According to Justin Kubatko, the creator of basketball-reference.com and the author of the following article for the New York Times …
With Wednesday night’s impressive road victory over the Atlanta Hawks, the Denver Nuggets improved to 9-2 since the trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks.
And although most analysts felt the Nuggets received a favorable return in the deal, few expected them to play this well without their star.
A closer look at the team’s numbers with Anthony and without him reveals some significant changes on both ends of the floor.
Perhaps the two biggest criticisms of Anthony while he was in Denver were his propensity to dominate the ball on the offensive end and his effort (or lack thereof) on the defensive end.
Usage percentage is an estimate of the percentage of plays that a player used while he was on the floor, where a play is defined to be a combination of field goal attempts, free throw attempts and turnovers. If a team distributed its plays equally among all of its players, then each individual would have a usage percentage of 20 percent.
Anthony’s usage percentage in Denver was 32.6 percent, the second-highest rate in the N.B.A. That, coupled with the fact that Anthony averaged 35.5 minutes a game, meant that the Nuggets’ offense was predominantly run through a single player.
There still seems to be some degree of ”uncertainty” concerning the “unexpectedly” terrific play of the Denver Nuggets, in the aftermath of their recently completed trade with the New York Knicks.
Given the actual quality of the personnel for the present version of the Nuggets, should this really be the case, at all?
[comment from April 8, 2011, 2:17 AM]
Prior to the Melo/Billups trade, Denver was a very talented team that was under-performing in the regular season – compared to the team from 2 years ago – due to a number of different factors, including:
i. Injuries to Chris Andersen and Kenyon Martin;
ii. Turmoil surrounding the impending trade of C-Anthony;
iii. George Karl’s on-going recovery from last season’s bout with cancer; and,
iv. The loss of important role/back-up/bit players like Linas Kleiza and Johan Petro.
If this year’s team had been 100% healthy from the start of the season [including George Karl], however … and not immersed in the Melo/Billups trade controversy … then, the Nuggets would have most likely been one of the top 3 teams in the West all year long, based strictly on the strength of their personnel.
When Masai Ujiri [GM] was able to extract a “motherload of still-young legitimate NBA level talent” from the Knicks, in exchange for what Denver only had to give up:
TO NEW YORK
C-Anthony + C-Billups + A-Carter + R-Balkman
[Please Note: Shelden Williams was also included in this trade.]
D-Gallinari + W-Chandler + R-Felton + T-Mozgov + 2 Future 1st Round Draft Picks
[Please Note: The Nuggets only received 1 Future 1st Round Draft Pick from New York.]
it should actually NOT come as a surprise, at all, that THIS new version of the Nuggets is a pretty darn good outfit … when you put the newcomers together with the return to good health of Kenyon Martin [close to 90%] and Chris Andersen [close to 80%].
In early February [Please Note: It was actually back in January], well before the trade deadline, I forecast on my blog that the Denver Nuggets would likely be THE MOST IMPROVED TEAM in the NBA after the All-Star Break, if they CHOSE NOT to trade C-Anthony this year.
Given what Denver got back from New York in the Melo/Billups trade, my forecast remains the same today.
Those who think the Nuggets are a prime example of the sum of the parts being greater than the value of the whole are simply ignorant of just how good the following individual players and coaches actually are:
1/Lawson/PG + 2/Afflalo/OG-SF [or Chandler] + 3/Gallinari/SF + 4/Martin/PF + 5/Nene/C
6/Felton/PG, 8/Chandler/OG-SF [or Afflalo], 7/Smith/SF-OG, 9/Andersen/PF-C and 10/Harrington/PF-C
11/Forbes/SF [i.e. as good an 11th man as there is in the NBA] and 12/Mozgov/C [i.e. as good a 12th man as there is in the NBA]
Ely/PF-C [i.e. as good a 13th man as there is in the NBA] and Koufos/C [i.e. as good a 14th man as there is in the NBA]
Karl [i.e. as good a Head Coach as there is in the NBA, today, other than Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich]
because of an over-reliance on simplistic “statistical-based pseudo basketball analysis”.
PS. Afterall, it’s Masters Week, again! … and, the unoffical start of Spring!