I have not flipped the coin enough times on your Denver Nuggets. There's not enough data for the people who need data.

To make ends meet, I spend my days wading through data, chatting about geeky things like Bayes Posterior, (which is not the butt of a person named Bayes, by the way), Fisher Exact, and other Z- and T-type tests which determine little things like variance, statistical significance, and how to make my employer MORE MONEY. In several places I've worked, some of my co-workers end up getting really bored talking about stats, test methodologies, and user psychology, but really love talking about MAKING MORE MONEY. They enjoy that part so much that they try very hard to skip over the other important pieces, like ensuring the accuracy of the numbers that guarantee they're making sound decisions. This really does end up being about Nuggets basketball, I swear.

To help my co-workers understand the foolishness of jumping the gun on test decisions, I have them do a little exercise with me, simply flipping a coin 10 times. Many times, one of the sides of the coin will show up six, seven, eight, or even nine times out of 10 flips. (no perfect 10/10 just yet, but it will come)

I then ask them what the ratio on the coin flip should have been. Most folks immediately understand that a coin flip is a 50/50 proposition. So if I were to extrapolate from one individual's eight-out-of-ten results that I could then expect heads 80% of the time in perpituity… I'd have badly missed the boat in my assumptions. When I finally ask, "what did I not do in my test?", they nearly invariably give the answer quickly:

"You didn't flip the coin enough times."

Exactly right. There's not enough data to know anything yet. I wish I could follow my own damned advice sometimes.

Meaning, I wish I could contain my overenthusiasm when it come to our Denver Nuggets. There have been only two preseason games thus far, lineups could be labeled as experimental at best, several players have barely seen the floor. But this lack of data is getting in the way of my need for answers, dangit. I’m so anxious to see the results of this Nuggets season that I’m already combing through the sparse data available from two preseason games to get the ANSWERS… while I surely have not flipped the coin enough times to have a bit of certainty about anything.

After having watched both of the preseason games a few times, (ok, I missed basketball) here are a few early patterns based on staggeringly little data…

Emmanuel Mudiay is a bit of a turnover machine, especially in the opening minutes of both games. Many rookie point guards have these types of starts, especially when being cast into starting minutes and roles. Starting out against the league’s best defensive point guard in Chris Paul didn’t help much either, but Emmanuel also coughed the ball up three more times in the first few minutes of the Dallas contest.

Emmanuel cut his turnovers by one in the second game (eight to seven). If he keeps cutting turnovers at the same rate through the preseason, he'll be down to two against Utah on October 22nd. That's how you statistically jump to conclusions, boys and girls. Need. Data.

Don’t get me wrong, Mudiay’s games were still more plusses than minuses. To that end, Mudiay reined in the rate of the giveaways quickly in both games, and averaged 15.5 points and four assists in his 32 minutes per game. The early bumps and bruises were to be expected, and to his credit, Mudiay has continued to attack and progress. Good early signs from Emmanuel, who John Cregan over at ESPN fantasy basketball ranks as the top rookie to take in fantasy hoops this year.

Erick Green‘s stellar September is not yet a hot October. Green’s nine minutes in the Clippers game netted him a set of goose eggs across the stat sheet (save a single foul and missed shot). Erick then had a DNP-CD in game number two vs. the Mavericks, but several guys sat out games one or two, that’s preseason basketball. WAY too early to read anything into this, given how well-regarded Green’s camp has been by the staff, but he’s starting out from a bit of a hole from game one.

Nikola Jokic is no joke. Averaging 11 points, five rebounds, and 20.5 minutes on the floor, Jokic is shooting at an 83% clip in the first two games. He may push center Jusuf Nurkic to even better things upon his return, but could share that duty with…

Joffrey Lauvergne, who has nearly matched Mudiay’s scoring clip, averaging 15 points and 11.5 rebounds over the first two games, averaging 76% from the floor, and starting against the Mavs. If these two gents keep this play up at center, you may see even less of…

J.J. Hickson, who has 2.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in the 12.5 minutes he averaged per contest. Again, it’s early… right?

Kenneth Faried had a slow outing against the Clippers with no points, so his per-game averages net out at five points and seven-and-a-half boards per game. That said, he put up a double-double against Dallas, and looks rejuvenated on the court. Maybe we’ll be seeing more of the Manimal this season.

Danilo Gallinari did not see any game time against the Clippers, and was noticeably gassed for the second half against Dallas, missing all of his shots in the frame. Given the strong probability that Gallo will be a stud for the Nuggets this year – based on his last few months play in EuroBasket and his five assists, six defensive rebounds, and defensive contributions in the victory over the Mavs in 26 minutes of play – gives more evidence of how thin our current data set is.

Jameer Nelson has averaged 11.5 points and four-and-a-half assists in his 18.5 minutes on the floor, and has also been Mudiay’s shadow whenever they are both on the sideline, filling the rookie’s ear with as much data as he can provide. As with all of this article, it’s early to tell, but Nelson and Mudiay look to be off to an excellent start as mentor and mentee, even sharing the court at times. Will be fun to watch it evolve.

Gary Harris has averaged 11.5 points and 2.5 steals per contest, picking the Clippers pockets four times in the first game. His 47% shooting clip is still not where he’d want it, but he looks far more confident on the floor, and it’s plain to see he’s excited about what his playing time under Malone looks like, (29.5 minutes averaged over the first two games) as he doesn’t seem to be looking over to the bench every time he misses a shot, expecting to be pulled. Speaking of shooting guards…

Randy Foye is off to an inauspicious start, with nine points TOTAL in the 36 minutes he’s aggregated in two contests, all on 30% shooting from the floor. Foye looks more than a little out of synch in the first two preseason games, but with his years of service already in play, you’d expect those trends to right themselves back to the mean eventually.

Michael Malone‘s commitment to defense has been an obvious thread through most of the early going, even when the Nuggets are not operating well on that end of the court, it looks to be often the topic of conversation when Malone is speaking, and the players all seem to be looking at him. Melvin Hunt had all the players still looking a him at the end of last season as well, and it seemed to bode well for the team’s efforts. I’ll stop that line of thought right about there.

It's been exciting to see the early focus on D, and to (hopefully) extrapolate that players who do not perform on that end of the floor risk losing a ton of minutes to a deep group of guys who will play on both ends.

There were others who played, (obviously) and other common themes throughout, but those were the early patterns that jumped out to one Stiff mining for whatever nuggets of data he can find in the early going. It’s only three weeks to season’s start, with the Bulls visiting the Nuggets in Boulder tonight for our first preseason home game. We’ve flipped the coin twice, one win, one loss. What have you seen in the first two games, Nuggets Nation?


P.S. Don't forget this season's first Stiffs Night Out – Season Kickoff – on 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!


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