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Enver Nuggets Need “D” - More Beatings To Come?

Denver Nuggets Need DefenseAlmost two months ago, I said that the Nuggets weren’t a championship squad. I said they’re biggest failings were terrible defense and a lack of three point shooting. Here we are five games into the season, and here’s what I can tell you about Denver:

1. This team needs a point guard. This isn’t really a defensive problem, but part of the reason the Nuggets got hammered in Boston last night was their lack of a point guard. AI is an excellent playmaker, but he should spend a lot of time working off the ball in order to spread the opposing team’s defense and bring some balance to the offense. Too often, AI’s ball pounding puts the rest of the Nuggets in the “stand and watch” mode, allowing opposing teams to load up on him. Hopefully, Anthony Carter, Chucky Atkins, or even Mike Wilks, the designated Nuggets point guards, will be ready to play soon and give AI the freedom to work off the ball and get open.

2. AI and Melo are awful defenders. If you watched the Nuggets-Celtics game last night, you saw Melo and AI get abused. Paul Pierce was Melo’s responsibility, and he got into the lane at will. Melo’s poor rotations and defensive choices were as much to blame as his general lack of defensive skill. When he wasn’t able to stop Pierce, he tried to deny him the ball. Unfortunately for Melo, Pierce was too strong for him.

AI has a different problem - always looking for a steal, he takes too many risks on the defensive end and often leaves someone wide open to shoot or drive. This is who AI is, and it’s not going to change. However, if he can be convinced to go for fewer steals and simply stay near his man, the Nuggets will be better off. Additionally, when AI isn’t the primary ball-handler on the offense, most teams usually put their defensive specialist on him. Since 90% of the defensive specialists in the NBA aren’t scoring threats, AI can usually cheat off his assignment (as he is prone to do) without hurting the team.

3. The Nuggets team defense is slow and sloppy. This isn’t too surprising — most teams look pretty bad for the first month or two of the season. Rotations are slow, and 2 of the Nuggets key big men are coming off injuries, so it’s not really that shocking that opposing teams can get into the paint easily. When Nene is in shape, and Kenyon is a 30 minute player, that will definitely help. The Nuggets will also improve defensively as they spend more time playing together, but when will they click? Based on the first five games of the season, where the Nuggets barely beat Minnesota, let Seattle compete for 3 quarters, and got out-classed and out-hustled by New Orleans, New York, and Boston, it’s clear that defense is the problem. If it takes the Nuggets a whole season to get their defense in order…

4. The Nuggets could lose the division. The Nuggets can’t afford to use the next three or four months to get their defense into shape. If they want to be an elite team, and challenge Phoenix, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, or Utah, they’ve got to take their defense to another level. Fast. AI and Melo are going to be on the court a lot, and they’ve got to focus on playing solid team defense and staying at home on their men. Melo needs to stop talking about “becoming an all-NBA defender” and just become good enough to keep his man out of the lane, grab some rebounds, and avoid making stupid mental errors that lead to easy buckets. AI needs to be a little more conservative and focus more on ball denial. It will mean less steals, but it will also lead to fewer open threes. If the Nuggets can’t figure out how toy get some stops and take control of games, they’re going to have a pretty average regular season record. They’ll make the playoffs, but they’ll get bounced again. One more early playoff exit, and…

5. George Karl’s time in Denver is almost up. Call me crazy, but I could see AI opting out of his contract at the end of this season. He’s already threatened to leave, and if you saw the look on his face last night, it’s pretty clear he’s frustrated. He desperately wants to win a championship, and if the Nuggets don’t get close this year (and they won’t if they don’t start winning soon) I wouldn’t be surprised if he opted out and took the veteran’s minimum (a la Grant Hill) to play on a team with a legit chance. If AI leaves, or even really threatens to leave, expect George Karl to be launched. You can also expect Karl to be fired if he doesn’t find a way to get this team, one of the most talented in the league, to start winning soon.

Ballhype: hype it up!

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  1. 2 Comment(s)

  2. By Serge on Nov 9, 2007 | Reply

    Your crazy if you think AI has not been trying on D since he came to Denver, and even more this year. I was at the Knicks game, and Boston game travled from Philly, and I can tell you I see AI really try to pressure his guy sometimes. It is just that he does not do it all the time. There was plenty of times when he was all over his guy. And he is a steal machine that is part of D. He is a great steal guy, and he is doing the right thing by going for them. Melo needs to get better on D. AI when he trys he is a underrated D guy. And also Melo needs to stop forcing shots when double/tripled team that is what get’s them the loses. If he is double, or tripled team someone is open I like Melo, but he needs to learn to pass more even though he is a underrated passer. He still forces WAY to many shots. And Iverson is the most underrated passer in the league. AI can play PG easy have you not been watching the games? 10 assists average first 3 games still at all most 8 assists. Has been over 7 assists a game for 2-3 years now that is not by accident. So who ever says AI can’t play the PG is a moron.

  3. By JL on Nov 9, 2007 | Reply

    Serge, good points about Iverson. You’re right — he can play defense sometimes, but he doesn’t do it all the time. Unfortunately, playing defense just “sometimes” makes you a bad defender.

    The problem with going for steals is that if you don’t get them, you often leave someone wide open. Going for fewer steals won’t help his stats or the transition game, but it will result in fewer open looks and ultimately better defense.

    Finally, if you read the article carefully, you’ll see that AI needs to play SG so defenses can’t load up on him. It’s not that he’s a bad PG, it’s that when he’s the primary ball handler, the Nuggets SG situation is bad. None of our SGs are a go-to scorer (JR Smith could be if he was more willing and capable to slash), so the opposing team will cheat off the SG to load up on A.I. When a true PG is in to help A.I., defenses have to honor the PG (because he has the ball) and they can’t load up on A.I. as easily.

    Additionally, when A.I. is playing SG, he usually warrants a dedicated defender who isn’t much of a scoring threat, reducing A.I. defensive liabilities.

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