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This past week was a busy one for the Denver Nuggets, especially with regards to contractual matters. Virtually every player whom the Nuggets struck a handshake deal with in free agency finally put ink to paper, including Darrell Arthur. With 15 players currently signed to guaranteed contracts the Nuggets will be forced to make a tough decision on what to do with Kostas Papanikolaou as training camp approaches in September. We’ll of course have lots of coverage of the Nuggets’ ongoing roster manipulation, but in the meantime here’s a quick look back at some of the more under-the-radar stories from this past week that may have been overshadowed by the Nuggets’ recent string of signings and re-signings…
Emmanuel Mudiay continues to impress — both on and off the court. If you don’t follow him on Twitter you really should, as he quite frequently drops impressive maxims like the ones below:
Love the fact that I’m a nugget
— Emmanuel Mudiay (@emmanuelmudiay) August 4, 2015
Everyday we waking up and think about the negative stuff. But forget how blessed we really are to be alive and waking up. — Emmanuel Mudiay (@emmanuelmudiay) August 3, 2015
And whoever said Mudiay can’t shoot from distance clearly did not qualify their statement to include “standing up”:
A video posted by Emmanuel Mudiay (@emmanuelmudiay) on
In somewhat sad news former Denver Nuggets beat writer Benjamin Hochman is leaving The Denver Post. Hochman is an outstanding journo and person who was much beloved by the Denver sports community. Here’s a brief snippet about Hochman from his hometown St. Louis Post-Dispatch where he’ll now be working:
Benjamin Hochman, a St. Louis native and graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, has been hired as a sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Hochman returns home from Denver, where he held the same position for The Denver Post.
In the past six years, Hochman, 35, has received six national honors from the Associated Press Sports Editors, the “APSEs,” considered the Oscars of sportswriting. Hochman covered the Denver Nuggets prior to his promotion as full-time sports columnist, and in his first full year on the job, 2014, he placed fifth-best in the country.
Colorado resident Matt Moore of CBSSports.com sees his fair share of Nuggets games throughout the season, so he’s well aware of the team’s strengths and weaknesses. In the graphic below he illustrates those weaknesses as they specifically relate to Kenneth Faried’s defense in combination with other frontcourt running mates:
Speaking of Faried, the “Manimal” made headlines this past week on several different occasions. First, in relation to the above graphic, Faried was interviewed by current Nuggets’ beat writer Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post and revealed the following:
“My defense, I’ve focused on that,” Faried said in a phone interview from Johannesburg, where he played in NBA Africa Game 2015 on Saturday. “I’ve been watching film on guys that I consider my toughest matchups, and I’ve been able to dissect them so that when the season comes around I’m able to guard those players — and become the player I want to be, and that’s hopefully defensive player of the year one day and first-team all-defense.”
I think I speak for a lot of people who’ve watched Faried play basketball many nights over the last five years in saying I probably won’t hold my breath over this one. But, good on him for having goals and aspirations. That’s never a bad thing.
Faried is also reportedly scheduled to partake in Team USA minicamp this week in Las Vegas. Here’s some news on this event courtesy of the Nuggets’ official Internet homepage on NBA.com:
Featuring a total of 34 players, including 27 players on the National Team roster and eight players who are new additions to the 2014-16 USA Basketball National Team, USA Basketball Chairman and National Team Managing Director Jerry Colangelo today announced the roster of players expected to attend the Aug. 11-13 USA Basketball Men’s National Team minicamp in Las Vegas.
The roster of attendees includes all 12 members of the gold medalist 2014 USA World Cup Team, and nine Olympic gold medalists, including eight members of the 2012 London Olympic team.
BSN Denver posted numerous articles this past week of significant length and detail: one about the Nuggets’ overcrowded roster, another about their need for a backup center and even one about former CU Buffalo Xavier Silas and his fight to make an impact in the NBA. Joining in on this trend of in-depth analysis is Christopher Dempsey, who wrote an excellent recap of the Nuggets’ offseason while including a numerical review of the team’s strengths and weakness from last year along the way:
Meanwhile, the Nuggets are particularly concerned with getting back to high-efficiency play on offense. That begins with proper ball movement. Last season, the Nuggets did not move the ball with real purpose. Only 57.7 percent of their field-goal makes were assisted. To put that into perspective, Golden State was at 65.9 percent, Atlanta 67.6 percent; even Boston had a 62.9 percent of its makes assisted. The last time the Nuggets made the playoffs — 2012-13 — they had assists on 60 percent of their makes.
So is this now a better ball movement roster? Many parts of it have proven to be. The addition of Mudiay, a pass-first point guard who has already shown great vision and ability to deliver the ball on-time and on-target, is the difference maker. Rookie center Nikola Jokic, who can stretch defenses and pass from the top of the key or down court after a rebound, will help as well. At his healthiest, Gallinari can make plays from the wing and Wilson Chandler has been so unselfish in the past that he had to be forced to shoot the ball. So the pieces for the Nuggets to get back to consistent ball movement are there. The system also has to help in a more effective way than in it did the last two seasons.
One way the system can help is by generating more high-percentage shots. The Nuggets took 3,730 jump shots last season — the most they’ve taken in a season in 11 years — and made just 31.6 percent of them, according to NBA stats. From the 3-point line, the Nuggets shot 1,946 attempts and made just 627 (32.2 percent). Meanwhile, they took just 389 driving layups — but made 73 percent of those. The Nuggets had 168 dunk attempts (149 makes).
Contrast that with two seasons ago, when the Nuggets took 518 layups (making 64.3 percent) and 250 dunks, making 230. There were only 2,972 jump shots and 1,464 3-point attempts. Those Nuggets made 34.2 percent of them.
Shot selection is a player and coach combination. The Xs and Os help get players clean looks and the players exercise good judgment in shot selection. George Karl’s system put the emphasis on getting to the rim first, driving and kicking to the 3-point line second. Brian Shaw’s system generated a ton of jump shots, many of which the team did not hit. And while the Nuggets did get to the free throw line a ton last season (24.3 attempts per game) they’ll have to do better than just making 73.4 percent of them, which ranked 24th in the NBA.
In his introductory press conference, new Nuggets coach Michael Malone identified defensive rebounding as a top area of concern, and while the Nuggets did rank a very average 17th in defensive rebounding percentage, they were in fact sandwiched between the NBA Finals participants — Cleveland (16th) and Golden State (18th).
Overall, the Nuggets were still one of the better rebounding teams in the league, at 44.7 per game, which ranked seventh in the NBA. On the defensive glass, the Nuggets ranked a respectable 12th, grabbing 32.4 of those per game. If the Nuggets improved by two defensive rebounds per game next season, which should be able to happen, they’d likely be in the top five in the NBA in the category.
And finally, there’s this:
To say that I merely “like” this picture would be a massive understatement. Tim Gelt, the Nuggets’ head director of media relations, posted this on his Twitter account recently and from the second I saw it I knew it was love at first sight. I mean, this photo encapsulates everything that’s great about Colorado and the Nuggets right now. Just a local dude, living the dream, working for his hometown Denver Nuggets, and an enormously tall, winsome Italian in a crimson track suit, both crouched in front of an immaculate milky Ferrari, Redrocks in the background, the camera slightly twisted to the right — a total juxtaposition of NBA glamour and down-to-earth vibes typical of the Colorado outdoors. It’s been a solid summer all around for the Nuggets and no image better captures that sentiment than the photo above. This is Nuggets basketball.