It was announced yesterday via a ‘woj-bomb’ that the Denver Nuggets had extended the contract of their General Manager Tim Connelly. The former Wizards man had big shoes to fill as Masai Ujiri is considered by many to be the best GM in the whole of the NBA. Two years down the line it is very clear that Connelly has done an effective job in the role. When this is taken into account alongside the fact that they have one of the best basketball minds in Michael Malone coaching this group, the future is really bright for the Nuggets. Malone is widely considered one of the best gameplanners and he did a great job developing guys like DeMarcus Cousins and Ben McLemore in Sacramento.
Connelly has been noted for diving into the European Market to find players who can do a job in the NBA, the results have been relatively mixed but Nikola Jokic was an excellent find and he could become one of the best centers in the NBA. He has the highest net rating of any Nuggets player that plays relevant minutes at +13.5. He has shown himself to be a really cultured NBA center who can do a good job in the pick and roll and his jump shot is at a 39% chip which is really impressive for a 20 year old on a team that didn’t have any real structure in place at the beginning of the season. He shoots 61% at the rim which suggests to us all that he has a very cultured and efficient game. He was given tips by Tim Duncan back in November and the hall of famer expects him to have a good career.
Danilo Gallinari is another player who has profited from the Malone-Connelly duo and he is currently playing at an all star level. The former Knicks player has been a fan favourite but in the eyes of many he had never really stepped up to lead this team. He is averaging 19 points per game and has a PER that sees him sit amongst the top 45 players in the NBA. On a bad team this is quite a mean feat and it proves how far some of these players have come this season. The Italian has profited from Michael Malone’s more flexible offence that changes on a game to game basis, this is a much better approach than the one taken by Brian Shaw who consistently attempted to run a slow half court offence that didn’t suit the guys at Denver’s disposal. Gallinari won’t be an all star because guys who play for middling teams always get overlooked, but his addition wouldn’t be that much of a disgrace based purely on his numbers this season. Malone has played to his strengths and has turned him into a potential all star calibre player, he has done this by trying to include him in up tempo plays and sets.
When a certain Will Barton joined the Nuggets last year it was seen as a pretty pointless move that cleared cap space for Aaron Afflalo. In hindsight, the Nuggets definitely got the better of this deal in what appeared to be a rare error from Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey in hindsight. Will Barton has developed into a terrific wing and a lot of credit has to go to Michael Malone to really developing him. Barton was a career 24% three point shooter but he has now developed into a 40% shooter from beyond the arc because of the faith shown in him by Michael Malone and Tim Connelly. Malone has a great knack for his attention to detail, he has drawn up sets that suit all of his players at different times in the game and Barton has thrived in this system. He has been their go to guy at times so his 15 points per game total isn’t that surprising. This move alone was probably enough to persuade the Denver ownership to extend Connelly’s contract, he chose to stick with the former Memphis University guard.
The franchise has been really well run for an awfully long time and the Barton mvoe really shows this, they took a chance on a streaky three point shooter and he has now been developed into a reliable swingman who can be a man for the big occasion.
The Offence moving forward:
If you watch the Denver Nuggets, it is clear that Michael Malone isn’t really employing a notable style of play. They are not a quick small ball team but they aren’t an old fashioned team who bash the posts for 24 seconds every play. They sit in the middle of the League in pace at 17th and generally are mixed with how they use the shotclock. Advanced Statistics suggest to us that Denver should probably up their tempo as you will see in the chart below:
As you can see, Denver have a poor eFG on late shots, only the Lakers, the Grizzlies and the Sixers shoot worse in late clock situations. Such a statistic would suggest that Denver like high IQ players who can make their own plays when the shot clock is running down. Denver’s field goal percentage on early shots is relatively high compared to most of the other teams in the NBA, this is because more often than not they are a playbook team and Malone calls good plays especially for guys like Barton and Gallinari who shoot better in a quick set before the defence has adjusted. Emmanuel Mudiay was supposed to be the guy to provide the basketball IQ but he is really struggling with his turnovers. For now, the Nuggets should try to run a quicker offence because they aren’t at all good at the end of the shot clock.
It is clear that Denver have a much better coach than Brian Shaw ever was in Michael Malone and as long as Tim Connelly continues to make good decisions, the future is bright at the Pepsi Center.