Talent doesn’t win games in the NBA. Seriously, every single team has talent. Do you think the Dallas Mavericks had more talent than the Miami Heat in 2011? A talented team that plays differently every game isn’t even guaranteed a playoff spot let alone a chance to compete for a championship. What do championship teams have in common? Consistency, and not only in the player’s play, they also see consistency in their staff. Championship teams stick with their coaches through thick and thin (with the exception of very few). They consistently develop their players without making drastic ill-advised changes. Now I’m not saying the Nuggets should stand pat with their current roster and current staff, but I am saying that asking for Coach Malone’s head is a bit much. We need to support the coach throughout his contract and see if he can instill his vision within the roster. This team doesn’t lack talent, I mean it’d be nice to have a LeBron James or Stephen Curry but this team has talent.
The first step towards finding their identity was figuring out that Nikola Jokic is flat out better than Jusuf Nurkic and running the offense through the Joker is the best option we have. I was one of the first ones to say that I would rather have Nurkic start due to the fact that he brings a defensive factor that Jokic just doesn’t have, but you just can’t keep your best player off the court. Ever since inserting Jokic into the starting lineup and getting Gary Harris back from an undisclosed foot injury, the nuggets have not had a TS% worse than .500. The 41st pick in the 2014 NBA draft is playing like a franchise corner stone as of late. The last 8 games Nikola Jokic is averaging 18.5 points per game, 9.4 rebounds per game and 5.6 assists per game. He’s been shooting 46% from 3 while taking over 1.5 a game and 62% from the field. Jokic is also an extremely good passer both off the dribble and in the post. The offense just runs smoother with the big man maneuvering through the elbows. In this play you see Jokic work his way in the post and find a cutting Wilson Chandler.
— Dig In Denver (@DigInDenver) January 3, 2017
The second step is to find some defense. The best teams in the league play defense and there’s just no way around it. The league leading offensive team in the NBA the Warriors also (believe it or not) are one of the best defensive teams in the league.
|1||Golden State Warriors||30||5||.857||12.57||116.73||104.15||12.57||116.18||104.19||11.99|
|2||San Antonio Spurs||28||7||.800||7.69||112.91||104.67||8.24||112.72||104.47||8.25|
|6||Los Angeles Clippers||23||14||.622||5.11||112.23||106.86||5.37||112.21||107.37||4.84|
|11||Oklahoma City Thunder||21||14||.600||1.63||108.50||106.95||1.55||108.21||107.10||1.10|
|21||Portland Trail Blazers||15||21||.417||-3.58||109.91||113.57||-3.66||110.23||112.96||-2.74|
|22||New Orleans Pelicans||14||22||.389||-3.22||103.53||106.91||-3.38||103.69||106.46||-2.76|
|23||New York Knicks||16||18||.471||-3.09||108.23||111.30||-3.07||108.16||111.13||-2.98|
|26||Los Angeles Lakers||13||25||.342||-5.66||107.52||113.34||-5.82||108.37||113.40||-5.03|
The Nuggets have shown they could score with the best of them, especially with Jokic on the floor. So what do I suggest? Put the ball down in practice and teach some fundamental defense. Teach the players how to keep their feet down on the perimeter as they close out and teach the big men how to move their feet. Teach the different techniques to slow down the pick and roll which always kills the Nuggets. Having the guys but in is crucial to the success of your defense, if for example Emmanuel Mudiay is getting beat off the bounce to often, sub him out. If you want to play you should play defense simple as that. Play the players who play the right way and the ones who don’t will either play the right way or they aren’t championship team players.
The third step would be to stop pointing fingers and hold the players accountable. In the presser after the Nuggets loss to the Kings, coach Malone was quoted saying the team lacks veteran leadership and there are only two of the young guys speaking up (quote on the bottom of the page via Christopher Dempsey). Quickly after, Gallinari responded in an interview saying that what Malone said is incorrect and that is not the team’s issue. So as a writer of Dig In Denver and a fan of the game, I’d like to know who the two young players who are actually trying are so that I can purchase their jerseys. Wouldn’t you as a Nuggets fan? We want players who want to compete not just players who want to make a couple fancy plays on offense, flex a little, then let their guy drop 40 points on them when the average 5 points per game. Darren Collison really scored 28 points on the Nuggets. I saw an article from a Kings site titled “Darren Collison Finds Himself as Kings Defeat Nuggets”. That means this guy was LOST and dropped 28 points on us.
— Chris Dempsey (@chrisadempsey) January 4, 2017