Apr 20, 2013 5:24 PM EDT
For a vast majority of the season, I thought this Denver Nuggets team stood out as a real contender in the Western Conference. Their excellent depth meshed perfectly with their aggressive style of play and a mile high home court advantage, creating a team that would be extremely difficult to take down in at least three of the tilts in a seven game series. Even as their system began to work better, injuries to Danilo Gallnari (who will not play in the series) and Kenneth Faried (who likely will play but may sit out the earliest games) change how they will work as a postseason team.
The other major factor here comes in the form of their opponents. In halfcourt sets, the Warriors’ organizing philosophy has been to try to deny teams scoring chances at the rim and giving up three point shots. That manifested itself in Golden State yielding the most three-point attempts in the entire league per game (23.8) and the fourth-least attempts at the rim per game (also 23.8). The second figure becomes more impressive because the Warriors were third from the bottom in the entire NBA when it comes to turnovers. Since turnovers often yield looks at the rim in transition, they had to do even better in halfcourt situations to offset those figures.
Against many teams, building a defense with the release valve being three-pointers (often open ones) can be devastating. The corner three is the second-best shot in basketball behind shots at the rim and teams who know and game plan for Golden State can make sure that these looks go to the best players. However, the Nuggets as presently constituted do not have the personnel to exploit the Warriors’ defensive weakness and in fact could be victimized by it.
This season, five different Nuggets attempted 2.9 or more threes per game- Gallinari, Corey Brewer, Andre Iguodala, Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler. Of that group, Chandler was the only one to shoot better than 40 percent while Lawson and Gallinari shot 36.6 percent and 37.3 percent, respectively. Finally, Iguodala converted only 31.7 percent of his looks while Corey Brewer shot an abysmal 29.6 percent from deep. In fact, Corey Brewer was the third-worst of any player who attempted more than 250 threes this season, behind only Alexey Schved and Monta Ellis. Iguodala was fourth-worst.
With Gallinari out of commission for the season, this means that the group of players taking the shots the Warriors will give them contains as many bad shooters as good ones coming off a regular season where the poor gunners attempted more threes both total and per minute than the better shooters. Denver’s offense will require more discipline than they showed at any point during the regular season, including their improved performance over the final month.
Golden State would also be wise to understand Denver’s strengths and attempt to take them away from the Nuggets. Unlike nearly every NBA team, Denver can get quality minutes at the Center position every minute of every game thanks to Kosta Koufos and JaVale McGee. Both are good defensive players that can impact the opposing offense in different ways. However, by shifting around personnel the Warriors have the capability of neutralizing this strength. While the combination of David Lee and Carl Landry has plenty of defensive problems, they each have the ability to stretch the floor which must be respected by opposing bigs. Playing them together would get either Kosta or JaVale out of their comfort zone and leave both those players and the system susceptible to penetrators and unusual screen actions. Andre Iguodala in particular is an excellent defensive player but spending some time each game taking away the core of the Nuggets’ D would work incredibly well for the Warriors, particularly while Andrew Bogut is less than 100%.
The Warriors also need to be aware of Denver potentially putting Andre Iguodala or Corey Brewer on Stephen Curry since their length will cause him some problems and they each have enough lateral quickness to largely stay with him during sets. Exploiting those situations will require using two swingmen (like Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes) rather than Jarrett Jack because the bigger players can exploit Ty Lawson or Andre Miller more than Jack can. Golden State should also use substitutes to maximize their opportunities when George Karl plays Miller and Lawson together because their collective limitations in terms of size, shooting, and defense can be exploited.
One final reason I am picking the Warriors in this series is George Karl. He has done a fantastic job this season (I had him second for Coach of the Year) and has had an admirable career. However, his teams have consistently underperformed in the playoffs. Since the 2001-2002 season, Karl’s teams have made the playoffs nine times and have advanced beyond the first round once. Furthermore, despite having three division champions, since he became the Denver head coach nine seasons ago the average number of wins per playoff series for his team sits at 1.9. That 1.9 wins per series includes a trip to the Western Conference Finals with Melo- without that run the Nuggets have average 1.3 wins per playoff series with all first round exits.
My best guess of how this goes down is that the Warriors sneak one of the first two in Denver, then get both wins at Oracle, lose Game 5 in Denver and then take the series at home in Game 6. The Nuggets have done a superb job this season but may have run into exactly the wrong team while not having their full arsenal.
Feb 21, 2013 10:58 AM EST
We pulled our Team Transactions Data over the previous 10 Trade Deadline periods to examine the levels of activity in period leading up to the deadline.
The below is an annual average of the number of players acquired by each team (click on any of the below links to see a year-by-year infographic).
Sacramento Kings: 2.7
New York Knicks: 2.3
Houston Rockets: 2.2
Oklahoma City Thunder: 1.8
Cleveland Cavaliers: 1.7
New Orleans Hornets: 1.7
Denver Nuggets: 1.6
Memphis Grizzlies: 1.6
Charlotte Bobcats: 1.6
Atlanta Hawks: 1.5
Brooklyn Nets: 1.5
Milwaukee Bucks: 1.5
Portland Trail Blazers: 1.5
Chicago Bulls: 1.4
Golden State Warriors: 1.3
Boston Celtics: 1.2
Orlando Magic: 1.2
Los Angeles Clippers: 1.1
Phoenix Suns: 1.1
Washington Wizards: 1.1
Dallas Mavericks: 1.0
Minnesota Timberwolves: 1.0
Toronto Raptors: 0.9
Philadelphia 76ers: 0.8
Utah Jazz: 0.7
Indiana Pacers: 0.6
Los Angeles Lakers: 0.6
Miami Heat: 0.6
Detroit Pistons: 0.5
San Antonio Spurs: 0.5
The following are the collective breakdowns by year:
Jan 31, 2013 9:36 PM EST
The Memphis Grizzlies kicked off the NBA’s trading season with a bang this week. After making a relatively minor deal to supply the Cleveland Cavaliers with a bench, they finally pulled the trigger on moving Rudy Gay in a massive three-team trade on Wednesday. There were “basketball reasons” at play, but financial considerations also clearly played a huge role.
From the Dallas Mavericks to Oklahoma City Thunder and now Memphis, we’ve seen teams make personnel decisions with one eye firmly placed on the league’s stiff new luxury tax penalties. The penalties are an economic straightjacket that make very little sense for a sport with so much money pouring into it, but that’s the price we all have to pay to keep guys like Robert Sarver in business. As a result, as anyone who has played around with the NBA Trade Checker knows, it’s very hard to create win-win trades that also make sense financially.
In reality, any remaining trades are more like to resemble the Marreese Speights deal than the Gay one. But where’s the fun in that? Here’s four deals, with varying degrees of plausibility, that would actually affect the balance of power in the league.
Pau Gasol for Shawn Marion, Chris Kaman, Dahntay Jones
A possible spark for two of the most disappointing teams in the NBA. The Los Angeles Lakers and the Mavericks have shown signs of life in recent weeks, but they’re going to need a lot more than that to dig themselves out of the holes they’re currently in. This could be a game-changer for both.
For the Lakers, it satisfies their two main priorities: adding speed and shooting around Dwight Howard while not taking on any more additional long-term salary. Marion is signed for only one more season, while Kaman and Jones are on expiring contracts. Marion is 34, but his game has aged well. He’s been the Mavericks best player this season and he’s the ideal small-ball 4 for Mike D’Antoni’s system. Marion and Jones would dramatically improve the Lakers team speed (kind of a sad when you can say that about two 10+ year NBA veterans in their 30’s), while Kaman could be useful in limited minutes as Howard’s backup.
For Dallas, it’s a belated acknowledgement of reality. Dwight Howard isn’t coming and Chris Paul isn’t either. You think “Cliff Paul”, State Farm spokesman, is happening in Dallas? You think Adidas wants Howard to leave the most high-profile franchise in the NBA? Gasol has had a tough season, but he’s still only 32, and he has the size and skill to age as well as Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett have, if he can play center. The Mavericks would need to add some speed around them in the offseason, but the Gasol/Dirk tandem is their best chance of throwing together one more elite team around Nowitzki before it’s too late.
Josh Smith for Meyers Leonard, JJ Hickson, Nolan Smith and a first-round pick
Everyone focuses on Josh Smith’s iffy shot-selection, but he can play some basketball too. He’s an Atlanta native who has spent the first nine years of his career playing for one of the most poorly run and nondescript franchises in the NBA. More than anything else, he needs a change of scenery.
Portland would be the ideal fit. It would force LaMarcus Aldridge to play at the 5, but with the NBA game becoming smaller and more perimeter-oriented, that’s a natural transition. Aldridge and Smith’s games mesh perfectly: Aldridge can stretch the floor and allow Smith to operate closer to the basket, while Smith’s passing ability would create easy shots for a big man who can finish from any part of the floor. A front-court with those two and Nic Batum is only the progression of Damian Lillard and a bench away from being an elite team.
For Atlanta, the same logic about a fresh start applies. Re-signing Smith locks them into the same team with the ceiling of a second-round exit they’ve been for almost half a decade. Leonard is still very raw, but he’s an athletic 20-year-old center whose holding his own as a rookie. A two-way center on a rookie contract is about the best deal you’re going to get for a disgruntled star. With Leonard, Al Horford and Jeff Teague to build around, the Hawks could focus on finding wing players in the draft and free agency.
Kevin Garnett for Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw
Now, here’s where we get speculative. The Celtics are keeping up a brave face, but they were barely a playoff team with one of the NBA’s best PG’s playing 40 minutes a night. In all likelihood, Rondo won’t be at or near 100% for at least 12 months, which means two essentially rebuilding years for Boston. At that point, Paul Pierce will be 37 and Garnett will be 38. Dealing them now would accelerate the rebuilding process around Rondo and it could be sold as a way to give two Hall of Famers one more chance at a ring.
For the Celtics, Kawhi Leonard is the key piece in this trade. He’s an athletic 6’7, 225 small forward who can match up with multiple positions, rebound and stretch the floor. That’s exactly the type of player I want around Rondo: someone who can run the break and provide spacing in the half-court without compromising the team defensively. Splitter and Diaw are there as expiring contracts. They could help Boston’s depth upfront, but the Celtics would probably waive them to “give Jared Sullinger an opportunity” a.k.a. move up in the draft.
Giving up Leonard would be difficult for the Spurs, but their primary concern should be maximizing Tim Duncan’s final years. When he’s gone, a team built around Leonard and an aging Tony Parker isn’t going anywhere. Garnett would be the absolute perfect piece: he’s precisely the combination of interior defense and perimeter shooting they’ve been looking for since Robert Horry retired. How awesome would it be to watch the two greatest power forwards of all-time ride off into the sunset together?
Paul Pierce for Javale McGee, Wilson Chandler and Quincy Miller
Hold on. I can explain.
I’ll admit that Boston dealing one of the most storied players in franchise history for the right to pay JaVale McGee $30 million dollars looks off. However, while McGee is still racking up gifs on a nightly basis, he’s also starting to come into his own with Denver. The guy is a 25-year-old, 7’1 center with a 21.5 PER who can single-handedly change the complexion of a game defensively. What if his career trajectory follows Tyson Chandler’s? He’s all upside and Rondo could be the perfect PG to maximize his abilities.
Wilson Chandler and Leonard would form one of the most athletic forward duos in the NBA and they’d have the shooting ability to make it work offensively. Along with McGee, that’s a trio of frontcourt players who would look awfully good next to Rondo, whose spent his entire career shackled to veterans who want to play in the halfcourt, where his lack of a jumper is more of a problem than in transition. Quincy Miller, the Nuggets second round pick out of Baylor, is the wildcard. There’s a reason he was once the No. 2 player in the country. At 6’10, 220 with a 7’1 wingspan, he’s got a combination of skill, size and athleticism you can’t teach.
For Denver, the move would realign their rotation and give them a puncher’s chance in the West while also re-setting their cap situation going forward. Pierce is no longer the player he once was, but he would give the Nuggets their best shot-creator since Carmelo Anthony; on the other end of the floor, Iguodala could protect him by taking the more difficult assignment on the wings every night. Just as important, the option on Pierce’s contract next season would allow Denver to blow everything up if things didn’t go right and operate with a clean slate financially going forward.
Nov 01, 2012
While the drop-off from the Heat to the rest of the Eastern Conference is severe, the Lakers, Spurs and Thunder have quick company in the second and third tiers.
Aug 19, 2012
The Nuggets, Lakers, Heat, 76ers and Nets were amongst the teams with great offseasons, while the Bucks, Magic, Suns, Knicks, Cavaliers and Bulls were in the bad column. Here's how all 30 teams have fared in the 2012 offseason.
Aug 13, 2012
The Jazz and Thunder have had the most Gold Medalists since the USA began bringing NBA players in 1992, while Duke leads amongst colleges. How do the other 29 NBA teams rank?
Jul 04, 2012
The centers of the 2008 Draft class figure prominently in the 2012 free agency and comprise six of the 30 starters at the game’s most valuable position.
Jun 28, 2012
Center represents the position of greatest need for nearly half the NBA, while power forward isn't the top priority for a single team.
Jun 27, 2012
Polling the Green Room candidates to determine who they think will be the second best player of the class, the rise of skinny guys, a new Harrison Barnes and which team workout was the toughest.
May 09, 2012
JaVale McGee's combination of offensive efficiency and defensive dominance for the Nuggets is almost comparable to what Tyson Chandler is doing with New York.
Apr 27, 2012
The first round begins this weekend, when eight best-of-seven series featuring sixteen teams commence. There’s no way to watch all of the games, so here’s a viewer’s guide for the ones to watch and the ones to skip:
Mar 22, 2012
Players coming off rookie contracts have been reluctant to accept a one-year tender offer to become an unrestricted free agent in the following year, but that may change under a new CBA and an NBA landscape where choosing your situation has become highly valued.
Mar 16, 2012
The Wizards and Nuggets exchanged big men that had become problematic for the franchise to retain for very different reasons.
Feb 23, 2012
While the Heat, Bulls and Thunder are positively in the NBA's elite, the Clippers, Mavericks, Spurs, Lakers, 76ers, Pacers, Blazers, Hawks and Magic comprise a deep pack of also-rans who could be a deal away.
Dec 23, 2011
The Nuggets may have lost Wilson Chandler, J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin to China (temporarily or forever), but only Nene and Aaron Afflalo were irreplaceable.
Jun 25, 2011
Great Drafts, Good Drafts, Enh Drafts and Bad Drafts.. Did your team improve or squander an opportunity?
Apr 14, 2011
The Bulls went from 16th to first, Cleveland went from first to 30th and the Heat jumped from 12th to second.
Feb 21, 2011
Even though the February 24th deadline is the 'do or die' date for all intents and purposes, there is a small possibility for Carmelo Anthony to get an extension and a trade out of Denver if a deal is not completed this week.
Feb 18, 2011
Carmelo Anthony wants two things very badly. He wants an extension and he wants to play for the Knicks.
Feb 05, 2011
Carmelo Anthony has now done everything short of saying "I'm taking my talents to the Big Apple." But the Knicks still have two important questions to ask before Feb. 24th.
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