New Orleans resumes its road trip out West with a game against Denver Friday, or as I like to call them, the "That Guy All-Star" Team. The Nuggets are off to a rather scrubby start, currently sitting at 4-7, which is good news for the Pelicans because Denver finished ahead of New Orleans last year. Can New Orleans keep Denver down?
Quick tangent: I’d love to make a reference to that Fairly Odd Parents episode where the Timmy and the Dimmsdale Ballhogs have to win the championship or else get shipped off to Alaska -- so I can make "Eat blubber nuggets. They’re chewy!" joke, but I’m pretty sure I’d be the only one to get that. Life’s hard:\
An Offensive Enigma
Denver does not make sense offensively.
The biggest issue plaguing the Nuggets through their first 11 games is that they’ve had a hard time scoring. As a team, Denver’s 24th in shooting percentage (43.4), 22nd in three point percentage (33.1) and are even struggling at the line with a collective 74.7 percent, 20th in the league…and yet four of their starting five are all shooting above 40 percent from the floor with the lone exception being Wilson Chandler at 39 percent. Alonzo Gee (35.5), Danilo Gallinari (26.2) and Nate Robinson’s (39.4) shooting percentages are draggin down Denver’s numbers as a whole but the three are only combining for about 16 shots a night.
In terms of shot taking, Denver is like your girlfriend trying to order at a restaurant. They don’t know what they want. Just look at individual shot attempts and it screams "we don’t know who’s the guy" either.
All Quiet on the Western Frontcourt
What is working for Denver offensively, Kenneth Faried and Timofey Mozgov touches down low, simply isn’t happening nearly enough. Both are shooting above 50 percent from the floor, but they’re combining for about 16 shots a night. Sure Mozgov has never been a guy to take a high volume of shots, as he's barely averaging five shots a game for his career despite shooting at least 50 percent every year he’s been a Nugget, but what about Faried? When’s he going to get 15 to 17 shots a night?
Faried’s problem is that he has nothing if he’s not directly underneath the rim. He’s a career sub-30 percent shooter from three to 10 feet away from the basket and it only gets worse the further away he gets from the basket (.073 percent from 10 to 16 feet and .044 from 16 feet and beyond. Yeesh).
To make matters worse, he's supposedly not well liked in Denver. Just last month, Faried signed a $50 million dollar extension, but a few days ago, this was reported:
"[Faried] is a helluva player and plays hard, but he isn't well liked [in the organization]," a league source said. "That gets glossed over. He says crazy s---. He thinks he's the guy, and other guys take exception to his contract."
One of his biggest dissenters has been Brian Shaw. Consequently, it shouldn't come as a surprise he's averaging the lowest minutes of his career since his rookie season. Think about this the next time, you're ready to lash out at Monty again. It could be worse.
Three Keys to Victory
Brace for the Conditions. It’s no secret anymore that Denver’s altitude plays a factor in Bronco and Nugget games. Fortunately for New Orleans, they’re not going into the Pepsi Center coming off a back-to-back. With two off days between the Kings game Tuesday night, the Pelicans should be rested up enough and somewhat acclimated to the elevation for Friday night.
Contain JaVale McGee. Haha, just kidding.
Lawler's Law of 100. Denver’s 26th in Defensive Rating (110.7) and 27th in Points Allowed per Game (106.5). They have allowed opponents to score at least 100 points eight times and are 1-7 when they do so.
Three’s On Parade. Denver takes a ton of three point shots and you should be okay with that. Denver shoots a smidge under 26 threes game, the sixth most amount, but those shots only fall 33 percent of the time, which is 22nd in the league. New Orleans should be more than willing to let Denver take as many treys as their hearts desire, especially if it eats away at their ninth ranked 25.5 free throw attempts a game.
Winning on the road is tough in the NBA, especially on these prolonged road trips such as the one the Pelicans are currently on, but playoff teams make it happen. New Orleans is playing a bad Nuggets team tonight and has an equally bad Utah team waiting for them Saturday night. These are the games that playoff teams win.
Here’s hoping the Pelicans don’t get shipped off to Alaska if they lose.