Depth could be greatest asset for Nuggets next season

Denver coach Brian Shaw wants team to attack foes in waves
by Aaron Lopez

From the big men to the playmakers, from the starters to the reserves, Denver Nuggets coach Brian Shaw wants his team to adopt an egalitarian approach to playing time next season.

Nearly three-deep at every position, the Nuggets have the potential to attack the opposition in waves – something that never materialized during an injury-filled 2014-15.

Such an approach requires commitment from top-to-bottom.

“As a coaching staff, it’s a matter of trying to get everybody to buy in to getting more done while maybe playing less,” Shaw said.

Shaw, who played 14 NBA seasons, understands that players value their minutes, but he points to the San Antonio Spurs as an example of how a time-share plan can lead to championship results. The Spurs had nine players average at least 18.9 minutes last season and none averaged more than 30 minutes.

“Their second unit was as important, if not more, than their first unit,” Shaw said. “They were productive in how they play. Tim Duncan has adapted his game. He doesn’t play 36 minutes anymore; he’s getting it done in 26 minutes. I think some of our guys can learn from that if they accept their roles and the depth of our team.”

With the acquisition of shooting guard Arron Afflalo, the Nuggets are in line to reunite their starting backcourt duo from 2011-12 when Afflalo teamed with point guard Ty Lawson.

If Afflalo starts, that would allow sharpshooter Randy Foye to provide instant offense and leadership off the bench.

“I’ve been a fan of Randy’s since I was in college,” Afflalo said. “I was always fond of his game. Having two veteran shooting guards manning down that spot can only be helpful. We’ll hold each other accountable and push each other to be better. I’m happy to play with him.”

In terms of attitude, professionalism and work ethic, Afflalo and Foye are mirror images. Foye was in Denver working out at Pepsi Center within a few weeks of the end of the season, and he told Shaw that he planned to battle for minutes from the start of training camp.

“Everybody just automatically pencils in Arron as the starter and Randy as the backup,” Shaw said. “As a competitor, he was like, ‘Listen, I’m fighting for my job. I still want to be the starting shooting guard on this team.’ That’s exactly what I would expect.”