noun: turnover; plural noun: turnovers

– the amount of money taken by a business in a particular period."a turnover approaching $4 million"synonyms:(gross) revenue, income, yield; More

– the rate at which employees leave a workforce and are replaced, akin to:

– the rate at which goods are sold and replaced in a store.

– a small pie made by folding a piece of pastry over on itself to enclose a sweet filling.

– (in a game) a loss of possession of the ball to the opposing team.

One of the hazards that befall many people in my type of day job, present company included, is jumping to conclusions about what is OBVIOUSLY right in front of my face. I can be something of a moron in those leaps between correlation and causation, and have been lucky to have gotten to make tens of thousands of “guesses” along the way. I say lucky only to have learned just how often I am wrong in my assumptions. Staring into the face of data showing you weren’t just wrong, you were WRONG is both a humbling and educational experience. One that makes the wins that do come all the sweeter.

If I’ve made a broad assumption about this season’s Denver Nuggets squad, it’s been about the turnovers. The dagblasted, mothermutton turnovers. You cut those turnovers in half, you win a lot more games, right? Turns out it’s true in generality, but not quite as simple or clear cut as all that.

I wanted to take a swag at how turnovers may have impacted wins and losses this season for Denver, at least in the broadest strokes, and maybe compare it to what’s going on in the rest of the league. Here are the Nuggets first 31 games in terms of wins, losses, turnovers, and turnover percentage.

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Denver’s average of 15.3 turnovers a game would have them tied for the the 11th-worst spot in the league, according to BasketballReference.com. I say “would” because the site’s own breakdown shows the Nuggets as the 9th-worst team in the league at 15.6. You could argue that difference was borne out of our data sources, but I sourced all of this from the same site (BR), so… I is confused. Admittedly, I sourced the last row of turnover numbers from an ESPN box score (BR is always a day behind on data updates), but the 21 from last night only increased the average, so… Let’s just say the data has us hovering near the bottom third. More on that in a sec from the moron.

First, what were the differences in those stats between the wins and the losses? How dramatic was the overall delta between those sets? Wins first, losses below:

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And a few observations of what bubbles up out of the three…

Denver has turned the ball over 20-or-more times seven times this season… and has lost six of those games. That’s telling, right?

Not perfectly. 20 seems to be the Mason-Dixon there, as the team still has a ton of wins with turnover averages in the mid-to-upper teens. We only know if the total is double digits, and starts with a two, bad things tend to happen.

So that must also pan out on the low end, yes? Single-digit turnover games… those must be telling, right? Not really, due to low sample size, and the odd anomaly that the three games that fit the category are all road games, an obvious issue for the team this season. In those three games, Denver actually has more losses (Mavericks and Pelicans) than wins (Nets). Nothing to really learn there.

Good Nuggets (winning) vs. Bad Nuggets (losing) is a pretty scant average margin, at 2.2 turnovers per game. But that difference makes all the difference in where they’d fall in the league averages. Denver’s average clip in their losses would have them tied for third-worst in the league. The number for wins would make them the ninth-best in the league, placing them squarely between the Spurs and the Celtics.

And that must mean something, right? If that’s where franchises like the Spurs and Celtics sit, there’s obviously something to this turnover ideal, yes? Mmmmmaybe so, but the league’s-best-record Rockets have the same 15.3 average your Nuggets current have, and the ever-present Warriors are actually carrying a shiny 16.2 TOV/gm average. Houston and Golden State also run high-octane offenses with lots of passing and cutting. Adding insult to injury on this theory, the teams with the lowest turnover rates (Bucks, Mavericks, Hornets, Timberwolves) all hover near-or-below .500 records. Maybe not so cut-and-dried as my original assumption.

The devil’s advocate in me argues that if two (point two) turnovers a game is all it takes to be in the upper (or lower) echelons of the league in the category, and also seems to be all the difference between your winning self and losing self, then uh… concentrate, or something.

Again, overly simplistic. No need for more on that.

What say you, Nuggets Nation? Are the turnovers the key that unlocks the season, only a part of something larger, or just symptomatic of a team that runs this sort of an offense?

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