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Stat of the Week: Rebuilding teams

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In this edition of SOTW, rebuilding teams around the league are compared and contrasted with the Nuggets.

NBA: Preseason-Denver Nuggets at Minnesota Timberwolves Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

In the NBA, wins and losses are all the count in the eyes of many fans. Teams go through ups and downs, but in the end, a season with more losses than wins is usually construed as a bad year. For me, it all depends on the situation and how many of the losses a team can attribute to inexperience. For the Denver Nuggets, that happens to be a large number. For other teams like the Brooklyn Nets, not so much. I don’t value a team’s losses as heavily if they are in a good position to develop young players and bounce back. If a team loses while neglecting to play any players under 25 years of age extensive minutes (read: 30+), then that team’s losses are bad.

Stat of the Week continues with a brief look around the league at teams in a similar position to the Denver Nuggets. These teams must be young, rebuilding, and looking to break out at some point during this season or soon thereafter. What these breakdowns will consist of are a list of rebuilding teams, their win-loss records, the degree to which they are playing their young players, and how those players are doing. If those players are playing a lot and being successful, the losses become more palatable for the respective team.

Without further ado, here are the rebuilding projects:

Milwaukee Bucks

Win-Loss Record: 10-9

Players 23 and under: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Rashad Vaughn, Thon Maker

Total Minutes: 1,473

Win Shares: 4.7

Summary: The rebuild in Milwaukee is clearly the Greek Freak, Jabari, and slim contributions from Vaughn and Maker. Antetokounmpo has simply been electric so far. At 22 points, six assists, two steals, and two blocks per game, Giannis would be the first player ever to accomplish those numbers. He’s the only player to average that number of points, assists, rebounds, and blocks ever. Basically, he’s a human cheat code who will only get better. The debate of which player between Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Giannis will go on for years. Right now, I will take Giannis.

Philadelphia 76ers

Win-Loss Record: 4-18

Players 23 and under: Joel Embiid, Nik Stauskas, Dario Saric, Jahlil Okafor, Richaun Holmes, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Ben Simmons

Total Minutes: 2,058

Win Shares: 1.8

Summary: Unfortunately, Ben Simmons has been on the shelf up until this point due to a foot injury, and it has impacted what the rebuilding project of the Sixers should truly look like. That being said, Embiid has been a joy to watch when he’s been on the floor. His turnovers and low minutes have played a part in a low win share number, but make no mistake about it, he can really play. Give him a solid point guard and more consistent shooters, and he will become a top 30 player in two years. Simmons could very well be that point guard for him, or at least point forward. At this point, the current look in Philly feels temporary due to the roster construction, so it’s hard to say how far along they are. So much depends on Simmons, the potential return for Nerlens Noel and/or Okafor, and next year’s additions. Imagine a core of Embiid, Simmons, and two top ten prospects from the 2017 NBA Draft? The Sixers own the rights to the first round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers, and they could be looking up very quickly.

Los Angeles Lakers

Win-Loss Record: 10-13

Players 23 and under: D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Ivica Zubac

Total Minutes: 1,478

Win Shares: 1.2

Summary: I was surprised that the Lakers have seven players aged 30 years or older on their roster. Jordan Clarkson just missed the age cut at 24, so here’s my obligatory sentence that Lou Williams and Nick Young are both much better. Aside from Clarkson though, Russell has looked to take the reins this season and looked better than last season. At age 20, that’s all the progress the Lakers need to feel good about him. Now, Russell has been injured for awhile and the Lakers just lost three in a row. They are missing him, even though there are a ton of guards on the LA roster. Julius Randle has also looked like an NBA player this year from a metric perspective, so that’s another building block they should be happy about. Brandon Ingram has not looked great, having shot 40 percent or less in 13 of the first 22 games. That being said, the tools are still there, but the Lakers must be patient. There’s not as much elite, young talent here as many think, and the Lakers are certainly a candidate to forego a rebuild altogether and trade young assets for a star. Who says no to a Russell + Ingram + picks for DeMarcus Cousins trade? Hard to say.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Win-Loss Record: 6-14

Players 23 and under: Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, Tyus Jones

Total Minutes: 2,685

Win Shares: 5.8

Summary: This rebuild is clearly the strongest of the bunch. The Wolves continue to rely heavily on their young players, and having 5.8 win shares on a 6 win team is a strong indicator of a team committed to youth. The question with the Wolves will always be if their young pieces fit well enough together to justify keeping the group together long term. Tyus Jones is clearly the most expendable, given that Ricky Rubio already starts and Kris Dunn was the fifth overall selection in this past draft. The REAL question is the fit of Karl-Anthony Towns with Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. Is that the next big three? Towns is entrenched as the next big thing, but the real question is if Wiggins is more than Rudy Gay or if LaVine is Klay Thompson or Jamal Crawford. Will Towns, a potential volume scorer in his own right, be able to fit with two other players who want to score with volume as well? Regardless, the Wolves are clearly on great track with as much as they are playing their young guys so far and how effective those guys have been.

Phoenix Suns

Win-Loss Record: 6-14

Players 23 and under: Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, Alex Len, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, Tyler Ulis

Total Minutes: 2,141

Win Shares: 2.1

Summary: In Phoenix, Devin Booker was supposed to be the next big star. What has happened is a player who’s found it difficult to find his niche next to two scoring guards in Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight. It’s clear that both of those guys are still good scorers, but playing them so many minutes has left Booker in an unenviable position of generating his own perimeter offense at age 20. 30 percent of his 2-point baskets have been assisted, whereas Klay Thompson has had 75 percent assisted on by teammates. Booker is clearly in need of a distributor, but Bledsoe only averages 5.3 assists, a pretty weak number nowadays. As for the rest of the roster, T.J. Warren has enjoyed a breakout and looks to be a candidate as a Robin to Booker’s eventual Batman. Alex Len has started looking competent, but probably not competent enough for a large extension next season. Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender are both too young to tell, but I really liked each player coming out of the draft and think they just need time and minutes. Tyler Ulis could be that distributor for Phoenix, but in order to get that opportunity, a trade must be made.

Denver Nuggets

Win-Loss Record: 8-13

Players 23 and under: Emmanuel Mudiay, Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray, Juancho Hernangomez, Malik Beasley

Total Minutes: 2,263

Win Shares: 2.1

Summary: Now we come to the Nuggets, and it’s clear that they are middle of the pack in terms of guys who contribute to the rebuild. Of the six teams, they rank second in minutes, but are tied for third in win share numbers with the third most wins. The leaders in minutes right now are Mudiay, followed by Murray, then Nurkic, then Jokic. The leaders in win shares? Jokic, then Nurkic, then Murray, then Mudiay. Those four have been the most divisive among Nuggets fans, and for good reason. Murray has shown the most star potential, Jokic has been the most consistent, Nurkic has shown flashes of an elite big man, and Mudiay may have the most superstar potential based on his attributes and potential skills. The fact is that the Nuggets have the most young players (available) and should be playing the most total minutes for these players. The Nuggets were never supposed to win enough games to be a legitimate playoff contender, but Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Will Barton, and Jameer Nelson have averaged a combined 123 minutes per game. Mudiay has also averaged 31.2, so that leaves 85.8 minutes for everyone else on a given night, and I didn’t even mention Kenneth Faried or Darrell Arthur. Gary Harris has also been out for the majority of the year.

What needs to happen for the Nuggets is very difficult, but the Nuggets don’t have a quality young star that they are willing to play 30 minutes per contest. I would recommend finding a way to increase the overall minutes per contest for the young players so that a young star will emerge. If the Nuggets give someone like Jokic or Murray a consistent 30 minutes per game, it’s scary to think of what they might accomplish. It’s evident that in their respective situations, neither player can possibly play 30 minutes per game. This is why the Nuggets need to make a move to sell off a veteran or consolidate players into one better player. The four veterans players playing above 26 minutes a night are prime candidates for either scenario.


That’s it for this stat of the week. Let me know in the comments or on Twitter what you would like me to delve into next.