Each week this season, I will be diving into the numbers to pull out some statistics that I believe to be crucial to the Denver Nuggets. These will be good, bad, and all the possible numbers in between. Right now, I will look at the previous year as my guide, but as the Nuggets get into the regular season, my eye will turn toward this year.

Without further ado, here’s the first installment of the Stat of the Week series.

Stat of the Week: Offensive Usage Percentage

Last season, the Nuggets had two players exceed a 25 percent usage rate: Emmanuel Mudiay (25.7%, 40th in the NBA ) and Jusuf Nurkic (27.2%, 26th in the NBA).

Both players struggled to maintain efficiency while playing on such high usage. Of all 44 players in the NBA to play 500 minutes and have a usage rate of greater than 25 percent, here’s where Mudiay and Nurkic stack up in certain categories:

Player Field Goal % Effective Field Goal % True Shooting %
Emmanuel Mudiay 2nd to Last Last Last
Jusuf Nurkic 38th 3rd to Last 2nd to Last

Yikes. Basketball Reference is the source.

Why it Matters

Well, it’s hard to justify such poor numbers for both players not mattering. Yes, Nurkic only played 547 minutes last year. Yes, Mudiay was a 19 year old rookie. Well, the Nuggets (by all accounts) plan to increase Nurkic’s playing time and ask Mudiay to continue to be aggressive as one of the leaders of the team. If the Nuggets want to improve as a team, they need to take one of two (or both) measures.

  1. Ask for internal improvement to increase efficiency for Mudiay and Nurkic.
  2. Decrease volume of possessions and usage rate for both players.

Usage rate is defined as the percentage of a team’s possessions that the player used while on the floor. According to ESPN Hollinger Team Statistics, the Nuggets used 98.2 possessions per game last year. That means that if Mudiay plays 32 minutes per game, he’ll be on the floor for an estimated 65.47 possessions. As defined by usage rate, Mudiay would account for 16.83 possessions per game.

At his current efficiency, the Nuggets would be a worse offensive team than last year if that happens, which is why his improvement is so integral. The same goes for Nurkic, who will likely play 20 minutes per contest off the bench, maybe more if Malone decides he and Nikola Jokic can play together.

The other side of the spectrum is limiting the above player’s possessions by increasing those of others. Over the course of the past week, Michael Malone has stated he wants Gary Harris to take five more shot attempts per game. Well, those possessions have to come from somewhere, and Mudiay, given his large usage rate, is a likely candidate for reduced possessions.

Whatever the case may be, look for one of the two above factors to change in order for the Nuggets to have a better season. Emmanuel Mudiay and Jusuf Nurkic are two key pieces to the development of the Denver Nuggets. Improvements must be made if they want to continue maintaining so many possessions per game. Fortunately, both guys are very young and will likely show huge improvements to both their FG efficiency and their ability to pick their spots.