The revolution may be televised, but the Nuggets preseason definitely wasn't. If you weren't able to watch many of the Nuggets games, you weren't alone. Thankfully Stiffs nation stepped up, and we were able to cover the six games the team played to prepare for the regular season.
The Nuggets lurked their way through the preseason, with only two players - Will Barton and Nikola Jokic - appearing in every game. There were exciting wins over Golden State and Chicago, and not so exciting losses against Oklahoma City and Utah. There were moments that flashed the potential this team has, and moments where the inexperience was clearly evident. This isn't a 60 win team that is going to take an eraser to the record books, but if there's anything we can learn from preseason, it's that...
Better Days Are Ahead
The manimal seems very positive and "excited" today. Used that word a dozen times. pic.twitter.com/hpOs5BEZWg— Denver Stiffs (@denverstiffs) September 28, 2015
Does this look like someone that isn't excited to play basketball again? That's the same look I get when I'm sitting on the bus from the parking lot when I go skiing on the first trip of the season. That's someone that is excited to rediscover a passion, something that brings light and energy into life. Kenneth Faried is an emotional player, and I think he has a positive emotion about the season, and I think that matters. There's no formula to predict happiness, it's not something you can buy, it's something you discover - I feel like the Nuggets are rediscovering what it was like to be happy while playing basketball.
With young talent like Emmanuel Mudiay, Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, Gary Harris and Joffrey Lauvergne, there's the beginnings of a core that might stick around Denver for a while. The NBA is defined by change, but the teams that manage to avoid negative changes become contenders and are standards of excellence. Hopefully the Nuggets are beginning to find that. It's the kind of change that doesn't come right away, but there's potential.
Change Takes Time
Look at it - take it in slowly. That's a comparison of the shot chart from the 2014-15 regular season to the 2015-16 preseason. The Nuggets are shooting better in certain spots on the floor, but there are areas of concern. The Nuggets are below average at converting shots at the rim, and part of that is because of Emmanuel Mudiay. He's helping his teammates in other ways, but Mudiay went 9 of 25 at the rim. and if his defender forced him into a shot on the left side of the court, that was a win for the defense.
The team has improved in areas that are important to Coach Malone. The Nuggets rebounded at an improved rate, played at a higher pace, and increased their points from the free throw line and off turnovers. Michael Malone want's the Nuggets to be a team that rebounds, shares the ball, and scores off turnovers and in transition. The shots will start to fall as players get back into the groove of the season and figure out their spots. What's important is executing their strategy, and playing within the system. Trust the system!
It's Emmanuel Time
There is no denying that Chris Paul and Steph Curry made Mudiay look absolutely ridiculous at times. Paul went after Mudiay like a chicken hawk that spotted a game hen, and Curry let the rookie know who the league MVP was as well. What impressed me most was that Mudiay didn't back down, but was able to pick himself up and show that he could compete with the best. He sat down with the coaches, listened, learned, then went back out and improved.
Having a franchise point guard is the most important thing a team can have in this era of the NBA. Guards like Paul, Curry, John Wall, Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook are able to dramatically influence their team's success. Things begin with the point guard. It's one of the reasons the Nuggets tried over and over with Ty Lawson to have him take control of the team, to make it "his" team. The Nuggets, with all the other talent around them, could only go as far as their point guard would take them. With Mudiay, the Nuggets have another talented young player to try to build around.
The Nuggets best teams of late have had an elite point guard on the team. Carmelo Anthony helped change the course of the franchise, but it was Chauncey Billups that helped carry the team farther than Anthony ever had. That's what made this so awesome to see.
Greatness associates with greatness. To be the best you need to learn from the best. I hope that Emmanuel Mudiay has what it takes to become one of the best. We'll be able to see the first official step on that journey on Wednesday in Texas. Can't wait.
Reminder: Stiffs Night Out Season Kickoff 10/28
Please join us for the next Stiffs Night Out on Wednesday, October 28th at 6pm as the Nuggets take on the Rockets in Houston to kickoff the 2015-16 NBA season. The event will take place at Jake's Sports & Spirits at 3800 Walnut Street and Jake's will be serving happy hour drinks until 7pm and 50-cent wings all night long! We will also play Nuggets trivia for prizes, including Nuggets game tickets. See you on the 28th!