The Denver Nuggets have had countless struggles in clutch situations this year. Last night, they managed to pull out a win against the Los Angeles Clippers when the score went down to the wire, but throughout the season, the team has largely disappointed late in the game. Many lineups have been tried and only a few have succeeded so I took it upon my hands to build a lineup based on players that have performed well in clutch situations this year.
Below are four factors that will determine which group of five would be my go-to lineup in the clutch: effective field goal percentage, rebounding rate, turnover ratio, and defensive rating. While each statistic may have its faults, these four stand out as integral in determining the success of a team.
Here’s how the Nuggets’ potential rotation members rank against each other in each statistic:
Effective Field Goal Percentage in the Clutch
It’s incredible just how far Nikola Jokic is ahead of the pack here. Just for this reason, he should be on the floor, not just because of himself but because his direct competition (Kenneth Faried and Jusuf Nurkic) has not even made a field goal attempt in the clutch this season. Nurkic is 0/3, while Faried has yet to attempt a shot. Danilo Gallinari has also struggled, as he’s just 5/22 from the field in the clutch this season.
Rebounding Rate in the Clutch
Rebounding rate is also interesting. Nurkic remains a beast in the paint, but Gallinari and Jameer Nelson are the two most interesting players in this table. Nelson, a point guard who’s just 6’0, is third on the team in rebound rate in the clutch. This was on clear display last night in the Clippers game and I don’t think it’s a fluke. Jameer is a great rebounding guard when the going gets tough. On the flip side, Gallinari is struggling to accumulate rebounds in key situations, grabbing just four total in his 56 clutch minutes. At 6’10, Gallo should be closer to Jokic than Jamal Murray, yet he’s actually under the shooting guard in rebound rate.
Turnover Ratio in the Clutch
This category is clearly dominated by veteran players. Faried, Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and Will Barton inhabit the top four spots, and when combined with Nelson, that group turns the ball over very little, at least less so than with Emmanuel Mudiay. Mudiay’s rate is sky high, while Gary Harris, Jokic, and Nurkic aren’t far behind.
Defensive Rating in the Clutch
Nurkic dwells at the top of this list as well, which is no surprise. As the defensive intensity from the guards gets better, Nurkic benefits as well. The next four on the list, Barton, Gallinari, Jokic, and Nelson all remain under a 93 defensive rating as well, while Chandler clocks in just under 100. Murray and Faried are completely unplayable at above 120.
I averaged every player’s ranking in each category together and re-ranked them. Here are the results:
The three players that should be in the lineup every single time are Barton, Jokic, and Chandler. They have been consistent on the offensive end (mostly) and have more defensive acumen than most others. This was evidenced last night by the three being in the game last night, and while Chandler had a poor game, he’s been the ideal glue guy overall.
The last two spots are up for debate. Nurkic grades out well, but he’s out of the rotation right now, and he also plays the same position as Jokic, who grades out better. Nelson and Gallinari are the next two players on the list, which would make a solid lineup as well. There would be little development of players other than Jokic, but the wins would come more frequently due to all-around better play.
To conclude, I would have three different clutch lineups based on the play of the young guards:
These two groups allow for Malone to have some flexibility based on the play of Mudiay and Harris. Last night, neither performed well, so Malone went to group A and won the game. If Mudiay and Harris had played well, Malone might have gone with group B instead.
There’s always the possibility of going back to the starting lineup as well if Barton isn’t at his best:
Any of these possibilities would be okay based on the play of certain pieces throughout the game.