Now there you are
making it up, but you're sure that it is a star
And boy you'll see
it's an illusion shining down in front of me
And then you'll say
even in time, we shall control the day
When what you'll see
deep inside base controlling you and me
I've never been so dispirited after a Denver Nuggets loss than I was after seeing them fall to the Sacramento Kings on Monday night. The offense was simply the worst I've ever seen ... no way to sugar coat that. The team seemed to get open looks, but shot after shot was clanging off the rim or worse not even touching rim at all. Meanwhile on defense the Nuggets actually played very well but as in the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder they couldn't stop fouling. So no matter how well they played on the defensive end, it was cancelled out by giving the Kings trips to the foul line.
Much of the blame, somewhat correctly, has been placed squarely on the shoulders of Danilo Gallinari and his struggle to come back from 18 months away from NBA action. You can't deny that rust has played a big part in the struggle that Gallo is currently under. It's been so bad that coach Brian Shaw was forced to put him into a reserve role to hopefully get him back into the swing of things. It will be a process that goes on for awhile with Gallo. However, upon second viewing of the game against the Kings I noticed several things wrong that has hindered both Gallinari and the team. Things that are fixable. Things that if the Nuggets tweak them they can start rolling like the team we thought they would be.
1: Unclog the lane, and do it now
The Nuggets have a congestion problem. This has hindered the play of both guard Ty Lawson and Gallo. Both men desperately need a layup but the Nuggets have so many players in the lane (be it Timofey Mozgov, Kenneth Faried or even Arron Afflalo) that there is quite literally no space for either guy to get a layup. This means the Nuggets are depending on jump shots for "spacing" to hope things clear out. This has created a circular problem for the Nuggets as two of their best playmakers have been forced into driving into a congested lane with what seems like a billion bodies in it, or make consistent jump shots when both are very cold. Gallo attempted to drive the lane three times against the Kings to no avail, also Lawson has zero space to operate when he tries to drive the lane and has been rendered completely ineffective through all but one quarter of the season.
This is bad.
Simply put, both men need a couple layups for their confidence, and this requires the Nuggets to simply clear out of the lane and give each man a clean look at the hoop. Even if it's for one or two plays it's worth it to build the confidence of both players particularly for a struggling Gallo who needs something good to happen for his psyche. I'm not suggesting that Brian Shaw and the coaching staff make this a permanent thing, just saying this to get each guy going.
Once Ty and Gallo "see" the ball go into the hoop things will become that much easier to accomplish. Then, accomplishing your post-heavy offense will be that much easier with players who actually saw the ball go into the hoop instead of clang off the rim. Both players NEED this and it's up to the Nuggets coaching staff and players to make this happen because, contrary to popular belief, the Nuggets aren't going anywhere with their two best playmakers paralyzed by lack of confidence.
Then there's the rotation.
2. Depth only works as a backstop, not a first option
And there you are,
Saying we have the moon, so now the stars,
When all you see
Is near disaster gazing down on you and me,
And there you're standing,
Saying we have the whole world in our hands,
When all you'll see,
Deep inside the world's controlling you and me.
Contrary to my friend Andrew Feinstein, my belief is that the expanded rotation ... much like last season is causing an added crisis of confidence in this Nuggets team. Short rotations can be perceived as a "quick hook". Anxiety to perform causes mistakes which, in turn, makes the team press. One thing compounds the other and much like Gallo's rusty play goes hand in hand with his medically advised minute restriction (and 18 months of not playing), so goes a quick hook in a large rotation.
Simply put, the Nuggets idea of strength in numbers should be explored as a backstop, not a first resort. The reason the San Antonio Spurs short rotations work is because of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. The Nuggets emulating approach is missing the superstar ingredient. The team needs to establish the alpha dogs before they make everyone else fall in line with minute-sharing first and foremost. Pick your best five players and play them the most, and everyone else will fall in line with the system because, as we all know, players lead players in this league. If there is one thing players like, it's defined roles.
I believe the Nuggets desperately need to establish consistent minutes for their best players and ease up on the large rotation for a good while. One thing that has happened is it's robbed the team of any consistency, and as we have seen consistency is what this team desperately needs. People will only admire your depth if you have a solid foundation because that is from whence everything else springs and the Nuggets have yet to establish that.
Find your best players and give them a consistent role and consistent minutes and the depth will certainly take care of itself.
As you can see, these are only minor suggestions. In the grand scheme of things the Nuggets will be just fine ... but are currently mired in a team-wide shooting slump. Getting out of that slump is of utmost importance. Once this is established the Nuggets will be that much better off. I believe establishing a half-court mentality will actually benefit this team come playoff time but going through these bumps can be quite painful at times.
Above lyrics: Perpetual Change by Yes (lyrics Jon Anderson)