What’s Going on in Denver?
The Denver Nuggets have won two games in a row, the first wins of 2017.
Despite erupting for 140 points against a spiraling Indiana Pacers squad, the Nuggets have still lost 5 of their last seven. Luckily, they still find themselves in a tight race for the Western Conference’s 8th spot. That begs the question, what is it the Nuggets need to do to make it to the postseason?
The answer is pretty simple and should be enough to help distinguish themselves from the bottom of the pack. All the Nuggets need to do is improve on defense. Of course, that is easier said than done.
Denver currently has the worst defense in the league which comes with a DRTG of 110.2 to show for it. The offense has been fine and is currently skyrocketing behind the offensive maestro Nikola Jokic but that only takes the team so far.
One of the biggest keys to improving the Nuggets defensive woes would be to force more shots outside of the paint. As of now, they are allowing 46.2 points per game inside the paint. With most of these points coming off of post plays and drives to the basket from opposing teams, the Nuggets top priority should be to improve their help defense. With more help coming off the ball, the Nuggets will be able to force more challenging shots and more from outside of the paint.
The second biggest step to improving the defensive mess is to simply get back on defense. The Nuggets are currently allowing 14.4 points per contest in the fast break, which ranks in the bottom third of the league. Most teams are able to run on Denver because they don’t transition well from offense to defense. After scores and misses, the team has tons of trouble getting back and finding their man. This is an area that the team needs to come together to fix because their current trend isn’t yielding great results.
Now, comes the most frustrating issue for the Denver Nuggets. Currently, they are allowing 18.8 points per game from their own turnovers. There are no easy fixes to this. This issue would need to be fixed by things like team chemistry and talking on the floor. In theory, Denver can just be more conscious with the ball, make smarter passes, and not try to force anything to try to limit turnovers since they have trouble defending in transition.
The good news for the Nuggets is that they are allowing a small 11.7 points from second chances, and boast a defense rebounding percent of 79.4% which both rank top 5 in the league. So, as long as the Nuggets can make a couple defensive adjustments, they have a legitimate shot at being in the 2017 playoffs.
Making the playoffs may not be the best option for Denver right now, but it would be a huge step in the right direction. The playoffs could also give a boost in fan attendance because right now, the Nuggets have the lowest fan attendance rate in the entire league.
If they were to make the playoffs, they’d likely face the Golden State Warriors. Their chances of winning that series would be low, but it would still be an improvement from recent seasons and could act as a sparkplug for the near future.
What’s Going on in Denver?
Rafael Torres has covered the NBA for 6+ years for independent blogs. He landed in ESPN's RBMC covering the Denver Nuggets before he created his own websites, Real Ball Insiders and Dig In Denver. Rafael has contributed to Fansided's Sir Charles In Charge and has been featured on Bleacher Report. Rafael now contributes to USA Today's Sports Media Group Celtics and Sixers.