A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Posts Tagged ‘Denver Nuggets

Why I don’t like the Andre Iguodala move for the Warriors

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Andre Iguodala

Andre Iguodala (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Warriors swooped in at the last minute to sign Andre Iguodala to a 4 year, 48 million contract, one of the summer’s biggest free agent fishes. To do so of course, they used 2 1sts, 3 2nds and Brandon Rush to trade Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins’ contracts to Utah in what ended up a 3 way S&T with Denver.

The more I think over this move, the more awful it looks for the Warriors.

My first concern is that the Warriors essentially paid a tax for a cash advance. Jefferson and Biedrins were set to expire next summer, giving the Warriors tons of capspace. The Warriors essentially said “We want to spend that capspace a year early” – and paying the 2 1sts, 3 2nds and Rush, was the tax for immediacy.

Do the Warriors need to be paying for immediacy? Stephen Curry’s youth gives them a long window of relevance, while Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes are years from their prime. While a team like the Timberwolves are desperate to end a playoff drought and appease the fans, the Warriors magical 2nd round season last year, should’ve given them a grace period to take a step back next season. The Warriors fans have supported far, far worse. Patience was a luxury the Warriors had. There was nothing wrong with barely holding onto a playoff spot next year, then using capspace and draft picks next summer, to try and best 2012-2013.

The motive for improving in 2013-2014, is if it gave them a chance at the championship next year. But with San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Houston, Memphis and Los Angeles Clippers potentially all challenging 55 wins or more next season, the Warriors may a longshot to even finish higher than their 6th seed this season. In fact it may be as likely that they fall back to 7th or 8th due to a team like Dallas or Minnesota, then move up. It does not appear that the Warriors are a true title contender. If the Warriors believe this move can make them a 2013-2014 Finals or title contender, it is a deep, hail mary throw that’s likely to be batted down.

One of the reasons why, is that they didn’t add Iguodala to the team who ended last season. Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry’s expected departure, counteracts part of the value of adding Iguodala. Iguodala should improve the Warriors defensively, but he is worse than either Jack or Landry are offensively, let alone both of them combined. They are more efficient scorers than Iguodala and Iguodala’s lack of spacing on the wing, may hurt the Warriors offense. I would argue the impact of the Iguodala acquisition is it prevents the Warriors from taking a big step back next season, not that it moves them upwards in the Western ranks. And is that worth the price they paid to Utah?

A counter to the “cash advance” criticism of the Iguodala trade, may be that the advanced-metrics heavy Warriors management really, REALLY wanted him, to the point of figuring if they let the opportunity to sign him now pass, as good of one wouldn’t be there when the capspace came in 2014. But this is dangerous. Iguodala is a good player, but how good? They spent 12 million a year on him. For them to feel “Iguodala is so good that we have to get him now”, it would imply that the 12 million spent next summer wouldn’t match up to him in value, or that essentially, Iguodala for 12 million a year is a must have bargain. Even for the most advanced-metrics heavy teams, is Iguodala with his offensive flaws, really the caliber of player that 12 million a year is a bargain? He would have to be a maximum caliber player if not and then some, for that to be true.

Especially considering my other major concern with signing Iguodala, is that he’s 30 next January. The history of free agents getting paid huge to produce in their 30s, is dicey. Iguodala also relies on athleticism far more than skill, meaning he may be a player who ages less than gracefully. When a somewhat comparable SF in Gerald Wallace was traded from Charlotte to Portland in 2011, he was 5 months younger than Iguodala is now. Wallace played like a star his first half season in Portland, slipped a bit but maintained a above average caliber of play in 2011-2012 split between Portland and Brooklyn, then totally fell apart in 2012-2013. Scarily, Iguodala has actually played more total minutes in the NBA than Gerald Wallace – not the Wallace at the time of the 2011 trade, but Wallace as of today, 2 and a half years later. Iguodala is not necessarily Wallace – he’s arguably a more cerebral player and has a closer to respectable jumpshot, but Iguodala is a major risk to decline at some point during this contract. He’ll turn 32 halfway through his 3rd season and 33 halfway through his 4th. Iguodala may be a contract where the value is in the 1st or 2nd year of his contract, while living with the last few years are a price paid for that value provided early. This isn’t a huge problem, but it further disputes the idea of Iguodala on this contract being such a valuable get that they had to pay the steep cash advance-tax just to sign him now.

The Warriors having 12.3 million of capspace to spend in the summer of 2014, would’ve given them a fair chance of replicating Iguodala’s production in 2014-2015, whatever it ends up being. Or if there’s any difference, certainly not one worth the cost of losing 2 1sts, 3 2nds and Brandon Rush. Thus you have a case where the return on investment of the package they sent to Utah, is almost solely in improving their team in 2013-2014. Unless the Warriors seriously surprise by becoming a contender next season, I just don’t see how supercharging next season, is at all worth it for them.

There are times when sacrificing long term assets for wins in the short term makes sense – such as arguably what Brooklyn did this summer, arguably giving them a real chance at the NBA title. But at least by my reading of their roster qulity, I don’t see next season as the right year for Golden State to sacrifice their assets for. In a few years losing that cap and asset flexibility to do so just so they could further guarantee themselves a playoff knockout season this year, could hurt them and be regrettable. To use a poker analogy cliche, the Warriors pushed a lot of chips in the pot while holding a decent, but not great hand. If they folded their cards this season, they may have left themselves more chips to bet on better hands. A key to NBA success is knowing what seasons to spend your chips on and what seasons to be conservative. The assets the Warriors spent now could’ve been saved for a more realistic title window when their young players hit their late 20s. While the season remains to be played and Iguodala has his fans, I don’t like this move for the Warriors whatsoever.

Written by jr.

August 2, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Stats Tuesday: Some random thoughts on the Denver Nuggets in 2012-2013

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Denver Nuggets logo

Denver Nuggets logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Denver Nuggets have emerged as a popular sleeper pick among the statistical community. John Hollinger picked them to finish 2nd in the West (ahead of the Thunder and Lakers), Basketball Prospectus picked them to finish 1st in the West, and the Wins Produced/Wages of Wins picked them to finish 2nd. The Nuggets last year finished 6th in the West last year with a 38-28 season, equivalent of 47 Ws over 82 games. Where does the extra optimism come from?

The line of reasoning for such Nuggets break-out essentially breaks down to:

  1. The Nuggets were dominant offensively last year (3rd ORTG) despite injuries to Danillo Gallinari and Nene slightly derailing them early in the season, as well as one of their most productive offensive players in Kenneth Faried not getting minutes early.
  2. They were however disappointing defensively (19th DRTG). However, they added one of the very best defensive players in the league in Andre Iguodala, as well as another great athlete in Wilson Chandler.
  3. With a shored up defense and elite offense, this is a combination worthy one of the league’s best.

I have a few objections to this Nuggets’ improvement. One is I could see them taking a step back offensively. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

October 23, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Is Kenneth Faried being underrated again? Why Faried’s star potential shouldn’t be counted out

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Kenneth Faried is one of the biggest draft steals we’ve seen lately. He fell to 22nd in a 2011 draft nobody liked at the time, despite performing incredibly in college in the one stat everyone agrees translates just about perfectly (rebounding) and being an above the rim, freakish athlete – who played harder than everyone else. Concerns about his size (under 6’8 in shoes), performing at Morehead State and being a senior led to his fall. He went on to finish 3rd in rookie of the year voting and to play meaningful minutes for Denver in the playoffs.

Even despite this, Faried may be missed on again. What I mean by this, is how nobody’s talking about what happens next to Faried’s career. It’s generally assumed he is what he is, an elite “energy” big man off the bench. The other three players who finished top 4 in rookie of the year voting – Kyrie Irving, Ricky Rubio and Kawhi Leonard have drawn more optimistic predictions about all-star upsides.

However, history is on Faried’s side. Here is the list of players who’ve finished with a PER higher than 21 in their rookie season, with a minimum of 1000 minutes played. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

September 13, 2012 at 2:27 pm

The Denver Nuggets: An impressive team, but one not made for the playoffs

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Nenê of the Denver Nuggets

Image via Wikipedia

One of the most impressive teams of the young 2011-2012 NBA season is the Denver Nuggets. They’re the ultimate team over star story, playing as well without Carmelo Anthony as they ever did with him. They presently have a 12-5 record after 4 straight impressive road wins, and have the 4th highest the adjusted point differential (SRS) in the league. Their secret? A combination of phenomenal ball movement between highly efficient outside shooters and inside finishers, always finding the best shot on the floor – to go along with the highest defensive turnover % in the league and the league’s fastest pace, a devastating combination. It’s the ultimate George Karl team, a coach who’s always favored teams with a high amount of turnovers defensively and fastbreak counter-punch points, forced due to an ultra aggresive help defense scheme on the perimeter.

But there’s a difference between the Nuggets proving an Anthony type centerpiece is unneeded for success in the regular season and doing so in the playoffs. The first is a nice story, but if you don’t have the second, it means nothing at the end of the day. And I don’t believe the Nuggets are built to carry this success to the postseason, a place where many of Karl’s fastest and most aggressive teams have played below their regular season results.

The main problem is an overwhelmingly perimeter based offense. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

January 25, 2012 at 6:28 pm

NBA Franchise Power Rankings – #28: Denver Nuggets

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Ty Lawson

(Image by Keith Allison via Flicker)

Previous rankings:

#30 – Charlotte Bobcats (+ introduction)

#29 – Phoenix Suns

#28 – Denver Nuggets

Total Trade Value Ranking: #29 (Feb. 2011 ranking –  #21)

Best assets: SF Danilo Gallinari (young, projects as legitimate to borderline starter), PG Ty Lawson (young, projects as legitimate to borderline starter), 2012 Den 1st, 2013 Den 1st, rights to RFA SG Aaron Afflalo (borderline starter), rights to RFA SF Wilson Chandler (borderline starter), C Timofey Mozgov (borderline starter), SF/PF Kenneth Faried (rookie, projects as bench player to borderline starter), SG Jordan Hamilton (rookie, projects as bench player to borderline starter)

Bad contracts: PF Al Harrington (4 years, 27.6 million), C Chris Anderson (3 years, 13.5 million)

Draft picks indebted/owed: NY owes Den NY 2014 1st unprotected, Den owns right to swap Den 1st with NY 1st in 2016

Other chips: PG Andre Miller (expiring)

Managerial grade: A-

Financial grade: B

Estimated record next year: Bottom 12

Overall synopsis: Doesn’t this seem like a low ranking for the Nuggets, who played some of the best basketball in the league after the Carmelo trade on the way to a 5th seed? It would be if that team had kept in tact. The problem is the Nuggets are no longer that team. Nene and Kenyon Martin, their starting frontcourt for years, as well as longtime 6th man sparkplug JR Smith, are now all UFAs and expected to sign elsewhere. Without Nene and Martin, the Nuggets interior defense and toughness goes from outstanding to weak, with Al Harrington, Timofey Mozgov, Chris Anderson and rookie Kenneth Faried taking their minutes. Dropping in defensive productivity inside and giving Al Harrington starting minutes are two sure roads to a falloff record.

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My choice for MVP: Howard over Rose just barely

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Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic, 2008–09

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After having Derrick Rose at #1 on my MVP list for the last month heading into the last stretch of the regular season, I have to give Dwight Howard the final nod. I don’t make this switch lightly – I’ve actually been changing my mind regularly for the past two weeks – but in the end Howard’s got the argument I cannot refute.

On Rose

Let’s start in defense of Rose, whose candidacy has been repeatedly assaulted by the stat-oriented minds of the internet. The root of the argument against Rose is that his stats are weak compared to other stars in the league. Of course, Rose averaged 25 points per game and nearly 8 assists per game – a quite rare combination, that’s exactly doesn’t scream “unworthy”. So what’s the issue? Well the advanced all-in-one stats like PER and Win Shares simply prefer other players. If you put enough stock in these stats and their precision, then this is a strong argument for others above Rose. Do we truly have a sense the advantages in play here are significant relative to the precision of these stats though?

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Written by Matt Johnson

April 19, 2011 at 1:00 am

How the Thunder looked the 09 Blazers in the eye and said “We’re not you”

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Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunders at ...

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The Oklahoma City Thunder won 55 games this year, grabbing a division title and home court advantage for the first time in the Kevin Durant era. Two years ago Portland won 54 games and also grabbed home court in the first round for the first time in the Brandon Roy era. But, Oklahoma City came out flat with the pressure against a more experienced Denver team and fell 13 points back by the early 2nd quarter of their Game 1. Portland similarly came out flat against Houston and stood 14 pts back by the early 2nd quarter of their first game.

Yet this is where the similarities end for the two games. Oklahoma City ended up cutting the deposit to 1 by halftime on the way to a hard fought 2nd half and 4 pt win, Portland went the other direction and fell down 18 by halftime, losing by 27 when all was said and done. Read the rest of this entry »

Everyone needs to pay attention to the Nuggets right now

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Nene Hilario

Image by Keith Allison via Flickr

As an analyst, I love it when players change teams. I know, it goes against the very core of what fans do, and I feel that typical pull as well, but when a player changes teams we get to see what he really meant to his old team, as well as what he can do in a new situation. This is why I’ve been looking forward to Carmelo Anthony being traded ever since the rumors of his discontent surface. He in particular has always had a reputation among the general populace as a superstar that there was never any statistical basis for.

He is a very skilled scorer, but has never utilized it do produce great efficiency. The rest of his game has never had the breadth of impact the top tier of stars have. And then this season, a weird conversation began happening based around the idea that he makes his teammates shooting skyrocket. I commented on this and on him generally in my Carmelo Conundrum piece. The most amazing fact was that if you actually looked at his effect on teammates shooting efficiency, it was negative. While true superstars tend to indeed help their teammates get easier looks, Melo didn’t.

So now, Anthony is traded to New York, and we’ve seen the new look Denver Nuggets for 10 games. You probably already know that the Nuggets are doing well and find it interesting even before you get to the entertainment aspect of things (Denver just plays some pretty, pretty ball now), but I don’t think it’s obvious to people how glaring the success has been.

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7 Thoughts on the Melo Maneuver

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Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets

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Thank God, it *finally* happened. I say that both with the emotional inflection you think I’m using, and whatever the opposite is. Any big trade brings with it some fantastic new information to analyze which I love. At the same time Carmelo Anthony being traded means I don’t have to hear any more about the rumors and drama in Denver. Good times ahead. My initial thoughts on the trade:

1. Never been a huge Melo fan (as was clear in my Carmelo Conundrum piece). I remain steadfast in my opinion that however many tools are in his arsenal, he never came close to a consistent run at superstar levels. Now possibly that’s George Karl‘s fault. I doubt it, but I never say never. We’ll learn a lot more in the near future.

2. My thought for the Knicks about whether acquiring Melo was a good idea was always a mild yes, depending on the specific terms. I am however more positive about it with inclusion of Chauncey Billups. Seems to me what Mike D’Antoni really needs to make his scheme pop is a great point guard, and despite the fact that we keep seeing hype indicating that’s he’s turned another scrub point guard into a star, he’s actually been discarding point guards left and right in New York. Stephon Marbury, Nate Robinson, Chris Duhon, and now Ray Felton, all gone. Clearly they didn’t have everything he wanted. Now we get to see how Billups does. This will be the closest thing D’Antoni’s had to Nash, so we’ll have to see if that finally does the trick. Read the rest of this entry »

Lame Duck Melo = Best Offense in the League?

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So don’t look now but the Denver Nuggets have the best offense in the league. Their offensive efficiency is at 112.4, which is the best in franchise history, and when you account for strength of schedule their performance this year as an offense moves even ahead of the one team this year with a superior raw efficiency (Lakers).

Of course their doing this in a year where their putative superstar, Carmelo Anthony, has told the organization he wants to be somewhere else, and questions and rumors have formed a dark cloud around everyone associated with the Nuggets.

More tangibly, they are doing this in a year where Carmelo has missed 7 games, is playing less per game than in previous years, and most importantly his scoring has dropped from 28.2 PPG to 23.6, while his shooting efficiency has dropped from 54.8% TS to 52.2 (the league average is 54.0%).

I’ve posted before on the question of how good Carmelo is, so you know I’m not a huge fan. It’s funny though, the thought about how good the Nuggets offense is right now just didn’t come to mind. What’s funny is that that whole debate was kickstarted by Nate Silver’s odd argument about Melo making his teammates shoot better. The argument has been shot down, but on a superficial level without looking at previous seasons, this season’s performance by the rest of the Nuggets would seem like a great piece of evidence in Melo’s favor. Teammates Nene, Arron Afflalo, and Chauncey Billups are all shooting at 62% TS or better, which is utterly insane. The best offense from last year had none of their big minute players shooting that well.

So either, Melo’s reached the pinnacle of improving teammate shooting by deciding he doesn’t care about his team any more and going into a personal slump where he plays less than ever, or, the rest of the Nuggets are good enough that it doesn’t make sense for them to stand around while Melo volume scores. And of course, if you don’t want Melo to volume score, why would you want to pay him upwards of 20 million dollars each season?

Written by Matt Johnson

January 27, 2011 at 11:38 am