Nuggets Michael Malone to deploy Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari pairing vs Warriors

Harrison Wind Avatar
October 13, 2015

 

In the Denver Nuggets third preseason contest, a game against the Chicago Bulls which turned out to be not much of a contest at all, head coach Michael Malone deployed a small ball lineup of five bench players who went on a 26-3 second quarter run, essentially putting the game out of reach for good.

Jameer Nelson, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Mike Miller and Nikola Jokic were able to lock down the Bulls refurbished offensive attack under head coach Fred Hoiberg. On the other end, the Nuggets spaced the floor which led to open threes for Miller, Nelson and Harris, and easy buckets at the rim for Jokic.

Small ball lineups are going to be used by Denver early and often this year, especially tonight in Golden State against a Warriors unit which secured the NBA title this past summer after making the unprecedented move of playing Draymond Green at center – benching defensive stalwart Andrew Bogut.

I asked Malone at practice Monday, Oct. 12th, if we could expect to see that same lineup, which had so much success against Chicago, to get some time together versus Golden State.

“We play small every game in the preseason obviously,” Malone said. “That exact lineup? Who knows, but there will definitely be heavy minutes of us playing small I’m sure in every game moving forward.”

One combination we haven’t seen much this preseason is the Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari twosome, which registered a 4.5 Net Rating (NetRtg) in 636 minutes together last season, according to NBA.com/stats. That combination was Denver’s most efficient two-man pairing out their top-16 duos, but one that has only seen roughly eight minutes of shared court time this preseason.

“I want to get a look at how Wilson and Gallo play together at the three and four,” Malone said. “Obviously we saw Will Barton and Mike Miller do it well in Boulder. We’ll give different guys a different opportunity, who plays well together, who may not play well together, but we will be a team that plays small ball almost every game.”

Gallinari and Chandler sharing the court puts Denver’s two most creative-shotmakers on floor together. Throw in Emmanuel Mudiay at point guard and suddenly you have a trinity which can put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses.

Positional versatility at the three and four presents another wildcard in Malone’s toolbox he can use this year. Gallinari, Chandler and even Darrell Arthur are three adaptable and flexible options who can space the floor on offense and potentially switch every screen on defense. That combination only played 40 minutes together last season, but held opponents to 94 points per 100 possessions and had a 12.9 NetRtg, according to NBA.com/stats. We won’t see Arthur in action against Golden State after an MRI revealed he has a bone bruise on his right knee, but he may return to action Friday when Denver hosts Phoenix at Pepsi Center.

Malone has stated on numerous occasions this training camp that he is a big believer in small ball and thinks Denver has the personnel to be effective playing that way. With the preseason at the mid-way point, and coaches getting more-and-more familiar with their rosters, the lineup combinations and rotations deployed in these final preseason games are good bets to show up once the games start actually counting.

 

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