On The 2023 Playoff Nuggets To-Be

Hey Stiffs. Jhamr, with that Suns 2021 mention, really seeded a lotta strands in Ol Duder's head.
Luckily, I'm adhering to a pretty strict, uh, drug regimen to keep my mind, you know, limber.

Part 3 of this now Trilogy has me considering the Future.
After I first broke down the past, and second the recent-enough present...
I'd like to take what was learned, and now apply that to what appears relevant looking forward.

(Parts 1 & 2 were left [largely unedited] in the last Recap and Preview comment sections, but I suppose I could add them as comments below; now that I'm finally Fanposting a TLDR of mine...
At least upon request - I don't want to inundate from the jump; especially not on my first FP.)

From a limited by injured-Out, and recently-returned-In, 2021 v. PHX series; and a limited by injured-Out, with no recently-returned-Ins, 2022 v. GSW series; I learned a few patterns:
1. The Nuggets under Malone and duress, play no less than 8 Nuggets in a Playoff Rotation
(incl. Jokic of course). And it's >8 (i.e. no less than 9) IF Malone plays a backup Actual Center.
2. The Nuggets, when duressed by More Than 1 Star being Out (i.e. 2+ unquestioned Star-ters/Closers), will lean more on numbers (i.e. towards a 10-man rotation); Whereas when duressed by Only 1 Star (or fewer) Out, will lean less on numbers (i.e. towards an 8-man rotation).
3. MVP-level Jokic is a 7-14% better scorer from the field, and a 2-10% better eFG-wise shooter, than the sum of his other teammates receiving Playoff Rotation minutes.

Synthesizing the first two patterns...
And of course assuming health finally (I mean, it's due, right?), we can expect a Playoff Rotation of:

About 9 Players (8-10). 1 of which is Jokic. 2 and 3 of which are Jamal and MPJ.
About 6 more are left; 4 of which are foreseeably already set (based on $ + Nug experience):
4. AG and 5. KCP and 6. Bones and 7. BBrown.

So, any "debates" or contention in conversation about who should or shouldn't be playing important roles this season is really going to come down to the following group, from which there is reasonably foreseeably only 2 spots (and less reasonably foreseeably just 1 or maybe 3):
8. JGreen, unless* ...9. ISmith, unless Trade ...10. DReed or ZNnaji* or VCancar.

These 2 (or 1-3) spots are LIKELY TO CHANGE as the season progresses.

And regardless of the fact that many of us like certainty we can count on...
(especially when health has introduced so much uncertainty that it's only natural for us to wish to have more anchors we think we can count on)...
Given that besides KCP, the Team's biggest return for Will+Monte was a large Trade Exception...
It is probably most certain that the 8th (and either final or nearly final) spot come the Playoffs is going to belong to whoever is fit into that Exception (at least in approximate salary).
Which, absent something unexpected, will likely be completed by 2023 at the earliest.

So we can argue as much as we want to about Jeff, Ish, Davon, Zeke, Vlatko, and even DeAndre
(Or Braun or Watson or the newest 2Way if you're really ambitious)...
But the fact of the matter is that only 1, maybe 2 if Malone stretches, are even going to be relevant come playoff time.
And mostly just to do the Torrey Craig/Jeff Green impression of a minute-eating 5th option; which is largely defensive in nature, and opportunistic/not screwing up flow for others offensively.

The only 1 that could possibly be more is the player that will fill the TPE (or its cousin's) space.

(As DeMarcus Cousins effectively did bc he far outplayed the $ the market valued him at last PO.
This is the major reason his supporters, til he signs elsewhere, remain fairly active here by the way:
It's recognized that no one else who'd get 8th-or-worse Rotation minutes has even the capacity - and he actually did it - to be the 2nd-best Player for the Nuggets in a Playoff series.

That's not to say there is still such a need or use for a 2nd best Nugget shooting-wise
[really DMC was 1st but for the smaller sample against GSW: 72.4 eFG%]
...if Jamal and MPJ are back ...and the next 3-6 are all better versions than what we had too.

But also keep in mind that Facu was bemoaned even more at the time AND retrospectively than DMC recently; and he was the 2nd best Nugget shooting-wise
[really Facu was 1st but for the smaller sample: 58.1 eFG%] against PHX
...which is something I'll bet you wouldn't have believed before reading this.)

So let's try to be kind (not nice); understanding change=in flux. As time passes slowly towards Feb.


Understanding the fact that the final 1-3 players in a Playoff Rotation have the smallest impact on the Sum of the Playoff Rotation (minus Jokic)'s scoring/shooting performance, bc they are taking fewer shots, and of higher probable success if they are shooting at all...

Let's synthesize all three patterns now. And compare,
2023's Top 6 of Jamal, MPJ, AG, KCP, Bones, and Bruce Brown (Not including Jok) the Top 6 (in FGA) Rotation Players from the last two Playoff Series Losses:

2022's Top 6 of DMC, Will, AG, Monte, Rookie-Year Bones, Out-for-Decisive-Gm5 Austin.
2021's Top 6 of Immobile-back MPJ, Returning-from-injury-afterGm1 Will, New+Ankled AG, Returned-from-injury-only-wks-prior Monte, Rookie-Year Facu, 10-Day-Contracted+ Austin.

Here is the Scoring of 2021's Top 6 Nugs (excepting 1xMVPed Jok) in that PHX Series:
FG% =40.4% (+0.2% w/o Facu)
3P% = 34.2% (-2.7% w/o Facu)
Their 2PA:3PA Ratio was 1.06:1; And they were 46.3% on 2s (+1.0% w/o Facu)
So their eFG% = 48.7% (-1.4% w/o Facu: 47.3%).

Here is the Scoring of 2022's Top 6 Nugs (excepting 2xMVPed Jok) in that GSW Series:
FG% = 45.3% (-2.6% w/o DMC)
3P% = 37.3% (-1.7% w/o DMC)
Their 2PA:3PA Ratio was 1.31:1; And they were 51.4% on 2s (-2.6% w/o DMC)
So their eFG% = 53.4% (-2.5% w/o DMC: 50.9%).

Here is the Scoring of 2023's Top 6 Nugs (excepting Jok), based simply on Career PO Avgs:
FG% = 47.3%(JM) & 47.5%(MPJ) & 44.2%(AG) & 41.8%(KCP) & 36.1%(BH) & 50.1%(BB)
3P% = 40.9%(JM) & 38.9%(MPJ) & 34.5%(AG) & 37.0%(KCP) & 34.8%(BH) & 30.0%(BB)
2PA:3PA Ratio = 1.8:1(JM) & 0.8:1(MPJ) & 2.7:1(AG) & 1.6:1(KCP) &1.8:1(BH) & 3.3:1(BB)
2P% = 50.8%(JM) & 57.7%(MPJ) & 47.8%(AG) & 49.5%(KCP) & 38.5%(BH) & 57.0%(BB)
eFG% = 54.5%(JM) & 58.0%(MPJ) & 48.8%(AG) & 53.2%(KCP) & 47.2%(BH) & 54.2%(BB).

FG% = 44.5% (AVG of 6 - Not Weighted - which upon weighing volume, ought to rise slightly)
3P% = 36.0% (AVG, which, when weighed b volume, ought to raise value)
2PA:3PA Ratio = 2.02:1 (AVG... WHICH, TALK ABOUT A DIFFERENCE IN SHOT SELECTION, and thus presumed quality of shots: This is 2x the 2s of '21v.PHX, and 1.5x the 2s of '22v.GSW)
eFG% = 52.7% (AVG, unweighted).


So what does all this tell us?
It tells us that just the AVG of the up-and-coming 2023 Denver Nuggets (before their prime got delayed by recent injuries and recoveries), and just the AVG performances of their new additions ... results in effectively the exact same shooting efficiencies as the 2022 Denver Nuggets against the Golden State Warriors, near-top-in-the-league defense.

It means that the AVERAGE 2023 Nuggets are about equal offensively
- albeit probably projectably slightly better, thanks to simply likely better shot selection and relative shot ease/openness, as evidenced by the substantial 2PA:3PA Ratio differential - the 2022 Nuggets. (I would still argue for that projectable betterment, but still ... hmm.)
That's the same team who arguably played the eventual 2022 NBA Champions better in its final 3 games than any other team in the playoffs... But it's also the same team who did still lose in 5.

It also means that - of course - it is FAR from the same team who lost to the 2021 Western Conference Champions in 4; that that "Suns in 4" "series" was an abomination. Making that anomaly nothing but an outlier when we're evaluating projectable "Floors" for the 2023+ Nuggets.

It also also could mean one more thing...
If the 2023 Nuggets want to score/shoot not about equal to how they played the Warriors, and simply count on an improved defense to hold the Warriors' efficiency down better...
They may want to store, if only in the back of their minds (and we in ours, before we accidentally misremember DMC thru our bias-colored glasses [and even Facu for that matter]), how 2022 DMC added 2.5% to the sum of the Top 6 [excepting Jok]'s eFG%.
And how helpful an Actual Center is; at least one who can score/shoot at high effeciency WHILE both spotting Jokic from extra minutes/from Refs/from physicality, AND filling in playstyle or playmaking-like-lite for Jokic; to further bolster both Jokic AND the efficiencies of the next Top 6.

For with such a 7th Player, eFG% jumps (+2.5%) to over 55%. It's still not the 61% GSW shot, but...
But with extra rebounds, or space created for other Nugs in the Top 6 to get extra rebounds
- keep in mind, in 2022's Loss w/DMC rostered & playing, the REB Ratio favored DEN - 1.17:1...

There could be 3% of comfortable wiggle room (55+%*1.17=64+%).
Whereas simply banking on average performances - i.e. 52.7% (+argument for slightly higher) - creates just 1% of not comfortable wiggle room (52.7%*1.17=62%).

Increased wiggle room is especially important with the likes of James Wiseman (an Actual rebounding Center himself) returned, who could well decrease the Nugget's REB advantage if they are relying on Jeff/Zeke/Vlatko/DeAndre.
Not to mention likely a Full Clippers squad awaiting its chance at revenge.

I'm not trying to imply the TPE (or the FA like) needs, or even ought, to be filled DMC.
But if there isn't movement towards a player who actually does have 2nd-best Player in a PO Series type of potential [bc of offense-not just defense] prior to the Season, expect and hope for a trade into that significant TPE (or something of the like) prior to the Trade Deadline.

Else we really are counting on just the proper fits, and weighted average clicking, of the chemistry of this truly most talented of all Nuggets Denver has been lucky enough of to witness over the years.
And the extra defense to be played bc of the better personnel and clicking, on top of the offense.

I don't know about all of you, but I like all of what I'm seeing from all of this!

I just like it even more with that single, extra fit and weighted average click;
which I don't want to be too quick to forgo or forget the value of how we had it, and might again (perhaps truly practicality in the sum of things).

Cheers Stiffs! Thanks for getting here with me.

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