One Team, One Stat: Nuggets no threat on pick-and-rolls
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2016-17 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Denver Nuggets, who didn’t make much of their pick-and-rolls.
According to SportVU, the Denver Nuggets had the lowest usage rate on ball screens last season.
This means that, when they ran a pick-and-roll, the Nuggets were least likely to get a shot, turnover or drawn foul from the ball-handler or screener.
Point guards Emmanuel Mudiay (32.6 perent on pull-up jumpers) and Jameer Nelson (35.8 percent) both shot poorly off the dribble, and both drove to the basket or passed to the screener at a rate lower than the league average. They ranked 70th and 93rd in usage rate among 93 players that used at least 500 ball screens.
So more often than not, Denver pick-and-rolls went nowhere. Even when they did, the Denver point guards weren’t finishers at the basket. Among 193 players with at least 100 drives last season, Nelson was the second most likely to pass. And among 44 players who took at least 200 shots on drives, Mudiay had the worst field goal percentage.
Pick-and-rolls aren’t necessarily designed to create an open shot for the ball-handler or for the guy who catches the first pass, but the Nuggets’ point guards weren’t enough of a threat off the dribble to really get the defense moving. Denver saw the league’s biggest jump in passes per possession – from a league-low 2.66 in ’14-15 to 2.98 (21st in the league) last season – but that didn’t result in a big jump in offensive efficiency. They scored 1.1 more points per 100 possessions than they did in ’14-15, with the league seeing an increase of 0.9 overall.
Mudiay was an improved shooter in the last couple of months of the season, seeing an effective field goal percentage jump from a brutal 37.1 percent before the All-Star break to 44.6 percent after it. But the Nuggets will need him to take another step forward, be more aggressive on the pick-and-roll, shoot better off the dribble, and finish better at the rim. If he can make himself more of a threat coming off a screen, his whole team will benefit.
10 MORE NUGGETS NOTES
The Nuggets were one of four teams (all in the Western Conference) that has ranked in the bottom 10 in defensive efficiency each of the last three seasons. The others are Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans.
League-wide, offensive efficiency was higher in the fourth quarter than it was in the first quarter. But the Nuggets’ defense improved as the game went on, allowing 107.6 points per 100 possessions (29th in the league) in the first quarter, 108.2 (26th) in the second, 105.9 (22nd) in the third), and 104.0 (11th) in the fourth.
Denver took 38.3 percent of its shots from the restricted area. That was the second highest rate in the league and up from 33.7 percent in 2014-15 (the biggest increase in the league). But it ranked 27th in field goal percentage in the restricted area, with Danilo Gallinari (50.4 percent) and Mudiay (45.5 percent) ranking 126th and 131st among 131 players who took at least 200 shots there.
The Nuggets played 52 games that were within five points in the last five minutes, tied (with Indiana) for the most in the league.
Denver scored just 0.71 points per possession on isolations, the lowest rate in the league, according to Synergy.
Gallinari took 34.1 percent of his shots from 3-point range last season, down from 53.0 percent in ’14-15. That (-18.9%) was the biggest drop-off in 3PA/FGA among 124 players with at least 500 FGA both seasons. Among that same group, Gallinari had the second biggest increase in free throw rate (FTA/FGA), from 0.336 to 0.617 (fourth in the league among players with at least 500 FGA).
Among 163 players who took at least 100 3-point attempts each of the last two seasons, Gary Harris (from 20.4 percent to 35.4 percent) and Darrell Arthur (from 23.6 percent to 38.5 percent) saw the two biggest increases in 3-point percentage.
In his fourth season, Will Barton recorded career highs in usage rate, rebounding percentage, effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage. Hook 325 3-pointers last season (at 34.5 percent), 142 more than he had in his first three seasons combined (at 23.0 percent).
Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic played just 92 minutes together last season, with 78 of those minutes coming in the last three games.
Jokic was a plus-92 for a team that got outscored by 254 points overall. The Nuggets outscored their opponents by 1.2 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and were outscored by 7.5 with him on the bench. That on-off differential was the 16th biggest among 265 players that logged at least 1,000 minutes for a single team last season.
NBA TV’s Nuggets preview premieres at 6:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, Oct. 20.
John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.
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