The Denver Nuggets began the season as one of the hottest teams in the NBA. They went 9-1 through their first 10 games with quality wins over the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics. The team looked as if they were ready to be considered an elite contender.
Nonetheless, this is still the NBA, and the Nuggets were not about to challenge the Warriors all-time regular season winning record. The team lost four in row including three games at home after that start. The team was simply struggling, and Michael Malone needed to dissect what was wrong with the Denver Nuggets.
Issue #1 – Too many turnovers
The Nuggets are a young and energetic team. They play at a high pace and look to push the ball in transition to get easy buckets. While that strategy can produce a fast-paced offense, it also leads to a number of turnovers.
Michael Malone has stressed that he is not turned off by the number of turnovers. He understands that the Nuggets style of play usually results in a higher amount of turnovers. With that being said, he does not enjoy the careless turnovers. The stepping out of bounds or moving of the pivot foot type of turnovers. The Nuggets are making too many of these type of turnovers as of late, which is allowing high caliber teams like the Houston Rockets to capitalize. You cannot give James Harden and Chris Paul extra possessions and expect to win, it is that simple.
Issue # 2 – Ignorance towards the scouting report
For those who are not familiar with high-school level or higher basketball, every coaching staff assesses game film to produce a scouting report. The report explains each player in detail and highlights their strengths and weaknesses on both sides of the ball. It also points out where the player’s sweet spot on the court has been and where they feel most comfortable.
For example, a high level view of scouting report for the Denver Nuggets would look something like this:
Denver Nuggets – 10-5
Offense – Fast-paced transition/Half-court (utilizes dribble hand-off)
Defense – Plays passing lanes, hard hedge on high ball screen
#15 – Nikola Jokic – 6’11”
– Facilitates from the top of the key
– Hard close out (don’t fly by)
– Stay close to body on block, likes to inside pivot and shoot 12-15 foot jumper
– Contest three
#27 – Jamal Murray – 6’4″
– Stay on his hip pocket
– Force away from dribble hand-off/ball-screen
– Hard contest on three point shots
Obviously this is a high-level version of what a scouting report looks like, but it still follows the same principles of a real one. The report makes note of Jokic and Murray’s strengths and how to play defense against them.
During the Nuggets losing streak, you can tell that the Nuggets did not follow Malone’s scouting report to its entirety. Brook Lopez of the Milwaukee Bucks was taking a majority of his shots from deep and converting. Thus, the Nuggets let him nail seven 3-pointers during their loss on Nov. 11. Against the Rockets, the Nuggets knew that a big part of the Rockets offense was a high ball screen and then a dump-off pass to Clint Capela on the roll. Well, the Nuggets would hedge a majority of the ball screens, but nobody would rotate on to the roll guy so Capela had four or five uncontested dunks.
If the Nuggets want to win consistently, they will need to live by these scouting reports. Michael Malone and his staff put a lot of effort and thought into these reports and strategies. If the Nuggets follow them and lose, it’ll be on the coaches, but if they don’t, it’ll just be because they are insubordinate.
Luckily, the Atlanta Hawks ended Denver’s losing streak but that doesn’t excuse these mistakes in the least.
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