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Denver Nuggets: the signal and the noise

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Paul Millsap is on the scene to bring his All-Star level game to the power forward spot, but he’s not the only one who would like to be starting there

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

It was the best water I’d ever tasted.

I lived in Fort Collins, where the water was already pristine and cold coming straight out of the tap. My father had stumbled across an affordable water filter that mounted to the end of the tap to possibly make it even better. We were excited to try it out, and installed it right as he got home. We both grabbed glasses of water and stood at the kitchen sink, gulping it down. I’ll be damned if the water wasn’t even better. I was thrilled.

A couple weeks of the-best-water-in-the-world later, I came running into the house from mowing the lawn, as I was parched. There was no time for a glass, I simply stuck my head under the tap and flipped on the water. As I gulped, I ended up looking at the underside of the filter, and noticed a nasty crack running down one side, from end to end. Almost like... a different piece...

I stood up and stared at the filter for a second, and twisted the side where the crack was. The water stopped completely.

For a second, anyway. Then, the filter sputtered, and water started coming out of the filter itself. For the first time since I’d seen it, the water was actually being filtered. I’d been drinking the same water the whole time. Son. Of. A. Bitch.

I don’t trust my eyes or heart as much ever since.

I’m admittedly a pretty big fan of Kenneth Faried’s game, even acknowledging that it has a weak spot or two. Most players have at least one weakness, and the Manimal often makes up for his with one of the most exciting and dynamic baseline games out there. So when Faried stepped out to speak about the upcoming season two days ago for Media Day, I was interested in hearing him out when he spoke up about his beliefs in himself and his feelings about being a starter. There were moments during the last four seasons in which the Manimal was one of the few reasons to watch the Denver Nuggets play. And the Faried/Nikola Jokic combo last season was a dangerous pair that saw a great deal of success for the Nuggets.

But having watched Paul Millsap from afar in Utah and Atlanta, and seeing his play, I had a hard time believing Faried was on par there, right? Should Faried start over Millsap? I thought a bit of data in order, to make sure I wasn’t drinking the water.

With Basketball Reference as my guide, I started pulling some career stats for both gents, to see for myself. I’ll include screenshots below, but the link in the first sentence pulls up the same comparison, if you prefer the HTML in another tab.

I compared four sets of numbers through two different lenses. I looked at each players per-game, per-36, per-100, and advanced stats for their careers and for last season (as they are in different parts of their career arc with a four-year age gap between the two. Here’s a little of what I saw:

Career Per Game Averages

courtesy Basketball Reference

If that’s teensy on a mobile device, Millsap takes Faried in most categories, including playing nearly four more minutes per game. Not surprisingly, Faried still has the edge in total rebounds, though by only one board. Advantage: Millsap

Career Per 36 Minutes Averages

courtesy Basketball Reference

Evening out that minutes-per-game number evens the board a little further, though Millsap still has the edge in everything but rebounds, where Faried opens the gap to nearly three per game. Advantage: Millsap... ?

Career Per 100 Possessions Averages

courtesy Basketball Reference

This one gets interesting to me, as Millsap is the clear winner from three-point range, but little else, though he still narrowly takes a few categories. Faried has a slightly better offensive rating here, but Millsap’s defensive rating is better by the same margin. Advantage: beats me

Career Advanced Stats

courtesy Basketball Reference

Millsap’s VORP so thoroughly dominates Faried’s as to be light years ahead, but the WS/48 ever-so-slightly favors Faried. Advantage: Millsap

What about looking at the spot they’re at now? How did they compare last season?

Last Season’s Per Game Averages

courtesy Basketball Reference

Millsap takes nearly every category here as well, though with a giant grain of salt, adding that he’s also playing nearly 13 more minutes per game. Let’s even that out a bit... Advantage: Millsap

Last Season’s Per 36 Minutes Averages

courtesy Basketball Reference

Millsap still leads most categories save the boards. Advantage: Millsap

Last Season’s Per 100 Possessions Averages

Similar trends to everything before it, in terms of who takes what categories. Faried’s huge wins in the Total Rebounds and Offensive Rating categories are worthy of note. Advantage: Millreid? Farsap?

Last Season’s Advanced Stats

Millsap still takes most of these, though Fareid’s WS/48 gap widened. Advantage: Hmmmm...

One last thought to mix with all of these bits of data is in the sustainability of Faried’s high-octane game for extended minutes over the course of 82 contests.

Combing through all of that gave me the impression that Millsap seems the better bet for Denver in the upcoming season. But that’s how I see what I’m looking at here. What am I missing, Nuggets Nation? What did I completely leave out?

Will Faried’s already-fitted game with Nikola Jokic provide any temptations for the Nuggets should Jokic and Millsap get off to a slow start? Will Faried be here by the time we get a chance to find out?

Poll

If it were your call to make, Millsap or Faried as the starter?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    Millsap, and it’s not even close
    (478 votes)
  • 24%
    Millsap, though it’s closer than I thought it might be
    (162 votes)
  • 2%
    Hard to choose - Let’s see pre season
    (18 votes)
  • 0%
    Faried, though it’s closer than I thought it might be
    (5 votes)
  • 1%
    Faried, and it’s not even close
    (9 votes)
672 votes total Vote Now