Posts Tagged ‘Corey Brewer’

Back And Forth With Bones: Nuggets-Jazz

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Back and Forth With Bones is an e-mail exchange between NBA.com’s John Schuhmann and NBA TV’s Brent Barry during a Monday night game. This week, they sat down (Schuhmann at home in New Jersey, Barry in the studio in Atlanta) to watch the 0-7 Utah Jazz try to get off the schneid, hosting the 1-4 Denver Nuggets on NBA TV.

Pre-game

Schuhmann: Hey Bones, tonight we have the Nuggets and Jazz, who are arguably the two worst teams in the league right now. There are better games on League Pass, but this one isn’t without some intrigue.

Denver has obviously undergone a stylistic change under Brian Shaw. After attempting over 45 percent of their shots from the restricted area each of the last two seasons, they’ve attempted just 32 percent of their shots from there this year. They’re down to 10th and 20th in fast break points and offensive rebounding percentage respectively, after leading the league in both of those categories last year.

Their frontcourt rotation has been a mess without Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler (who is supposed to return tonight). I believe Shaw wants to work the offense through their bigs, but I don’t see any bigs on that roster that can function as a focal point offensively.

Meanwhile, I thought the Jazz would be better defensively after seeing their numbers with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter on the floor last season, but they rank 27th on that end, unable to get boards or keep their opponents off the line. Offensively, Gordon Hayward has the goods, but this team can’t hit a shot from the outside.

So, questions for you:
1. Are you on board with what Shaw is trying to do? Is it just a matter of time (and health) before the Nuggets get on track, or do they need to get back to running and attacking the basket?
2. Do the Jazz have more ability to be a decent offensive team (maybe the shots will start falling at some point) or a decent defensive team (as the bigs develop)?


VIDEO: Jazz broadcaster David Locke discusses Utah’s tough season

Barry: The Jazz are absolutely horrible at getting ball to go through the hoop, important that you can do that — it is called scoring. Last in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage.

They’re getting exposed at point guard and can’t put pressure on opposing teams, most of which have pretty good ones, especially in the West.

It’s new territory for the team in terms of bearing heavy minutes, when and how to conserve legs and effort. Bigs worried about picking up scoring takes away rebounding focus. It will be interesting to see if they play confident or embarrassed to open up the game.

For the Nuggets, Shaw is still trying to find rotations that mesh with injuries to key players (Gallo, Kenneth Faried and now JaVale McGee). There’s no way Denver can play through bigs, so it will be interesting to see how Brian is managing the guard play.

Ty Lawson is playing a ton of minutes. Randy Foye next, but top three gunners are Ty (85 FGA), Nate Robinson (45), and Foye (44). They’re losing a bit of a defensive mentality/flexibility with Corey Brewer and Andre Iguodala gone.

Karl loved misfits, mismatches and mental games. It’s hard for new coach to get there without a better understanding, but even tougher when the old coach won a bunch too!

1st quarter

The Jazz got off to a strong start, scoring 26 points on a stretch of 16 possessions in the middle of the first quarter. The Nuggets shot just 8-for-21 in the period, but were only down six.

Schuhmann: The Nuggets are trying to post up Faried early on. I don’t get it.

Barry: And apparently are afraid to touch the paint on the defensive end. Some of the possessions are leaving them with bad floor balance and Jazz looking to run with purpose to score to start a game they really need to win.


VIDEO: Derrick Favors gets up to reject J.J. Hickson

They need a release from the winless start and a close game doesn’t do it.

Schuhmann: Turnovers have been an issue for the Jazz – 2nd highest rate in the league – and they don’t have any through 18 possessions. Favors looks more comfortable in the post than any of the Denver bigs.

Barry: Great patience vs. Mozgov. Fatigue moves the last two, but he responds with a block.

Barry: Good first quarter, but guys got a little tired for Jazz. Feels like Denver got away with one.

2nd quarter (UTA leads 26-20)

The Jazz scored on just three of their first 14 possessions and committed seven turnovers in the period after committing none in the first. The Nuggets had turnover issues of their own, but went on a 19-8 run late in the period to take a five point lead. Four points from Hayward made it a one-point game at the half.

Schuhmann: The Denver offense looks best when Lawson is attacking off the dribble. Not sure what else they can rely on.

Barry: They’ve just lost a lot of dynamic play on the wings with Brewer/Iggy gone and utility/tough matchups in Chandler/Gallo. You can see how they bog down.

Barry: But I do see signs of DHO (dribble hand-offs) and use of the pinch post in the Nuggets’ offense.


VIDEO: Andre Miller loses Jamaal Tinsley with a crafty crossover move

Schuhmann: That move by Andre Miller made my night.

Barry: And his.

Barry: Interesting for Utah to try to take advantage of Hayward in the post on Miller when doubles don’t result in anything good, because the Jazz can’t shoot it from distance.

Schuhmann: 10 combined turnovers in first six minutes of the second quarter. I’m starting to understand why these teams are a combined 1-11.


VIDEO: J.J. Hickson posterizes Jazz forward Marvin Williams

Halftime (DEN leads 46-45)


VIDEO: First half highlights from Nuggets-Jazz

Schuhmann: The Nuggets got things going in the second quarter when they – one – took care of the ball and – two – attacked the basket. 19 of their 26 points came in the paint or at the line.

Barry: And there lies the problem. Kanter and Favors will need to learn how to patrol and control the lower defensive box. Tonight, they are not having to deal with stretch bigs. It’s a technique/muscle game that they are struggling with.

Barry: Some worrisome numbers from PG for the Jazz. Lawson’s numbers at the half (eight points and six assists) might end up being more than the Lucas/Tinsley combo for the game. No playmaking to promote flow for the Jazz. All plays on one’s own to score.

3rd quarter

With the Jazz continuing to struggle offensively, the Nugget built a seven-point lead. But Favors scored seven straight points late in the period to keep it close.

Schuhmann: Lots of Favors in the post again. No double-teams = no ball movement. Denver willing to live with single coverage everywhere.

Schuhmann: Jazz had some pick-and-roll success in the third with a couple of nifty big-to-big passes between Favors and Gobert. Gets the defense moving more than straight post-ups.

Barry: When you can load up elbows and boxes the Jazz have very little room to find offense.

4th quarter (DEN leads 70-68)

The Jazz took a brief lead on an Alec Burks three-point play, but the Nuggets answered with a 10-1 run and scored 13 times in a 15-possession stretch to put the game away.

Barry: Penalty at 10:18 for the Jazz.


VIDEO: Nate Robinson lobs and Kenneth Faried finishes it off

Barry: Great dime by Nate. Pressure mounting on the Jazz, 0-7 and being down at home. Expect some roster change out of this timeout as Ty won’t want to put more pressure on guys to finish it out.

Barry: And there they are…

Barry: Offensive rebounds are crushing the Jazz.

Schuhmann: Yep. Pick-and-rolls are putting their bigs out of position.

Barry: But no reason to be extended that far. Strange injury to Manimal, if he doesn’t come back Utah will have a chance.

Barry: More Dre. Good call by B-Shaw.

Barry: Andre is fantastic… Great drive and shot before Gobert could get feet set to block. And Manimal is back. Not good for the Jazz.

Barry: Utah bigs just seem unaware of how far they are extending. They’re opening up drives and offensive rebounds for Denver. For the last three minutes, Ty can dictate tempo, whereas Utah has no point.

Final: Nuggets 100, Jazz 81


VIDEO: Nuggets pick up road win in Utah

Lawson led Denver with 17 points and 10 assists. Faried added 15 points and 13 rebounds and Miller added another 15 points off the bench for the Nuggets, who had a 48-36 advantage in the paint, a 52-35 advantage on the glass, and a 23-16 edge at the free throw line. Favors finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks, but the Jazz shot a brutal 3-for-17 from 3-point range and are shooting 23 percent from beyond the arc through eight games.

Schuhmann: It’s tough to score with no penetration and no shooting. We saw some decent post-ups from Favors, but the bigs don’t demand a double-team down there.

Denver looked good when they went to last year’s formula of dribble penetration from the point guards and crashing the glass, though with Brewer and Iguodala gone, they’ve lost a lot of their potency on the break. I’m not a fan of trying to work through Faried or Hickson in the post, but they went away from that in the second half. Of course, we can’t really evaluate their D from a game against the Jazz.

Barry: No, but the Horns set seemed to open up basic opportunities for Denver. They will look much different when they have a full complement of players.

But the Jazz have reasons for concern, as Trey Burke is not going to come in and take the Western Conference PG position by storm.

Brewer’s ‘D’ On Durant As Valuable As Timberwolves’ Double-Doubles


VIDEO: Corey Brewer discusses Wolves’ defensive effort against Thunder

The gaudy numbers came courtesy of the Timberwolves’ so-called Big 3, with Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic posting double-doubles in the same game for the first time ever. But the real work of Minnesota’s surprisingly easy 100-81 victory over West power Oklahoma City came in the trench marked by Kevin Durant‘s path around the court at Target Center.

That’s where Wolves forward Corey Brewer made living in denial a very good thing.

“That was a one-of-a-kind performance by Corey,” new Wolves shooter Kevin Martin said in the locker room afterward. “Memphis did a great job with Durant last year in the playoffs, but what we showed tonight was a special moment for our team. [Brewer] was focused early on. He knew what matchup he had tonight. He knew he was guarding the best offensive player in the league. He showed up.”

Two nights earlier, Durant had scored 42 points in the Thunder’s victory at Utah. Yes, he misfired at a 9-of-24 clip but he also sank 22 of his 24 free throws to score as many points as any four teammates combined.

Against Minnesota, Durant shot 4-of-11 and a more-than-tolerable 4-of-5 from the line in 27 minutes. Serge Ibaka (13) and reserve Jeremy Lamb (15) both got off more shots than Durant, who has missed 10 of 13 3-pointers so far in two games.

The 13 points were the fewest scored by Durant – in defeat, anyway – since before he started winning scoring titles. He had 13 in a Dec. 19, 2009 loss at Houston (and 12 in an OKC victory at Phoenix on Dec. 31, 2011).

“We wanted somebody else to beat us tonight,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “We weren’t going to have him get that many looks. I thought Corey really set the tone early in the game. In the third quarter when we thought they were going to come at us aggressively, especially Durant, we did a nice job of keeping him away from the ball and not letting him touch it. When he did catch it, we had someone near him and that’s what we want – somebody near him all the time.”

Durant had 11 points at halftime on 3-of-7 shooting. The Thunder by then were in a 59-39 hole. Then the MVP aspirant scored two points in 10:17 of the third, Minnesota’s lead growing to as much as 28. Brewer wound up plus-13 in the game to Durant’s minus-20.

“On me? It’s not just one guy,” Durant said of Brewer. “Every time I caught it there were two guys guarding me. … One guy is never going to guard me.”

Brewer didn’t pronounce himself “the KD stopper” or anything close to that. But he knows that defense is his greatest asset.

“That’s what I do, you know? They have Kevin Durant, I tried to stop him. We stopped him, we got a win,” Brewer said. “I’m pretty tired.”

If Durant is considered one of the NBA’s unstoppable forces offensively, the Minnesota defense has been one of its unreliable objects. Adding Martin, re-signing Chase Budinger and drafting Shabazz Muhammad all were moves to aid Adelman’s attack, even as the other end of the floor needed as much or more attention. That’s where bringing back Brewer, the team’s No. 1 pick in 2007, mattered.

Last season, the Wolves lost 13 games that they’d led through three quarters. They squandered leads of 10 or more points to lose 18 times. They were getting worse by the end, allowing 100 points or more 30 times in the final 53 games, during which opponents hit 39.1 percent of their 3-pointers. Minnesota ranked 24th in defensive field-goal percentage (.468) and 24th in effective field-goal percentage (.511).

After an admittedly small sample size of two games, but including 27 minutes against a lethal threat, the Wolves rank seventh (.415) and ninth (.462) respectively. Last season, those numbers would have had Minnesota ranked first and second. And nine of the top 10 teams in each category made it to the playoffs (Washington was the exception in both stats).

One Team, One Stat: Stay In The Corner, Jeff Green

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Boston Celtics, who are starting over without Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

The basics
BOS Rank
W-L 41-40 16
Pace 94.0 17
OffRtg 101.1 20
DefRtg 100.4 6
NetRtg +0.7 14

The stat

17.9 percent - Difference between Jeff Green’s 3-point percentage from the corners (45.0 percent) and from above the break (27.1 percent) over the last three seasons.

The context

That’s the biggest difference among 134 players who attempted at least 100 threes from both the corners and above the break over the last three years. (The league-wide difference is 4.0 percent.)

In his two full seasons with the Celtics, a Green corner three has been worth 1.35 points per attempt and a Green above-the-break three has been worth 0.81. That’s the difference between a great shot and a bad one.

Biggest difference, corner 3P% vs. above-the-break 3P%

Corner 3 Above the Break 3
Player FGM FGA FG% FGM FGA FG% Diff.
Jeff Green 76 169 45.0% 58 214 27.1% 17.9%
Kawhi Leonard 75 170 44.1% 31 113 27.4% 16.7%
Chandler Parsons 90 191 47.1% 122 381 32.0% 15.1%
*Shawne Williams 77 191 40.3% 28 105 26.7% 13.6%
Corey Brewer 112 329 34.0% 42 200 21.0% 13.0%
Arron Afflalo 148 334 44.3% 117 374 31.3% 13.0%
**Martell Webster 114 236 48.3% 117 325 36.0% 12.3%
Darren Collison 46 105 43.8% 77 242 31.8% 12.0%
***Shannon Brown 52 120 43.3% 128 407 31.4% 11.9%
Rashard Lewis 89 218 40.8% 65 224 29.0% 11.8%

* Williams’ discrepancy was the source of this great line from my man Howard Beck (now with Bleacher Report: “And Williams is reliable only from the corners — meaning even his one dimension is one-dimensional.”)
** Led by Webster, the Wizards are the Jeff Green of 3-point shooting teams.
*** Geez, Shannon Brown. Take a look at your shot chart before you go and take more than three times as many threes from above the break again.

Three seasons ago, Green took 80 more above-the-break threes than corner threes. But last season, upon returning from heart surgery, he took more corner threes.

A closer look reveals that the difference may have been the team Green has played for. Upon being traded from the Thunder to the Celtics in February of 2011, Green found himself in the corner a lot more.

Jeff Green 3-point shooting

Corner 3 Above the Break 3
Season Team FGM FGA FG% FGM FGA FG%
2007-08 SEA 16 45 35.6% 5 30 16.7%
2008-09 OKC 23 59 39.0% 73 187 39.0%
2009-10 OKC 41 118 34.7% 63 192 32.8%
2010-11 OKC 20 46 43.5% 36 135 26.7%
2010-11 BOS 8 18 44.4% 0 9 .0%
2012-13 BOS 48 105 45.7% 22 70 31.4%
SEA/OKC Total 100 268 37.3% 177 544 32.5%
BOS Total 56 123 45.5% 22 79 27.8%

That’s a product of the two teams’ offenses. In four full seasons under Scott Brooks, only 22 percent of the Thunder’s 3-point attempts have come from the corners. In the same time, 29 percent of the Celtics threes have come from the corners. And that number was up to 34 percent over the last two seasons.

Here are Green’s seven 3-point attempts from that March 18 game in which he almost single-handedly ended the Heat’s winning streak at 22 games. He was 4-for-4 from the corners and 1-for-3 from above the break…


Brad Stevens brings a new offense to Boston, Rajon Rondo‘s absence means that Green will have the ball in his hands more, and the departures of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett mean that he’ll be asked to carry more of the offensive load. All that could certainly mean less attempts from the corner.

Through five preseason games, Green is 5-for-10 on corner threes and 0-for-11 from above the break. So the saga continues…

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

One Team, One Stat: Jump Shots A Problem For Timberwolves

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Minnesota Timberwolves, who dealt with a myriad of injuries last season.

The basics
MIN Rank
W-L 31-51 22
Pace 95.2 11
OffRtg 100.1 25
DefRtg 102.9 14
NetRtg -2.8 21

The stat

42.3 percent - The Wolves’ effective field goal percentage from outside the paint, worst in the league.

Effective field goal percentage = (FGM + (0.5*3PM)) / FGA
League average from outside the paint: 46.0 percent

The context

Basically, the Wolves were the worst jump-shooting team in the league. The Pistons and Nuggets each had a lower raw field goal percentage from outside the paint, but shot better on threes. Minnesota ranked 13th in mid-range shooting percentage, but 27th on corner threes and 30th on above-the-break threes, the only team that shot less than 30 percent on those.

Thanks to Nikola Pekovic (303 buckets in the restricted area) and Andrei Kirilenko (207), the Wolves were strong at the basket. But they just couldn’t space the floor or make defenses pay for double-teaming Big Pek.

Lowest EFG%, outside paint

Team FGM FGA FG% EFG%
Minnesota 1,262 3,513 35.9% 42.3%
Chicago 1,293 3,570 36.2% 42.5%
Orlando 1,303 3,629 35.9% 42.9%
Charlotte 1,240 3,427 36.2% 43.0%
Phoenix 1,403 3,796 37.0% 43.3%

Here are some of the gory details:

  • Alexey Shved led the team with 288 3-point attempts and made just 29.5 percent of them. Among qualified players, he was the second-worst 3-point shooter in the league, ahead of only Monta Ellis.
  • 15 different Wolves attempted 3-pointers last season and not one of them shot them at the league average (35.9 percent) or better. The best of the group was J.J. Barea (34.6 percent).
  • Ricky Rubio ranked last in the league, by far, in EFG% (38.6%) among players with 500-plus FGA. Part of that comes from being a poor finisher at the rim (44.3 percent in the restricted area), but he struggled from the outside as well.

On Feb. 24, the Wolves outscored the Warriors 62-36 in the paint, but lost by a point because they shot a brutal 6-for-35 from outside it. Rubio was 0-for-6 from outside the paint, Kirilenko was 0-for-5, and Luke Ridnour was 4-for-12.

Here’s video of some of the brickage …


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A healthy Kevin Love will make things better. After registering an effective field goal percentage from outside the paint of 47.9 percent over his previous two seasons, he dropped down to 35.7 percent last season, dealing with an injury to his shooting hand.

Kevin Martin will obviously help, too. Of 150 players who attempted at least 300 shots from outside the paint, Martin ranked 12th in effective field goal percentage at 55.4 percent. Not only will he shoot better than anyone on last year’s Wolves, but he’ll take some minutes from the poor-shooting Shved.

Of course, the Wolves also added Corey Brewer, who was just barely above Shved on the 3-point shooting list at 29.6 percent. Coach Rick Adelman might want to give Brewer a little less freedom to shoot than George Karl did.

Love and Martin will make the Wolves a better offensive team. The bigger question may be on defense, where they’ve lost Kirilenko and Greg Stiemsma.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

The 10 Most Productive Teams Of The Offseason

By Jonathan Hartzell, NBA.com

The 2013 NBA offseason is nearly half over and with most of the major free agents signed, the winners and losers of the offseason have emerged. It should be noted however that last year’s major moves didn’t stop until two days before the season began when the Houston Rockets acquired James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

So while a lot still can change, here are the 10 teams who’ve had the most productive offseasons so far:

Philadelphia 76ers

Sam Hinkie and Nerlens Noel.

Sam Hinkie added young talent like Nerlens Noel this offseaon.

Additions: Nerlens Noel, Royce White, James Anderson, Michael Carter-Williams

Subtractions: Jrue Holiday, Andrew Bynum, Nick Young, Dorell Wright

Overview: The major move of the Sixers’ offseason occurred in mid-May when they announced the hire of Sam Hinkie as president of basketball operations and general manager. Hinkie comes from the Houston Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey’s school of basketball operations and the moves he’s made so far this offseason signal a similar approach. The Sixers have acquired young talent, added draft picks, and assured they will be one of the worst teams in the league next season before what should be one of the best draft classes in years. They’re rebuilding the right way and the benefits should be apparent in a few seasons.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Corey Brewer returns to Minnesota after being drafted by the team in 2007.

Corey Brewer returns to Minnesota after being drafted by the team in 2007.

Additions: Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Ronny Turiaf, Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad

Subtractions: Andrei Kirilenko, Greg Stiemsma, Luke Ridnour

Overview: The Timberwolves made their already high-power offense even more dangerous this offseason when they acquired Martin and Brewer and resigned Chase Budinger. Point guard Ricky Rubio will now have plenty of 3-point options strolling around the perimeter and the return of Kevin Love should place Minnesota back into the Western Conference playoff picture. They are still in negotiations with center Nikola Pekovic, who is a restricted free agent and his resigning will be critical to the team’s success as their defense would struggle to survive without his presence.

Indiana Pacers

Luis Scola adds size to the Pacers' bench.

Luis Scola adds size to the Pacers’ bench.

Additions: Luis Scola, Chris Copeland, Donald Sloan, C.J. Watson, Solomon Hill

Subtractions: D.J. Augustin, Tyler Hansbrough, Jeff Pendergraph, Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee

Overview: The Pacers accomplished objective number one of their offseason when they quickly resigned power forward David West. Since they locked him up, the Pacers have been busy adding depth to their bench. Watson and Sloan shore up the guard position and the recent acquisition of Scola gives them one of the best bench big men in the league. They’re stockpiling talent for hopefully another battle against the Miami Heat in next season’s conference finals and, so far, they look to be doing a pretty good job at it.

Golden State Warriors

Andre Iguodala makes the Warriors a contender in the Western Conference.

Andre Iguodala makes the Warriors a contender in the Western Conference.

Additions: Andre Iguodala, Marreese Speights, Toney Douglas, Jermaine O’Neal

Subtractions: Jarrett Jack, Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush, Carl Landry

Overview: The Warriors addition of Iguodala makes them an impressively deep team as emerging contributor Harrison Barnes will most likely move to the bench and provide a spark with the second unit. The loss of Jack will definitely impact the team, but Douglas should be able to lessen the blow. This team is still led by oft-hurt players and their success will be directly linked to their relative health. But if they can stay healthy, then the Warriors should be a contender in the Western Conference.

Phoenix Suns

Eric Bledsoe will have an opportunity to start in Phoenix.

Eric Bledsoe will have an opportunity to start in Phoenix.

Additions: Eric Bledsoe, Alex Len, Archie Goodwin, Malcolm Lee, Caron Butler, Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee

Subtractions: Jared Dudley, Luis Scola

Overview: The Suns were able to wrangle Bledsoe away from the Los Angeles Clippers and now they have a young, exciting point guard for the future. The unloading of Scola also brought in young talent and picks to help the Suns gain some of the best roster flexibility in the league. The Suns, who most likely will struggle this season,  will be an interesting team in a few years under new head coach Jeff Hornacek.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Andrew Bynum may actually play this season.

Andrew Bynum may actually play this season.

Additions: Anthony Bennett, Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark, Sergey Karasev

Subtractions: Marreese Speights, Shaun Livingston, Wayne Ellington, Omri Casspi

Overview: The Cavaliers “won” the Bynum free agency sweepstakes and they seem determined to make a playoff push this season under new head coach Mike Brown. They made a surprise move when they drafted Bennett with the first overall pick, but his potential and play style is exactly what this roster needs. If All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and Bynum can stay healthy, then the Cavaliers should be able to work their way into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Brooklyn Nets

Pierce, Garnett, and Terry make the Nets contenders in the Eastern Conference.

Pierce, Garnett, and Terry make the Nets contenders in the Eastern Conference.

Additions: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, Andrei Kirilenko, Shaun Livingston, Alan Anderson, Mason Plumlee

Subtractions: Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks

Overview: It would be an understatement to say the Nets are going for it this season. Brooklyn made the biggest splash of the offseason when they acquired Pierce and Garnett from the Boston Celtics and they now seem ready to become a contender under rookie head coach Jason Kidd. This is still an old team which could breakdown at any time and they gave up a lot of draft picks to make this roster possible. But the Nets will be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference if the roster meshes quickly and point guard Deron Williams returns to the All-NBA level play he’s displayed during short stretches in Brooklyn.

Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks were able to sign Paul Millsap to a reasonable deal this offseason.

The Hawks were able to sign Paul Millsap to a reasonable deal this offseason.

Additions: Paul Millsap, Elton Brand, Dennis Schroeder, Lucas Nogueira, Mike Muscala

Subtractions: Josh Smith, Zaza Pachulia, Devin Harris

Overview: The Hawks may not be much better than they were last year, but their roster is unquestionably in a better position than a year ago. The Hawks were able to resign Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver to reasonable deals, let Smith and his questionable shooting walk to Detroit, agreed to two of the best deals of the summer with Millsap and Brand, and they drafted two exciting young prospects in Schroeder and Nogueira. Atlanta quietly had one of the best offseasons in the league and fans of the Hawks should be excited about their future.

Los Angeles Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers added a lot of talent this offseason.

The Los Angeles Clippers added a lot of talent this offseason.

Additions: J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Darren Collison, Byron Mullens, Reggie Bullock

Subtractions: Eric Bledsoe, Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups, Ronny Turiaf

Overview: The Clippers were able to negotiate one of the best non-player acquisitions of the summer when they worked out a deal with the Celtics for head coach Doc Rivers. Rivers will act as both head coach and senior vice president of basketball operations for the Clippers and his leadership already made an impact when Chris Paul quickly decided to resign with the team. The loss of Bledsoe was an unavoidable disappointment, but the addition of sharp-shooters Redick and Dudley will help improve the Clippers’ sometimes stagnant half-court offense . This team will be a contender in the Western Conference if not for unforeseen circumstances.

Houston Rockets

Dwight Howard makes the Rockets one of the best teams in the Western Conference.

Dwight Howard makes the Rockets one of the best teams in the Western Conference.

Additions: Dwight Howard, Omri Caspi, Marcus Camby, Isaiah Canaan, Reggie Williams

Subtractions: Carlos Delfino, Thomas Robinson

Overview: The free-agent prize of the summer found a new home in Houston when Howard agreed to a contract with the Rockets. The dominant-when-healthy center instantly makes the Rockets a title contender and he should be able to grow with James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, and Omer Asik. The past year has been a master-class in rebuilding by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey as he turned young talent and picks into two superstars. Besides the loss of Robinson, the Rockets were able to get significantly better this offseason without hurting their future and that’s a rare thing to do in today’s NBA.

The Starting Five: Playoff Wild Cards



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The start of the NBA playoffs is just days away and that’s always a signal for superstars to ready themselves to step into the spotlight on the game’s biggest stage.

It’s also the time for those unsuspecting guys, the unsung contributors on playoff teams from throughout the league, to raise their level of play with their respective seasons on the line. We like to call them Hang Time’s Playoff Wild Cards, guys who will impact their teams and potentially the outcomes of their respective team’s first round series.

The Starting Five of HT’s Playoff Wild Cards Team (and just like Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, we don’t get caught up in positions. We’re going with the best five Wild Cards):

JEREMY LIN, PG, HOUSTON ROCKETS

By now Rockets fans know that the star point guard they snatched away from New York last summer is not the same guy who inspired Linsanity. What they’ve got is a guy who is much steadier and just as productive, statistically, through 82 games with the Rockets (13.4 ppg, 6.0 apg and 3.0 rpg) as he was in 25 games with the Knicks (14.6, 6.2 and 3.1). What makes Lin a Wild Card is knowing that he’s capable of getting on the kind of roll that created the Linsanity phenomenon. The right matchup in the playoffs could be all he needs to morph back into the player we saw during his magical ride in New York.

DANNY GREEN, SG, SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Green is easily overlooked on a team with superstars like Tony Parker and even Tim Duncan who are often foolishly overlooked by the masses when the conversation turns to the true superstars in the league. What cannot (and should not) be overlooked is Green’s season-long penchant for taking and making big shots, not to mention his 43 percent shooting (for the second straight season, mind you) from beyond the 3-point line. Green is the beneficiary of defensive attention being paid to Parker and Duncan, and he takes full advantage of defender’s inattention to detail all the time.

JEFF GREEN, SF, BOSTON CELTICS

If the Jeff Green that showed up after All-Star weekend is the same Jeff Green that shows up for the playoffs, the Celtics will be one of the postseason’s most dangerous lower seeds. Green has averaged 17.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 2.7 apg in 34.1 minutes a night since the break (compared to the 10.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg and 1.0 apg he posted in 24.6 minutes before the break). Green has the size, athleticism and skill on both ends of the floor to battle elite small forwards. The Celtics need him to do it every night in the postseason.

JIMMY BUTLER, SF,  CHICAGO BULLS

In a season when Derrick Rose‘s supporting cast has been under scrutiny every single night, Butler has shined in his opportunities to contribute, particularly on the defensive side of things. He’s the battled the likes of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony and more than held his own in those matchups. Some young players struggle with a sudden increase in minutes, many of them spent in different roles. But not Butler. The more he’s played the better he’s played, giving Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau yet another rugged contributor on a team filled with them. If Butler continues to score the way he has recently (15.6 ppg on 53 percent shooting in his last five games), he’ll have an even greater impact than expected in the playoffs.

COREY BREWER, SF, DENVER NUGGETS

This Wild Card thing is easy for Brewer. He does it daily for a talented and deep Nuggets team that has thrived all season by unleashing that depth on the opposition. What makes Brewer so effective in this role is his non-stop motor, his activity on both ends of the floor, his ability to shoot it from distance and the fact that he finishes at the rim and in transition. It’s pretty remarkable considering he doesn’t appear to have gained a single pound since middle school (we’re joking here). Brewer averages 12.2 ppg without any plays being called for him … ever. He should have “Wild Card” stitched across the back of his jersey instead of “Brewer.”

We’ve got our Starting Five Playoff Wild Cards.

Who are yours?


Karl Wishes For A Silencing Playoff Run

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DALLAS –
 If someone granted Denver Nuggets coach George Karl three wishes today, here’s No. 1:

“I just wish we would be healthy just to show some people so we could tell them to shut up,” Karl said prior to Friday’s game at Dallas where he eased point guard Ty Lawson back into action off the bench. Lawson, the Nuggets’ super-charged point guard, leading scorer and most imperative player for a deep playoff run, had missed eight of the last nine games with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot.

Lawson provided an encouraging report after scoring 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting in 19 minutes. Unfortunately for the Nuggets, a club that had reeled off — crippling injuries be damned — 20 wins in their last 22 games before Friday’s 108-105 overtime loss to the Mavericks, second-leading scorer and top 3-point threat Danilo Gallinari will only walk through that door on crutches. He tore his ACL eight days ago and won’t be back until next season.

So, yeah, Karl, a top candidate for Coach of the Year, wishes he had his full squad available for the postseason. He badly wants to prove that his blue-and-gold blur of a track team, so good now for three-plus months, doesn’t have to be a regular-season anomaly.

“All year long the league has seen this, the national image of the Nuggets as well, that they’re not a playoff team,” Karl said. “They’re not built for the playoffs; they can’t do this, they can’t do that. Now, I don’t know what percentage we’re down [due to injuries], but a full tank would be better than a three-quarter tank.”

Don’t mistake this as a ready-made excuse if his team gets bounced early with no Gallo and Lawson’s rocket-propelled lower limbs potentially not at full burn when things get rolling for real next weekend.

“The matchup that we get I think we’re going to be excited about.” Karl said, “And I’m confident that we’re going to play well in the playoffs.”

Friday’s loss was costly. Combined with Memphis’ win at Houston, the Nuggets and Grizzlies are tied at 54-25 for the No. 3 seed. The Clippers, also winners on Friday, are just a game back. Denver holds the tiebreaker against both. The The third and fourth seeds will open the playoffs at home with the third seed avoiding Oklahoma City until the conference finals.

Denver, 36-3 on their home floor, doesn’t want to be anywhere else.

If they get the No. 3 seed they’ll face either the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets. Denver is 7-0 against those two foes this season.

And if the Nuggets face Memphis or the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round (or possibly the first)? They’re 5-2 against both.

Oklahoma City in the West finals (or possibly second round)? Try 3-1 with a recent resounding win on the Thunder’s home floor.

“We got a bunch of guys that know how to play together,” said Corey Brewer, a member of the Nuggets’ high-scoring bench that never allows an opponent to catch its breath. “We’re all about one thing and that’s winning, one goal. Every night we come out and figure out a way to win no matter what it is.”

This hyper-explosive, deep and versatile, and super-resilient team might not boast an All-Star, but it tips the scales in entertainment and few squads are as dangerous.

And Karl so badly wants to prove that this style, this team of workers can go deep when so many of his Carmelo Anthony-led teams did not. The knock on this team is they don’t have a go-to scorer in crunch time, that they won’t see the open floor like they do in the regular season and they won’t get in the paint in a seven-game series with the same ease they do in blowing away the league in paint points.

So what about the playoffs when the game slows, defenses adjust and halfcourt offense becomes the supposed law of the land? What then for the Nuggets, a juggernaut Karl said can get the ball in a scoring area in three seconds flat and would do so quicker if humanly possible?

“That’s what everybody says. We’ll find out,” Karl said. “I’m not saying that we can pick the tempo up in the playoffs. OK, so we score 105 points a game (105.8 in the regular season, third in the league). OK, we’re going to score 101 or 102 a game (in the playoffs)? I want to score 110. But if we play certain teams I think we’ll score.

“If a team is going to try to slow us down, check our record. Check our record under 100 points. Check our record. What do you think it is? When we don’t score 100 points or when the other team doesn’t score 100 points, it’s like 29-3. If I’m playing us, I’m going, ‘We want to play a slow-down game when they’re 29-3?’ OK.”

When the Nuggets fail to score 100, which doesn’t happen often, they’re 10-9. But to Karl’s point is his team’s understated ability to lock horns — ranking 11th in field-goal percentage defense — and win lower-scoring games. When the Nuggets hold opponents to under 100 points, they’re not 29-3 as Karl said. They’re 33-3.

“Our team has a mental competitiveness to it, a spirit of competing no matter what the problem or how badly we’re playing or how good we’re playing,” Karl said. “They compete and have a very high level of integrity of doing it the right way.”

Let the playoffs begin.

Nuggets Suffer Blow From Gallinari Loss

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Word came down Friday afternoon that the Nuggets’ Danilo Gallinari indeed has a torn ACL in his left knee, an ugly injury suffered in Thursday’s win over the Dallas Mavericks.

It could be a huge blow to the Nuggets and, consequently, to the competitiveness of the Western Conference beyond the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs.

The Nuggets have the league’s best home record (34-3) and the league’s second best record (35-9) since Jan. 1. Since the All-Star break, they have the No. 3 offense and the No. 7 defense.

Gallinari has obviously been a big part of that success. With 51 more 3-pointers than any of his teammates, he’s the one guy who can really space the floor. And Denver has been a better team, both offensively and defensively, with him in the game.

Nuggets efficiency with Gallinari on and off the floor

On/off floor MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
On floor 2,309 108.8 101.6 +7.2 +334
Off floor 1,379 105.3 103.0 +2.3 +28

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

The Nuggets with Gallinari on the floor have the point differential of a 62-win team. The Nuggets with Gallinari off the floor have the point differential of a 44-win team.

But, as a starter, Gallinari has played most of his minutes with his best teammates, which can make his make his on-off-court discrepancy look more drastic than his actual value.

Most minutes with Gallinari

Player MIN % of DG’s minutes
Andre Iguodala 1,755 76%
Ty Lawson 1,707 74%
Kenneth Faried 1,569 68%
Kosta Koufos 1,280 55%
Andre Miller 984 43%
Corey Brewer 737 32%
JaVale McGee 586 25%
Wilson Chandler 358 16%

The Nuggets are obviously deeper since Chandler returned in mid-January. Even without Gallinari, they still have three wings – Iguodala, Chandler and Brewer – who George Karl can trust. And Evan Fournier has shown some flashes of an ability to contribute over the last week.

Karl’s ability to go small, however, is now a bit limited. The Nuggets have played 870 minutes with three of the four veteran wings on the floor together, most of those (597) with Gallinari as one of the three. Those have been great minutes for the Nuggets, played at a very fast pace.

Nuggets efficiency with three of Brewer, Chandler, Gallinari & Iguodala on floor

Combination MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Including Gallinari 597 100.0 112.9 100.4 +12.5 +108
Brewer + Chandler + Iguodala, no Gallinari 273 100.4 107.1 93.9 +13.2 +51
Total 870 100.1 111.1 98.4 +12.8 +159

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes

Without Gallinari, the trio of Brewer, Chandler and Iguodala will have to take on a larger load. The good news is that the Nuggets’ defense, as you might expect, has been excellent with those three on the floor together.

The Nuggets still need a healthy Ty Lawson to pose a serious threat to the top two teams in the West, but improved defense could help absorb the loss of their second leading scorer.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

Lawson Injury Puts Nuggets In A Ditch

HANG TIME, Texas — So now the question becomes just how far the Nuggets can drive their Playoff Express without the spark plug?

A short time before Denver rang up its 50th win for the fifth consecutive full NBA season, the best little Western Conference team without a superstar got the bad news that the nagging injury to point guard Ty Lawson is a torn plantar fascia.

Just when it was looking like the Nuggets could make more noise than a firecracker in the silverware drawer of the playoffs comes the bad news.

Originally diagnosed more than a week ago as a heel strain/contusion that would have him back in the lineup shortly, Lawson’s status for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs is now a huge question.

Surgery isn’t needed. The docs in Denver are saying rest and ice. But a torn plantar fascia is the injury that kept the Lakers’ Pau Gasol on the sidelines for just over six weeks.
That puts coach George Karl in a spot without his leader in minutes (34.8), points (16.7) and assists (6.9) per game as the Nuggets try to stay ahead of the Clippers and Memphis for the No. 3 slot in the West playoffs.

According to Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post, there is no timetable for Lawson’s return and Karl appears almost eager to assume the challenge of piecing all of this together, game by game, until his backcourt star returns.

“So many things come into my thought process,” Karl said. “I told my coaches, last night it was Iguodala, (Friday morning) it was (Evan) Fornier. The guy that I think probably is playing as well as any of those guys is Anthony Randolph. I could play really big for a period of time, playing Anthony at the four with Wilson (Chandler) at the three and A.I. and Corey (Brewer) in the backcourt. That doesn’t give you a really great playmaking team, but you’re athletic, you can run, you can do some things defensively.

“To me it’s flow and pace. It has nothing to do about are we capable of playing basketball. We’re going to be capable of playing basketball. I just don’t know how much rhythm and flow, and the pace.”

On Friday night, the Nuggets got 17 points out of the rookie Fournier in Lawson’s place in thumping the Nets, while Karl also used Iguodala and Danilo Gallinari at the point.

While there’s no doubt that Karl can keep juggling his lineup and the Nuggets can play effectively enough at home, where they’ve won 18 straight, to finish up the regular season, there’s no doubt they need Lawson’s raw speed and slashing ability if they’re going to the wild card that makes noise in the playoffs.

The Playoff Express needs its driver.

Denver’s Whole Much More Than Sum Of Its Parts

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Back in 1985, give or take a generation depending on what year was dialed in, Doc Brown retro-fitted a campy DeLorean with a few spare parts he had around his workshop and spawned an entire time-traveling series of Hollywood comedies.

Nearly 30 years later, Denver Nuggets VP of basketball operations Masai Ujiri has cobbled together a roster largely out of spare parts, discards and items from the NBA’s great cutout bin and essentially made time stand still. As in another multiplex favorite, the one with Bill Murray and the rodent in which every day and night ends up the same: Win, win, win, win …

Consider the two hottest teams in The Association at the moment and how they came to be. The Miami Heat, aiming for their 26th consecutive victory Sunday evening against Charlotte, were conceived in a lightning bolt and thunderclap moment of AAU-comes-to-NBA inspiration, the brainstorm of the three key Hall of Fame-caliber players involved. Then there are the Nuggets.

Denver, which extended its lower profile winning streak to 15 games Saturday night, have made do – and made dangerous – with far more humble pieces than the crew in south Florida. At the risk of putting a silly “NBA.com has learned…” spin on something that’s been hiding in plain sight, it is worth looking again (if you haven’t done so recently) at the how the Nuggets’ roster was built:

  • Drafted (3): Kenneth Faried (2011, Round 1, No. 22 overall); Evan Fournier (2012, Round 1, No. 20 overall), and Quincy Miller (2012, Round 2, No. 38 overall).
  • Trades (9): Corey Brewer, Wilson Chandler, Jordan Hamilton, Andre Iguodala, Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Kosta Koufos, JaVale McGee, Andre Miller and Timofey Mozgov.
  • Free agents (2): Anthony Randolph and Julyan Stone.

Looked at as a group, the ensemble nature of what Denver and coach George Karl are doing this season – 15 straight, 49-22, fourth-best record in the league with a legit chance to catch OKC to claim the Northwest Division and the West’s No. 2 seed – is amazing and undeniable. That whole sure had better be greater than the sum of its parts, because its parts, on paper especially, wouldn’t scare hardly anybody.

Faried’s sleeper status out of Morehead State has gotten wide play by now. But it’s indicative of Denver’s recent draft history, with the Nuggets stuck at No. 20 or lower for their last 10 picks overall. The last single-digit guy – heck, the last lottery guy – by the Nuggets? Carmelo Anthony in 2003.

As for player acquired via trades, look how many current Nuggets were disappointing Something-Elses before they made it to Denver. Brewer, Randolph and Koufos, huge contributors on a surging team, were left at the curb by Minnesota. So, in a pre-arranged draft night trade, was Lawson, on the same date the Timberwolves spent the No. 6 pick on Jonny Flynn.

Andre Miller was considered old and broken-down by some at age 34, after five teams and 12 seasons. Chandler, Gallinari, Mozgov (and Quincy Miller, as a future pick) were, at the time of the Anthony trade, the best Ujiri and the Nuggest could do when faced with a marquee player who wanted out. Hamilton was a throw-in from Dallas to Portland to Denver on the night he was drafted in June 2011 at No. 26.

McGee? He was classic addition-by-subtraction for Washington, eager to reduce the knuckleheads quotient of its locker room. Even Iguodala, so helpful at both ends and in a leadership role, had fallen out of favor in Philadelphia.

Ujiri, early this season, referred to the process as a “rough two years.” Yet the Nuggets did not drop out of the playoffs in that span. They did not, obviously, sit and pine for pricey, big-name free agents they weren’t going to get anyway.

They took what was available and, with Ujiri working as hard in the front office as Karl on the sideline and the players on the court, rigged it MacGyver-style into something special. Gourmet chefs, three-star restaurants and the finest meats and veggies often make for great meals, but occasionally so do leftovers used creatively in perfect balance.