Nuggets Put The ‘Rocky’ In Mountain Way

 

The old baseball axiom about the best teams having strength up the middle, that’s the first image that comes to mind with the (ahem) new-look Denver Nuggets.

The second image has more to do with a fishing pier and a filet knife, and someone methodical de-boning a flounder.

In the span of a single month, the Nuggets essentially have had the backbone of their organization removed. Masai Ujiri, George Karl and Andre Iguodala weren’t merely the catcher, middle infielders and centerfielder of a Denver team that won an NBA-era franchise record 57 games and earned its 10th consecutive postseason appearance. They were, respectively, the NBA’s Executive of the Year, its Coach of the Year and one of the league’s very best two-way players.

All assets, all gone, with nothing in return.

Ujiri headed back to Toronto a month ago, rejoining the team with which he got his start as the Raptors’ replacement for Bryan Colangelo. Karl was fired days later in an alleged dispute with team president Josh Kroenke over JaVale McGee‘s playing time, Karl’s desire for a contract extension, both or neither.

And now, with free agent Iguodala’s imminent departure to Golden State for a four-year, $48 million deal reported Friday, what’s left in Denver is less an overachieving ensemble cast than a doughnut team with no one filling the hole.

Last season, the Nuggets turned the absence of All-Stars or MVP candidates into a positive, becoming one of those whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts success stories that happen occasionally in this star-driven league. But another first-round ouster, its ninth in 10 years and at the hands of the sixth-seeded Warriors, apparently devalued what Karl and the team did to an extent that they came to be seen as replaceable.

“Very stupid,” Karl called it, in Kroenke’s presence, on his way out the door.

The quest already has begun, with Tim Connelly as the Nuggets’ new general manager and former Indiana lead assistant Brian Shaw, after years in waiting, as their new head coach. Now they can search for ways to plug the holes left in their performance by Iguodala’s departure, which won’t be easy. Monta Ellis? Carl Landry? Andrei Kirilenko? Good luck with that.

Consider: Denver allowed 100.5 points per 100 possessions with Iguodala on the floor, usually hounding the opposition’s best scorer. That would have tied for seventh best, in terms of defensive efficiency. When Iguodala sat down? The other guys averaged 105.3 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com’s stats site. That  would have ranked 23rd.

So even if Iguodala frustrated some fans with his shooting (especially 31.7 percent from 3-point range), his effectiveness at the other end of the court frequently made up for it. And there was more, according to the Roundball Mining Company blog on ESPN’s True Hoop network:

What Iguodala did well was incredibly important for Denver as he finished a spectacular 76 percent of his 206 shots in the restricted area and finished third on the team in assist rate at 22.4, behind only Ty Lawson’s 30.2 and Andre Miller’s 32.2 marks.

The next highest mark for a player who played significant minutes was Danilo Gallinari’s 11.2 mark, followed by Wilson Chandler’s 8.3. The mark of Evan Fournier, someone now expected to see a dramatic increase in minutes, was a bit better at 15.5 but still fell well short of Iggy’s.

So now Denver must find someone to replace not only Iguodala’s finishing at the rim (for comparison Kenneth Faried, who many will probably point to, finished just 62 percent of his shots there), but also his passing.

Finally Denver will have to find a way to replace 2779 minutes, a number that led the team by 266 minutes over Lawson and ranked just outside of the top 20 in the league. Fournier will pick up some of those minutes but Iguodala also played a lot at small forward where Gallinari now will moss most of the season.

Yes Andre Iguodala did some things that hurt the Nuggets but his loss is a big one.

No one’s loss is big, particularly in the past 24-48 hours, compared to the headlines and wailing generated by Dwight Howard‘s defection from the Los Angeles to Houston. But one of the West’s most exciting teams from 2012-13 has gone through (and partly put itself through) a wringer. And the accompanying soundtrack this season could end up sounding like this.

42 Comments

  1. Jay says:

    Look at the off season from Golden States point of view. Signed Iggy who will take minutes away from Harrison Barnes. Lost Jack and Landry. Are they really better right now? Nuggets just signed Hickson which will be a good addition although still not a shooter. It seems that the shooter we need is already on the team (Fournier, Hamilton) or perhaps we could add one on the cheap in say someone like Anthony Morrow

  2. wuffe says:

    Karl was trying to break down Javale Magee and build him into a better team player. Young gun Kroenke tried to tell Karl how to play Javale. He wouldn’t comply so he fired him. Iggy read the writing on the wall and left. No top coaches are going to want to coach there. He called Kroeneke an idiot for not allowing him to do basic coaching 101.

  3. ComeAlongNowNugs says:

    Shame to see Iggy go, MORE of a shame to see Karl go. Still hope for us though – stats really aren’t everything. With Faried as a rebounding beast and the ever-reliable Lawson, and the hope that Jvale doesn’t “McGee” too many plays, an addition like AK could be bountiful, but really it’s the nuggets high-energy ball sharing brand of basketball that leads us to win and I definitely believe that style will outlive George Karl as it has kind of become the Nuggets culture.

    Still holding out hope, it’s not like we haven’t had major setbacks before.

  4. KNICKSALLDAY says:

    or maybe john jenkins instead of lou williams

  5. KNICKSALLDAY says:

    do a sign and trade with the hawks
    trade andre miller, fournier
    recieve: jeff teague, lou williams
    far fetched but still possible

  6. Will says:

    Yea guys, I totally forgot about the koufos trade. The koufos trade was decent. We were lacking a shooting big man, and that’s what we got. Darrell Arthur had a good showing this year with Memphis. I just wish denver would’ve kept koufos for a bigger trade. Masai was obviously trying to fill in the “star” void, by bringing in Iguodala. That trade was stupid. Affalo was a great shooter, played better D than most guards, doesn’t have the same shine as iguodala but has qualities I’d take over him. Iguodala only has a star name, because of his explosive dunks and because there wasn’t much star talent on the Sixers which made him look better than he was. Plus, we gave away al Harrington(a great back up big man who had a great shot) yea Masai may have done a great job with the melo trade, but he screwed up bad with the iguodala trade. We would be in a way better spot if we hand made hat iguodala trade. Lets be honest, what did iggy actually do for the nuggets that was that great? Affalo and Harrington were good 3 pt shooters, which we obviously lack. The most safe bet right now would be to sign Gary Neal, because he’s a 3 pt threat and plays with efficiency and IQ. Monta would be a 50/50 situation, because he’s not consistent but he could bring so much to the table as far as a running mate for ty lawson, attracts double teams, brings star power and flashy plays, can catch fire, and is clutch which the nuggets need.

  7. T Bone says:

    Gary Neal would be a great starter in Iggy’s place. His stock is rising and his better shooting would make up for Iggy’s defense. Ellis might be an explosive offensive weapon as a sixth man, but not the best choice as a team player. Galinari’s absence from the playoffs kept them from moving further in playoffs. Will miss Karl’s leadership and fast-paced style, but lots of good, young talent still on the roster. Bringing Chancey back would be good for the organization and fans. Plus, he’s 90% from the line at the end of the game when it all counts.

  8. Wes says:

    It seems to me that for the last year at least it has been Nugget theory that this team needs to stay together and grow, letting Iggy walk opens the door for Evan. The Exec of the year last year had Affalo, Harrington and a first round draft choice invested in Iggy which I believe was a dumb trade then and especially now. Affalo is as good as Iggy, he is much better on the offensive end of the floor (can even make a free throw) and was actually a very good defensive player (maybe not as good as Iggy). The lack of getting involved in the free agency this year is by choice they want to let this team grow.
    I havn’t seen any fan unrest or player revolts, This is all about a writer trying to make a living.

  9. Louie says:

    If they look more into the free agents they may get a player that will impact in a good way on the the team. Also Kennth Faried should try being a starter

  10. Bird33 says:

    This Wiggins kid must be good.

  11. bfG says:

    I see all of you saying Nuggets lost their icons and bearings, but wait a minute : Iguodala hasn’t been playing as well as any year in Philadelphia and wasn’t the answer for the outside shooting the Nuggets required.
    What do you make of guys like Lawson, Faried and Gallinari who have brought way more than him in the past few years and yet are still to improve ?
    The is absolutely no reason (other than whether Brian Shaw or the front office can live up to expectations) for Denver not to be where they were last season. And if you ask me, replacing Iguodala by a guy like Ellis could just be a good move for us (too bad we couldn’t get OJMayo though :()

    • Mike says:

      Guess we didn’t draft a young capable 2 with our first round pick last year. I think Fournier is the answer. He’s not even old enough to drink and is a formidable fit in the lineup and is already familiar with the players around him. Fournier’s the answer at the 2 and Brian Shaw has been under the greatest coach in the history of the game. I’m sure he’ll be just fine. I am ecstatic with where the team is at. Let them grow some more and at the same time we all get that fun fast paced style we all love to watch. Also would like to note I’m not a fan of Kroenke, you don’t fire the coach of the year and executive of the year the same year they win it and especially not at the same time.

  12. J says:

    sign ellis to team with Lawson they’d be great together
    Lawson diming
    ellis scoring
    great bench
    they will drop in west standings though cause they wont have iggy, galinari or coach karl
    and they should start javale McGee

  13. Jay says:

    Our executive of the year Masai really put us in this position to begin with by trading Aflallo away for Iggy. Aflallo was under contract already for less money, was younger, and he actually fit the needs of this team better than Iggy. The demise of the Nuggets started last off season, not this off season.

  14. samdman says:

    I agree with you about Iggy. To me he wasn’t all that. Some games he had his head up his a$$. My sentiments are nananananananaheyheyheygoodbye.
    I don’t know what rock you’re living under but 2K was let go two weeks ago.

  15. gork57 says:

    I feel the Nuggets were headed in the right direction with Ujiri and Karl running the show. Yes, they lost to Golden State, and that hurt. Did the loss justify essentially cutting the head off the whole strategy? NO. The team is now in disarray, and fan and team morale are way down. Some fans have not renewed their season tickets in the aftermath of this debacle.

    Kroenke steps in, and the dominoes started to fall. Ujiri goes to Toronto with pat on the back from his “good friend” Josh Kroenke. Karl gets the axe because a not-ready-start JaVale McGee doesn’t get enough minutes. Iguodala see the people who brought him to Denver get the boot, and decides he wants nothing to do with it. Can you imagine Miami or San Antonio creating such a mess? Great teams don’t do this.

    It looks to me like Kroenke and his new GM have no idea what they are doing. They behaved as if Igoudala was a lock to re-sign. They appear to have no Plan B in the event he left. So far they’ve done absolutely nothing in free agency, while players who could help the team have signed with other Western Conference contenders. This fact along with Igoudala’s departure means the Nuggets weaknesses on defense and lack of 3-point shooting are more glaring than ever.

    New Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw certainly has his work cut out. He will have to be a miracle worker to restore morale and field a team anywhere near the one we saw last season. I think many of them have little confidence in the guy who is signing the checks.

  16. Ken says:

    I agree with Will, this is actually in the Nuggets best long-term interest. There’s no way that the Nugs win a championship with a 2 guard who shoots 60% from the line and around 25% on jump shots within the trey line. Plus, advanced stats make it perfectly clear that wings who overly rely on athleticism to survive tail off dramatically after age 30. He’s a better fit with the Dubs anyways, since they have the shooting to cover his offensive woes. But let’s check in in a few years and see how things work out for both teams, and I bet the Nugs will be in better shape. I really don’t want them to sign Monta, since he’s one of the few guards in the league who is actually LESS efficient than Iggy. A 2-3 year offer for Gary Neal would allow the Nugs to get a deep threat, while also letting the young guns develop. I think that letting Karl go was a smart decision for the team, since his style would never lead them to a championship, and finding players to play his style was forever crippling the Nuggets. Iggy didn’t get the Nugs 57 wins– the Nuggets being the deepest team in the league AND playing half their games at altitude gave them 57 wins. Brian Shaw needs players who will play half-court offense, and he will instill a team defense that Karl ignored. The Nuggets weren’t terrible at defense because their players were naturally awful– they lacked defensive sharpness because Karl wanted them to gamble on d and leak out on the fast break– which would never bring the Nugs a championship. I hate when professional sports writers spill the above kind of tripe without taking the time to actually research the topic at hand. Any bozo could look at the surface and think (Oh My God, Panic in Denver!!!”. Sports writers are SUPPOSED to do research and provide us with a more nuanced picture of what’s going on behind the scenes, and what the implications are. This article is just lazy lazy lazy.

  17. Iceindenver says:

    The Nuggets roster last year overachieved because of Karl. They had no low post offense, terrible outside shooters, and we’re terrible from the line. They needed one pure shooter to spread the floor, instead Kronke has torn it down. Good luck with McGee playing more than 5 minutes at a time before he runs out of gas, not to mention his basketball IQ more than often resembles Forrest Gump. Well Josh, you can start over, but since the cost of attending a game blows the monthly entertainment budget, I myself will not be along for the ride.

  18. Lil J says:

    Iggy is gone now who the Face of the Nuggets? Javale McGee u gotta rebuild around him and bring a good SG and bring back the transition offense they should get Monta or maybe even Rodney Stuckey I hate the nuggets but they might make the 7th or 8th seed they just lost a huge chunk of offense and defense right now they got build that back up and being a player like Iggy back

  19. Will says:

    As a nugget fan, I’m not mad at this at all. Sure, Andre is an explosive player. Sure, he’s a great defensive player, but he’s been in the league long enough to be called a vet and he still takes bad shots and freezes under pressure. When his 3 pt shot isn’t going in, he keeps taking them. If anything, it’s for the better. We now have more space. Imagine a fast break between Ty Lawson and Monta Ellis. Look at Denver’s roster. They all have great potential. Even the third string players can be a part of a blockbuster trade. We have mosgov and koufos (two 7 footers) to trade. We have brewer, randolph, and miller to trade. I would want to keep gallo, faried, McGee, lawson, brewer, and Fournier.

    If we get Monta:
    Starting 5
    McGee
    Faried
    Gallinari
    Ellis
    Lawson

    PLUS we could create space, trade players, get draft picks. If we don’t get monta, then we would still have space to add for a big trade.

  20. L.chil says:

    Bad move by the Nuggets. It’s like when the Pistons traded Billups.

  21. Collum says:

    This is Kroenke’s team now, I say as a Nuggets fan let him have his “dream”, “fun”, or whatever it is, because like the interview went it was all “me” and “I’s”. SO where does that leave the Nugs? With a lottery team and an owners rich kid dream of winning titles while the crowd chants “Kroenke” not “Denver”. It’s amazing that this guy wasn’t put on blast by Dennnnnver reporters, if this happened in LA the owner would be put on blast. Not that LA doesn’t already have faith in the Buss’s (which they do).

  22. derv says:

    Over paid? We offered Iggy more than GS and he walked. Obviously no one respects this spoiled little brat. Daddy should have never gave home the team has running it into the ground!

    • lol says:

      lol umad? blame your organization not iggy for being smart and walk away when the situation turns really bad

  23. KingKaash says:

    Ummm hello they also lost their VP Pete D’alessandro to the Kings. Don’t forget about that

  24. Wes says:

    Iggy must not of thought much of Shaw, He left $4M on the table this year alone with his opt out. Good luck with GSW cause I really don’t think they closed the gap much on OKC, SA, Houston, LA Clips or Memphis, which leaves them around the 5th or 6th seed again. Maybe he has always wanted to be the sixth man of the year.

    • lol says:

      hes going to be a starter, srsly what kind of team would give a player a four-year $48 million to be a sixth man? you nuggets fans are all bitter blame your organization for their mistakes not iggy he was smart enough to get out and go to a better team

      • Heron says:

        The nuggets paid roughly the same amount to Javale last year and he averaged around 19 minutes off the bench. As silly as that seems still proves you wrong!

    • Yave says:

      He is actually gonna start for them starting 5 gonna be :
      PG: Stephen Curry
      SG: Klay Thompson
      SF: Iggy
      PF: David Lee
      C: Andrew Boget
      6th man : Harrison Barnes
      Iggy is affecting Harrison Barnes Minutes

      • wArRiOrS says:

        pg- Stephen curry
        sg- Andre iguodala
        sf- Harison barnes
        pf- david lee
        c- andrew bogut

        sixth man- klay thompson

  25. LIL MATT says:

    NBA rule 1 don’t overpay, glad to see IGGY go, move A Miller next, they need outside shooting and should have went after OJ MAYO got to spread the floor and let Lawson drive and dish to shooters that can actual hit shots not IGGY’S 31%. Don’t get me wrong great defender and teammate I think he will do great in GS, but Nuggets were never going to win a chip with that team. Move Miller and you have the youngest team in the NBA, let them play together and see what you have.

  26. Dean says:

    Hopefully they can get Monta Ellis, this team has a lot of guys with trade potential. Anthony Randolph, Danilo Gallinari, or even Wilson Chandler. They need to keep McGee in the starting lineup and find a solid starting five.

    PG-Lawson
    SG-Ellis
    SF-Chandler
    PF-Faried
    C-McGee

    I think that team could still make some noise. But aside from Lawson and Faried, almost everyone could be traded for young talent or draft picks, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea.

    • Heron says:

      Signing Elllis would be a total disaster, the last two places he’s been he’s shot a poor percentage and played horrible defense in an undersized backcourt, he’s a ball hog and a polar opposite to the culture in Denver. The sooner some team recognises him as a scorer off the bench and pays him accordingly the better.

      • 007 says:

        Agree completely. Monta is a high volume shooter vs an efficient shooter so for him to get his he will take shots away frm Ty Lawson. Thus creating a similar situation to golden state and da bucks….

  27. LAallDay says:

    I feel bad for Shaw if they do horrid this year. Right when you take over people leave.

  28. steppx says:

    cheapskate and arrogant owner. This team is lottery bound now. They wont play as hard as they did for Karl. It was a special situation and Iggy would have returned to play with Karl. I like shaw……….but the roster is a bit of a mess now………and no additions to speak of….oh, Arthur (lol)…………good luck denver.