Well, in a word, George Karl. This opinion is likely shared by some of the hard-core Nuggets fans who follow me, like Dre (@nerdnumbers) from the Wages of Wins. It's an old familiar story, one I touched on yesterday: the biggest influence coaches have on the game is not magically turning losing shlubs into winners through their X's and O's; it's in recognizing talent, and playing the winners and benching the losers. And traditionally, George Karl has been pretty terrible at this. He has also historically had his hand forced by management (who took away Iverson and gave him Billups, and later took away Melo and gave him other productive players).
The Nuggets so far:
|2011 - 2012 per-48 stats|
Nene is not having a good year at all, but he isn't really the problem. As we can see, there are serious problems with the minute allocation here. Notice how I sorted by WP48, and even if you ignore Carroll and Faried (whom we'll get to in a second), the minute allocation is...bottom heavy? Some of that is because Nene and Afflalo are under-performing relative to their career averages, but The problem really involves two players: Danilo Gallinari playing power forward, and Timofey Mozgov. I'd normally include Al Harrington as a problem, but even at average, Harrington is basically having a career year! Oh, hell, I'll take just a second to talk about Al anyway. Much has been written in Wages of Wins land about Al Harrington. He has always been a bad player who puts up larger point totals by shooting a lot:
|Average PF(2000 - 2011)||1466||.099||3.0||20.0||11.3||2.9||2.7||1.2||1.3||4.8|
He's hovered around average true shooting his entire career, which is fine, but he's terrible at everything else a power forward should do, especiatlly rebounding. So far this year, he's been great; but my money is squarely on him regressing to the mean. Eventually, he'll take valuable minutes from better power forwards.
Which brings me to Gallinari. Gallinari is a "tweener", but there is no question that he's much better at small forward than at power forward. Today, i ran into this at Round Ball Mining (via Truehoop):
Gallinari is also getting miscast as a power forward as Karl struggles to find answers by employing his small ball lineups. Gallo was abused in San Antonio by the monstrous DeJuan Blair (I hope Denver put the $2.5 million they made for selling their second round pick two years ago when the could have drafted Blair to good use) and tonight by Kaman, Landry and Emeka Okafor.
See, now this just confuses the hell out of me. I've only seen two Nuggets games but I'll take Jeremy's word for it that this is happening, since he's probably seen them all. What confuses me is this:
So...has no one from Nuggets management informed Karl yet that the team drafted a forward? That, in fact, they drafted a power forward? And that said forward pretty much destroyed the NCAA in rebounding last year? And so, if the Nuggets are short-handed at the power forward position, they can't insert the first round pick because.....why, exactly?
Prediction time: Faried is going to end this year with like 400 minutes, tops. And I'm going to write about how awesome he was in those 400 minutes. And the pundits are going to come back with "yeah, but whatever, he only got limited minutes." Well, there would be one way to find out if Faried can perform in extended minutes, and it starts by not playing Gallinari at power forward and it ends with give your prize rookie some damn minutes. Seriously, this is NOT rocket science (note: I'm not dissing the entire coaching profession. I've coached a lot of basketball and many parts of the job seem every bit as hard as rocket science. Player evaluation is not one of them, I'm sorry, it just isn't).
Then, there's Mozgov.
|Average C(2010 - 2011)||776||.099||1.6||18.1||12.8||2.4||2.7||2.0||1.2||5.3|
Like Faried this year, Mozgov got very limited minutes last year. Unlike Faried, nothing in those minutes would have made me say "Huh, we should give this kid some burn to see what he can do!" but there appears to be something that Karl saw. And so far, well, he's even worse this year. He's a poor rebounder, turnover prone, shoots very inefficiently, and fouls a lot. Huh. Just the production you want from the center. Give that kid minutes!
And you know what would happen if Karl benched Mozgov entirely? Andersen would play more minutes (which would be good, he's a great rebounder and shot-blocker who rarely turns it over and shoots sparingly and very efficiently), Nene would play more center and less power forward, which would open up more minutes at power forward for your first round draft choice!
Not. Rocket. Science.