Somewhere, deep in the alleys and crooks of George Karl’s mind, lies a secret that few will discover – the starting lineup of the 2012-13 Denver Nuggets.
With the addition of Anthony Randolph, Evan Fournier and Quincy Miller, the Nuggets are as deep as ever and have a plethora of possibilities on who could start October 31 against Philadelphia in the first game of the season.
Can the Nuggets find a way to improve upon last season’s record? Here is one voice crying for a change from last year.
Here’s the big change – inserting a healthy Wilson Chandler into the starting lineup over Danilo Gallinari.
It’s not as crazy as it sounds. This lineup really defines what the Denver Nuggets strengths are – athleticism and ability to run the floor. Chandler finishes near the rim at a higher percentage, a key stat when considering a team that wants to hustle down the floor and score in transition.
Another reason to consider the potency of the above lineup is better defense. That 5-man unit allowed 1.02 points per possession last season, placing them among the top defensive units in the West last season. I also feel that Chandler can defend multiple positions better than Gallinari, an important factor for Denver, a team that utilizes switches on defense.
While this unit did struggle to score, averaging 1.00 points per possession, I believe that a healthy Wilson Chandler along with continued development by Faried and McGee will be more effective scoring the basketball.
The stats are impressive when thinking that these players would be playing increased minutes together. Balanced scoring, offensive rebounding, and players who can play successfully at a high tempo – a quality argument for a starting unit.
Reserves: A. Miller-Hamilton-Gallinari-Harrington-Koufos
Can a team switch their identity from the pace of a Formula One race to that of a handcart trek across America? While Andre Miller is very successful at pushing the ball up the court, Harrington has been successful as a trailing 3-point threat on the fastbreak, and Gallinari draws free throws, this unit would be best served slowing down the pace when playing together.
The strength of this unit is in two areas – size and 3-point shooting. While Andre Miller will never be recognized as a 3-point threat, Gallinari, Harrington and Hamilton can all shoot accurately from distance. Denver shot 32.7% on 3-point attempts last season, a mark that placed them 24th in the league. Hamilton, who didn’t play often during his rookie season, saw an increased role during summer league play and shot 37.9% from behind the arc while averaging 19.2 points.
The most important thing for this unit will be to get back on defense. If these five players are on the court, there will be very little balance on defense. Miller and Harrington are slowing down with age, Hamilton is inexperienced, and Gallinari can be caught staring. Koufos played solid defense last season, but can’t be expected to cover for the other four players, à la Tyson Chandler with the Knicks. That will make the 3-point shot that much more valuable, because if this team can knock down a couple in a row, they will provide the usual boost from the bench that has been associated with the Nuggets since the Carmelo trade.
Lean Machine: A. Miller-Fournier-Brewer-Q. Miller-Randolph
It has been reported that Julyan Stone, a second-year player who joined the Nuggets last season, has suffered a torn labrum and will miss five months. While injury should not be used as an excuse to lose a roster spot, the Nuggets would be better signing Quincy Miller to a contract and waiving Stone, who does not have a guaranteed contract.
This means that the Nuggets would only have two point guards on the roster, a calculated risk but a relatively safe one with Andre Miller’s durability (he’s missed six games in 13 years).
I think that this group, who might not even see the court on most days, should be nicknamed the “Lean Machine.” Why? They average just a bit under 6’8″ and weigh 208 lbs. That’s thin-as-a-post skinny and tall.
Since the Nuggets can have 12 players active during games, Fournier and Quincy Miller will likely receive a high amount of DNP-CD next to their name on the box score. The Nuggets need to see how Anthony Randolph performs as a key reserve. When Randolph has played 10-19 minutes a game, he has averaged 6.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks while shooting 43% from the field. The stats are more appealing when he plays starters minutes though. When he plays more than 30 minutes per game, he has averaged 19.2 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game. While I am definitely not arguing that he should start, as he needs to develop discipline on both offense and defense, his potential is the reason why the Nuggets signed him, and the coaches need to try to tap into that.
On a final note, starters for the Nuggets does not necessarily mean that those players will play the most minutes. Miller and Harrington played third and fourth highest minutes on the team, while starting a combined eight games. Mozgov started 35 games, but Fernandez played more minutes in 13 less games. So while I think it’s best that Chandler starts, it is likely that Gallinari plays more minutes anyways.
Why George Karl does that remains a secret to me, but it is a secret that will be interesting to see played out in the upcoming season.
About the Author
Written by Daniel Lewis
Deputy editor of digital content for Brigham Young University newspaper, The Universe. Native of Denver, Colo. He likes to ride his bicycle.