improved free throw shooting can (and must) be coached, no coach in the world can make this band of Nuggets better three-point shooters.
Let's hope Coach Karl meets me halfway: stick with the philosophy of driving to the basket and creating free throw attempts, but cast off the inclination to chuck three-pointers.
Do all that, and the Nuggets will dominate January.
On to the links ...
The Not Quite Mid-season NBA Awards, Part 2 - The Triangle Blog - Grantland
Zach Lowe hands out out mid-season awards and throws in Coach Karl's name for Coach of the Year consideration.
George Karl: Nuggets embarrassed themselves in loss to Love-less, Rubio-less Timberwolves | Ball Don't Lie - Yahoo! Sports
More on Karl's reaction to the Nuggets deplorable loss to the Wolves last week.
JaVale McGee is 7-foot example of all that's wrong with Nuggets - The Denver Post
Mark Kiszla gets pretty harsh on the Nuggets young center.
Incredible stat about Nuggets SG Andre Iguodala | Nuggets Ink — The Denver Post
Not something Iguodala should be proud of.
Keys to Carmelo Anthony’s Career-Year | HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors
Always a gifted scorer, Carmelo Anthony has been more effective and efficient than ever. Here’s why …
Denver Nuggets' Andre Miller ranks with NBA's all-time best at point guard, says coach George Karl - The Denver Post
Karl suggests that Andre Miller may be a top five all-time point guard.