The Denver Nuggets — even if you don’t want to admit it — were a team that were puffed up to be something grand this 2012-2013 NBA season. Unfortunately, due to several factors, they haven’t even came close to matching critics’ and fans’ expectations of them with 25% of the season already in the books.
You guessed it. The Denver Nuggets are in the same — but perhaps not as terrible — boat as the Los Angeles Lakers.
Both teams are overrated.
This isn’t shade, but rather a culmination of myself coming to terms of what Denver is at the moment, and at this moment, they are a mediocre team trying to get by.
Yes, based on how the media pumped them up in the off-season, they are overrated.
It’s not as if the Denver Nuggets have D-List players, because they don’t. The Denver Nuggets consist of a top 10 point guard – Ty Lawson — an All-Star — Andre Iguodala — a decent-to-good small forward – Danilo Gallinari — top 5 Sophomore player — Kenneth Faried – an athletic center with upside — JaVale McGee — one of the best back-up point guards in the league — Andre Miller — a punch off of the bench –Corey Brewer — and underrated defending center — Kosta Koufos — and the list goes on.
In fact, Denver has a great combination of talent and skill set, but so far this season, it just hasn’t worked.
Could blame cohesion, team chemistry. Could blame milk carton players. Could blame George Karl, but the fact is there’s something else that one should point the finger to and that’s the lack of fundamental basketball.
I’ve preached and preached about this through this season and seasons past and that’s how vital free-throw shooting is. Denver is a team that is getting some of the most attempts in the league — 4th in the league — with a total of 574 attempts and has only made 386 of those which gives the team a FT% of 67.2%, the worst in the league.
It’s not just free throw shooting that’s a fundamental skill, but ridiculous fouls as well. It’s simple defensive techniques — hello, boxing out — as well as knowing that jumpshooting is not a strength, but still tossing up jump shot after jump shot.
It’s knowing that a part of fundamental basketball is to fight for possessions, not to just gift — George Karl’s favorite word — the opponent easy buckets.
It’s not just deferring an open shot just to take a contested one, but if a look is open, take that bloody shot.
It’s a combination of all those things, but the most concerning item — as aforementioned — is that free-throw shooting or lack thereof.
We could look at this game-by-game and it would come with the same result: a team must hit the majority of their free points.
Seven of Denver’s 12 losses have come in the way of losing the game by a deficit of 6 points or less. Five of those seven games were lost by 4 points and less and what do nearly all seven games have in common?
Poor free-throw shooting.
Saturday, November 3rd: 119-116 – Miami Heat over Denver; 13-of-20 from the charity stripe for 65% FT.
Thursday, November 15th: 98-93 – Miami Heat over Denver; 13-of-19 from the charity stripe for 68.4% FT.
Monday, November 26th: 105-103 – Utah Jazz over Denver; 18-of-32 from the charity stripe for 56.3% FT.
Thursday, November 29th: 106-105 – Golden State Warriors over Denver; 19-of-24 from the charity stripe for 79.2% FT.
Wednesday, December 5th: 108-104 – Atlanta Hawks over Denver; 21-of-25 from the charity stripe for 84% FT.
Sunday, December 9th: 112-106 – New York Knicks over Denver; 21-of-29 from the charity stripe for 72.4% FT.
Wednesday, December 12th: 108-105 – Minnesota Timberwolves over Denver; 14-of-24 from the charity stripe for 58.3% FT.
Of those seven close losses, only two games did Denver shoot more than 75% from the line, and we’ll exclude those two from the discussion, but the other fie losses? All five would have and should have been won from the free-throw line. Even if you threw out the game in which Denver shot 72,4% from the line, that leaves four games that Denver lost because of their ineptitude of at shooting free throw line.
Four losses that could have — and should have — been wins and Denver could have — and should have — a 15-8 record at the moment ( 6th in the Western Conference).
But they don’t.
Team will continue to play the Hack-A-Howard strategy with Denver as long as the Nuggets’ shooting as abysmal as this from the free-throw line.
Free-throw shooting may not be the only problem, but it’s a problem that is — in my opinion — one of the most correctable.
The Nuggets will be back at the Pepsi Center Friday evening hosting the Memphis Grizzlies and here’s to some efficient free-throw shooting.