What’s Going on in Denver?
The Denver Nuggets have been one of the biggest roller-coaster teams this season. They lost four of their first five games and later won seven straight. A few games later, they lost eight in a row, but are now on a five-game winning streak.
So what’s changed? After the Nuggets were embarrassed on their home floor 114-102 to the Philadelphia 76ers, head coach Brian Shaw had individual-player meetings and a team meeting that took several hours the following day. Everyone was able to vent and speak why they thought Denver was stinking it up.
As far as scheme, what was the overall consensus? The Nuggets needed to run more.
Consequently, Denver is averaging 119.6 points per game in its five-game winning streak. And quite frankly, the Nuggets took their foot off the gas pedal in a few of those wins.
The other thing to note is that Shaw has condensed his rotation to nine players. Here’s what it looks like: Starters – PG Lawson, SG Foye, SF Chandler, PF Faried, C Hickson. Second unit – PG Robinson, SG Fournier, PF Arthur, C Mozgov.
This will be the rotation until Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee return, however, Denver continues to battle other short-term injuries in this process. Chandler missed the last two games and we saw Quincy Miller start at small forward. Now Darrell Arthur will miss the next two road games (groin), including tonight at Utah.
But here’s the most important thing when it comes to the Nuggets – they are running more possessions per game. They are running roughly an average of 99 on the season, but are now running approximately 103 in their winning streak. This doesn’t just make Denver players more valuable, but also its opponents with more opportunities.
However, let’s focus specifically on the Nuggets. They are running different half-court sets than they were with George Karl and his dribble-drive motion offense, but the up-tempo style is what the Denver players are accustomed to. Naturally, in terms of fantasy production, you will notice the players who have played under Karl have increased success during the winning streak. Meanwhile, the newcomers are remaining around the same, or in some cases, the numbers are decreasing.
Let’s examine the nine guys:
(Salaries are from DraftKings)
Ty Lawson ($8,500) – In terms of just earning the most FPTS possible, the fastbreak helps Lawson the most. With his speed, vision and dynamic scoring ability, he’s very difficult to contain. In the first four games of the winning streak, he averaged 48.9 FPTS. He only put up 29 FPTS against the Magic on Saturday, but that’s because the Nuggets blew them out from the beginning and he only received 30 minutes. Plus, since Lawson is the main threat on the team and has the ball in his hands a lot, his output isn’t correlated highly to Denver’s opponent.
Randy Foye ($5,100) – If there’s one player that represents Denver’s turnaround, it’s Foye. He’s averaging 33.2 FPTS during the winning streak, but he’s only put up 19.2 on the season. Foye’s main method of scoring comes from points (18.4 during the winning streak), but he’s also averaging 4.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 0.8 steals in the last five games. For a lack of a better term, there’s less thinking and more doing for Foye. He’s shooting 55.4 percent from the field and 54.1 percent from three in this stretch. He’s getting much cleaner looks from three in transition and has more freedom attacking the basket earlier in the shot clock.
Kenneth Faried ($6,500) – It took Faried a couple games to get going after returning from his ankle injury (who also had somewhat limited minutes to start 2014). But in the last four games, the Manimal is putting up 38.4 FPTS. Not only is Faried one point and one rebound short of having a double-double in each of those four contests, he’s forced five steals and blocked five shots. As most probably know, Faried allows a lot of FPTS to power forwards, but now that he’s 100 percent, he’s playing with his usual motor and making plays. The fast pace only enhances his athletic talents.
Evan Fournier ($3,500) – Fournier is only logging just over 20 minutes during the win streak, but he’s shooting remarkably well at 58.1 percent from the field and 60 percent from three. The other nice thing is that he’s grabbing 4.8 rebounds, which makes him a valuable low-salary guy. Plus, even though Fournier is committing 2.1 fouls in 13.2 minutes on the season (that’s an absurd rate for a guard), he doesn’t play enough minutes for you to worry about him getting in actual foul trouble. Fournier’s shooting will cool off at some point, but like Foye, Fournier is flourishing in the um-tempo offense, much like he did at the end of last year’s regular season.
Timofey Mozgov ($4,200) – This one may surprise some people. Most would think Mozgov would benefit in a slower style given that he’s Denver’s best post player on the low block. However, despite Mozgov being on the bench for most of last season, he’s been on the Nuggets for two-and-a-half seasons before this year and started 35 games in the 2011-12 season. Mozgov runs the floor much better than advertised and has been an animal at times in terms of points, rebounds and blocks. He’s averaging 26.2 FPTS in the last five games compared to his season average of 19.5 FPTS. With Darrell Arthur out the next two games, Mozgov is certainly worth considering given his salary.
Staying the Same
Wilson Chandler ($5,100) – Chandler returns from injury versus the Jazz tonight, although he will come off the bench. Look for Quincy Miller to get his third-consecutive start, but Chandler should resume his starting spot very soon and his salary should creep up closer to $6,000. In the first three games of the winning streak, Chandler averaged 24 FPTS (only logged 23 minutes versus the Celtics because of his hip injury). He’s averaging 25.1 on the season. His shot attempts, rebounds and minutes remained roughly the same in those three games. Given that Chandler is a balanced offensive player and was already playing a lot of minutes to begin with, his production should remain about the same.
Nate Robinson ($4,500) – There’s such high variance with Robinson that you never know what he’s going to do on a given night. He put up 42.25 FPTS at the Lakers and went bananas at the end of the game with his three dunks, then he turned in three-straight games of under 20 FPTS. The one thing Robinson has benefited from recently is that Andre Miller is no longer in the rotation and the Nuggets are trying to trade him. Robinson is mostly playing the backup point guard spot, and while he will get some action at the 2 when Lawson is in, Robinson is dishing out five assists per game during the winning streak, nearly double his season average. The problem is for Robinson to be a valid fantasy option, he needs to catch fire. You simply never know when that’s going to happen. He’s a streaky player and the opponent has been irrelevant for him. The um-tempo doesn’t help, nor hurt him.
J.J. Hickson ($5,500) – Despite the condensed rotation, Hickson’s minutes are slightly down. The increased minutes belong to the other frontcourt players. Because of this, Hickson’s numbers are slightly down (23.7 in last five games compared to season average of 26.3). Outside of this, Hickson’s rebounding efficiency is still great, although his shooting percentage is taking a hit (41.9 percent compared to 49.3). This is Hickson’s first season with the Nuggets and he’s used to playing in more half-court systems and more inside-out schemes. It’s not that Hickson can’t play at a fast pace, it’s more that pick-and-roll and attacking downhill really isn’t his style. I don’t expect Hickson’s numbers to take a huge hit and his rebounding should remain at a high level, but I don’t think we’ll see Hickson score at a high rate consistently.
Darrell Arthur ($3,000) – For many of the same reasons as Hickson, Arthur won’t benefit from the up tempo. Arthur spent his previous four seasons in the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies, a much slower and half-court style team. Arthur’s main asset on offense for the Nuggets is hitting the mid-range jumper in the pick-and-pop. We are seeing less of that with more of an emphasis in the transition game. Arthur had 30.75 FPTS against the Lakers, but that’s because he grabbed 11 rebounds and that’s more of a fluke. He’s averaging 11.9 FPTS in the other four games. He might seem appealing as a minimum-salary player at times, but unless you know he’s getting increased minutes with someone else out, he’s not worth it.
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