HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Andre Iguodala should be a perfect fit in Denver. The Nuggets are a team that pushes the pace, and he’s a guy who loves to run and who finishes well at the rim. The Nuggets needed perimeter defense, and he’s maybe the best perimeter defender in the league.
The Nuggets ranked 19th in defensive efficiency last season, allowing 103.4 points per 100 possessions. But they ranked in the top 10 in defensive rebounding, forcing turnovers, and keeping their opponents off the free throw line. They just couldn’t defend the perimeter, ranking dead last in opponent 3-point percentage (38.3 percent). That number was slightly higher (38.5 percent) when Arron Afflalo was on the floor.
The Nuggets did a good job of protecting the basket, with only 43.8 percent of their opponents’ shots coming from the paint (the second lowest rate in the league). But they tended to over-help on penetration and couldn’t recover out to the 3-point line.
Meanwhile, Iguodala’s Sixers ranked third in defensive efficiency last season and sixth in defending the arc (33.4 percent). Their opponents shot just 31.6 percent from 3-point range when Iguodala was on the floor.
So replacing Afflalo with Iguodala on the perimeter has the potential to give the Nuggets a huge boost defensively and elevate them to contender status in the Western Conference. But over the last three games, the Nuggets’ defense hasn’t looked so great.
In their last three games, Denver has allowed the Warriors, Blazers and Thunder to shoot a combined 39-for-83 (47 percent) from 3-point range. With Iguodala on the floor, the Nuggets’ have allowed their opponents to shoot 25-for-55 (45.5 percent) beyond the arc. Those aren’t good numbers.
The good news is that, looking at the last two full preseasons (2009 and 2010), there’s a stronger correlation between preseason offensive stats and regular season offensive stats than there is between preseason defensive stats and regular season defensive stats. And there’s really no correlation between opponent 3-point percentage in the preseason and in the regular season.
Still, watching them, you can still see that tendency to over-help on penetration. And if the Nuggets are going to make that leap into the West’s top three like many of us expect them to, they need to do a better job of running their opponents off the 3-point line.
And it’s something to keep a close eye on as they conclude their preseason with two games on national TV. They host the Clippers on Thursday (10 p.m. ET, TNT) and visit the Suns on Friday (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN 2).