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Friday, December 05, 2008

Watch Out for the Denver Nuggets...as They Slide Down in the Standings

All we've been hearing about since the Allen Iverson-Chauncey Billups trade is how Iverson is destroying the Detroit Pistons while Billups is revitalizing the Denver Nuggets. Meanwhile, I've kept saying two things:

1) Besides the well known salary cap relief that the Pistons can obtain by not re-signing Iverson, Iverson can have an impact this season by potentially making the Pistons more dangerous come playoff time because of his ability to dribble penetrate, collapse defenses and draw fouls. Detroit's offense stagnated in recent postseasons but he can have a 20 point quarter singlehandedly; the Pistons don't have an apparent solution to the way that Boston pushed around their bigs in last year's playoffs but the Iverson acquisition can at least jump start their offense. I didn't think that the Pistons were going to win the East before the trade and I don't think that they are going to win the East with Iverson but by the end of the season they will not be any worse off for the deal and there is a decent shot that they will be a more dangerous playoff team.

2) Denver has made a habit in the past few years of beating weak teams but falling flat against good teams; people seem to have forgotten that the Nuggets had some impressive winning streaks when Iverson teamed up with Anthony. It is not correct to speak of Billups' allegedly transformational effect on the team until the Nuggets actually face strong competition.

That loud thud you just heard was the San Antonio Spurs knocking the status right out of the Nuggets in a 108-91 beatdown that was not as close as the final score. This game was played in Denver, by the way, but homecourt advantage played little role as the Spurs' "Big Three" of Tim Duncan (21 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, five blocked shots), Tony Parker (22 points, eight assists) and Manu Ginobili (21 points on 7-11 field goal shooting) dominated while Billups (12 points on 5-13 field goal shooting, four assists) was almost completely invisible, scoring most of his points when the game was already all but out of reach. Duncan provided a nice demonstration of the difference between an MVP level player and a regular All-Star such as Carmelo Anthony (16 points, six rebounds) or Billups; Duncan has an impact on almost every possession at both ends of the court, drawing double teams, scoring and passing on offense while blocking shots, clogging the middle to deter drives and grabbing rebounds on defense.

You may retort that this was just one game out of 82--and you would be quite correct to say that but this truth should hardly be encouraging to Denver supporters because it is reasonable to expect plenty of other results like that as the Nuggets begin their inevitable descent from third in the West to fighting for the eighth playoff spot. Keep in mind that the Nuggets are just two games ahead of the three teams in a logjam at the seventh-ninth spots right now.

At full strength, the Lakers, Hornets, Spurs, Jazz, Rockets, Blazers and Mavericks are better than the Nuggets. The Suns look a bit shaky but I expect them to pull things together eventually. Denver will not win too many games against those teams this year. The Nuggets may very well pad their record in their next three games (at Sacramento, followed by home games versus Minnesota and Golden State) but then they visit Dallas and Houston in a killer back to back before playing Cleveland in Denver, traveling to Phoenix and battling Portland in a home and home series. Let's just say that Denver will most likely not be in third place in the West after those nine games.

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posted by David Friedman @ 5:43 AM

12 comments

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12 Comments:

At Friday, December 05, 2008 9:51:00 AM, Blogger Cody said...

. I've enjoyed the fair amount you've written about Kobe Bryant recently. Have you written anything similar about Duncan or any other NBA elites?

 
At Saturday, December 06, 2008 12:37:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

the nuggets got the better end of the trade so far billups is a true point and a pass first mentality iverson is a gunnner and it shows now the nuggets are not going to slide they are 12-4 with billups they will be up at the top all year because the west isnt as good as it been in the past.

 
At Saturday, December 06, 2008 1:12:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Cody:

Yes. I wrote a piece called "The Accelerated Growth Curve of LeBron James," detailing how he has accomplished many things at a faster pace than previous great players did. Also, I wrote an article explaining why Tim Duncan is the greatest power forward of all-time. Then there is my multi- part "Pantheon" series about the greatest retired players in pro basketball history.

All of those articles can be found in the right hand sidebar of the main page of 20 Second Timeout.

 
At Saturday, December 06, 2008 1:26:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

How can you know who got the better end of the trade when the two teams are still getting acclimated to the new players and the teams have not played a representative portion of their schedules?

As I've said all along, Denver must do well against good teams before it is correct to say that Billups has transformed the Nuggets.

 
At Saturday, December 06, 2008 2:19:00 PM, Anonymous J said...

Here's a Billups-related observation I've been meaning to add for a while, for whatever it's worth.

I've long played Yahoo Fantasy Basketball, and generally win my leagues each year. And almost every year I find a way to get Chauncey Billups on my team (usually with something like the 12th to 24th pick). He's an astoundingly productive player in Yahoo's scoring system: He almost always winds up being ranked in the top 6 to 8 players in the league. That ranking comes from performance in the 9 categories that Yahoo uses for fantasy basketball (FG%, FT%, 3PTM, Pts, Rebs, Ast, St, Blk, TO).

He's there again this year, and I'm leading my leagues (I'm in 3 leagues of 12 teams, and got stuck with the 11th, 12th, and 12th picks in each of those drafts; but I was able to grab Bosh and Billups in every league).

Anyhow, here are the top 25 players across those 9 Yahoo categories (I believe the player's contribution in each category is weighted equally):

1 Lebron
2 D-Wade
3 Chris Paul
4 Dirk
5 Amare
6 Bosh
7 Billups
8 Kobe
9 Nene
10 Kidd
11 Ray Allen
12 Yao
13 KG
14 Danny Granger
15 Antawn Jamison
16 Joe Johnson
17 Rashard Lewis
18 Brandon Roy
19 Al Jefferson
20 Marcus Camby
21 Jason Terry
22 Mike Bibby
23 Caron Butler
24 Vince Carter
25 Rajon Rondo

Iverson currently clocks in at #88.

Mainly the usual suspects on that list, but definitely a few surprises. Of course, I'm not claiming that this equal weighting of these 9 categories is some be-all, end-all stat for evaluating players, but I do think it's an interesting measure (and I'm not sure if the weighting formula discounts somebody who is like 9 for 10 on FTs compared to somebody like Kobe who is maybe 85 for 100 on FTs, i.e., Kobe's % is lower but likely more meaningful and valuable).

Anyhow, Chauncey is clearly trouncing AI on this measure, for whatever that's worth.

Of course, Detroit did just beat SA and Denver looked woeful against them, so who knows.

 
At Saturday, December 06, 2008 9:37:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

J:

Thank you for providing that list. It is interesting to look at, even though I would not take those rankings too literally.

The problem with that kind of "linear weights" metric is that it arbitrarily assigns equal value to each statistic. That is fine for use as a quick and easy scoring method in fantasy basketball but I would not put much stock in its accuracy as a player evaluation tool in terms of real world player values.

On the list you provided, Kobe is much lower rated than he should be and Billups is a bit higher rated than he should be. Where is Dwight Howard? There is no way that Rashard Lewis is more valuable than Howard.

 
At Tuesday, December 09, 2008 2:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

reggie

most nba teams are not good so you beat who on your schedule they beat houston boston and san antnio david they got the better end of the trade.

 
At Tuesday, December 09, 2008 4:29:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

We won't know who go the better end of the trade until we see how the entire season unfolds. When the Nuggets had Iverson they were able to beat bad teams but did not beat too many good teams. If the Nuggets with Billups turn out to be the same kind of team then they did not improve their roster by making the trade.

 
At Thursday, December 11, 2008 2:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'




regie

david they are way better with chanucey than with iverson they play better as a team they were never this good with ai i expcet them t win a round in playoffs detriot is 7-9 they are 14-4 it is comedy to suggest it's the same thing they area lot better less wasted possesions and a true team player and point guard and team leader.

 
At Thursday, December 11, 2008 7:48:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

Denver certainly looks good now. Let's see how the Nuggets look after they play some strong teams. I still say that they will move backwards in the standings; they are not as good as the Lakers, Hornets, Spurs, Suns, Mavs, Jazz, Blazers, Rockets when those teams are at full strength.

Detroit's problems are not entirely or even primarily Iverson's fault. They are getting outrebounded and their defense in the paint is not good; that has to do with their bigs, not Iverson. Dumars did not have a way to acquire more bigs, so he brought in Iverson to speed up the tempo and try to make Det. a better offensive team.

We'll see what happens. Right now, I'm a bit more confident in my prediction that Denver will fall in the standings than I am in thinking that Det. can completely turn things around. They were starting Kwame Brown at center until recently! Kobe can take Kwame to the playoffs but that is a lot to ask of Iverson and company. Bringing McDyess back should help the Pistons.

I said before the season that switching from Flip Saunders to Curry was a good move but that it might have come too late. The Pistons had already started to decline and switching coaches may not be enough to stop that fall.

 
At Friday, December 12, 2008 11:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

mavs suns spurs hornets arent better now denver 3rd best team in west they play like a team never did with iverson. and billups bring stability and leadership and is better right now.

 
At Saturday, December 13, 2008 5:27:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

I'm fully aware of where the Nuggets are in the standings. Re-read the post: I said that at full strength, by the end of the season the teams that I listed will be better than Denver. Just wait even a month or two until Denver faces some adversity on the road against tough teams and then we can talk about the standings again.

 

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