George Karl wasn't some sort of voodoo priest who magically made mediocre players better. George Karl didn't, through the wizardry of some sort of magical coaching prowess, suddenly make these players who (if you are to believe twitter) should have been sent to the D-League "fake" good. This roster was, and is, extremely talented "team first" (mostly) players.
Karl simply played to the strengths and abilities of the players he had on hand. It's called coaching 101. You don't need a coach like Karl to come rescue the Nuggets, the current coaching staff needs to adapt an identify that suits their team..
If the Nuggets are to prevent their team from going into an embarrassing death spiral, they need to identify the strengths of their team and play to them ... and FAST. Brian Shaw needs to identify the best players, see what makes them great and exploit that attribute ASAP. Right now it's abundantly clear that the best attributes of the Nuggets best players are... well, lets just say they aren't being exploited.
I'm not going to mention these players in this article. If your wing players are your best, use them. If your power forwards are your best, use them. If your point guards are your best, use them. Same goes for the centers. If you simply find those things and bring them together. Right now we have several players struggling to adapt to a mentality change that requires the team to not trap/double team and not foul when guarding one on one.
The wheels started working on my theory that the defensive approach (or rather the major attention to defense) wasn't the right approach, when I saw these quotes from Arron Afflalo courtesy of Chris Dempsey:
Afflalo: "You have to have some cohesiveness, you have to have game plans that work with the group that’s on the floor and hopefully...— Chris Dempsey (@dempseypost) November 6, 2014
"...we can get that all together." Afflalo #Nuggets— Chris Dempsey (@dempseypost) November 6, 2014
These quotes from AAA got me thinking. Maybe all this attention to defense is the main problem with the offense? Maybe the defense first mentality has resulted in not working on offense as much as they should, and therefore as a consequence the rust has spread to everyone? Honestly I don't know. Maybe I'm reading too much into a simple quote from one of the Nuggets shooting guards.
I suppose this is the rub actually. The square peg, round hole aspect isn't necessarily offensive, but defensive. The Nuggets struggles on the defensive end (fouling in particular) are reflected in their approach on offense and the fact they seem to put forth listless performances. It requires a very specific type of player to have that sort of "defense first" mentality. I'm not sure that there is a player on this current roster that has that mindset, and the most glaring aspect of not playing to your roster's strength is reflected in the defense far more than the offense.
We obsess on offense here in Denver, but in reality the Nuggets emphasis has drastically changed to the defensive end. Think going from Mike D'Antoni to Tom Thibodeau. That is how drastic a change is expected of the players on this roster, and I'm not sure you can expect that of THIS particular team. This is a team that is STILL made for quickness and trapping. Not one on one and no double teams. The reason this team fouls is because they aren't made for the type of defense they are asked to play. A sure way to be exhausted on your shot (often left short) is if you are asked to exert far more effort and energy on defense than you did ever before. You won't have your legs under you if you are weary from wrestling a bear.
Can it be taught? Probably. Yet it becomes increasingly difficult if the team doesn't buy in to that particular approach. A defense fist mentality means you exert most of your effort on the defensive end, then simply "find a way" on offense. Coach Thibs Chicago Bulls are an example of this. Thibs expects everyone to give 110% on Defense and then figure it out on offense. Forget whether or not the Nuggets are playing Horns or the Triangle on offense. That's child's play compared to the diametric mentality shift the coaching staff is asking of these Nuggets.
If the Nuggets are committed to this goal then massive personnel changes need to be made. There are certain, very talented, players on this roster who aren't wired that way. If not, the type of defense the coaches are trying out needs to go out the window. Can't do both, need to decide on one direction and go from there.
It's five games in and the Nuggets are 1-4. Not where any of us expected them to be, and they haven't looked good at all in their last two. I'm sure the hope at Pepsi Center is that the team will begin to "get it" and things will fall into place. I hope so too. Yet, the chance the team has to set a better tone for their season begins right now. They MUST establish who they are AND play to the strengths of their best players. Otherwise it will be a very long year for the 2014-15 version of the Denver Nuggets.
The time to change your course begins now, which direction will the Nuggets take?