The numbers do not lie.
It’s a small sample size, but the trend is unmistakable — Denver is a much better defensive team without Carmelo Anthony. They have given up 99.3 points per 100 possessions in the 10 games he has been gone, a number that would be the best in the league if spread out over a season. Again, small sample size theater at play here, but the trend explains why the Nuggets are 8-2 in their last 10.
Over at SB Nation, Rohan Cruyff dove into what the Nuggets are doing better and how much of it is the Carmelo factor.
What exactly are the Nuggets doing on the floor that has fueled this defensive turnaround? In a word: everything. Opponents are shooting nearly 3 percent worse from the floor (a seemingly small figure, but keep in mind the spread from first to 30th in the NBA is less than 7 percent), turning the ball over 14 percent more frequently, visiting the foul line 23 percent less frequently, and Denver has upped its defensive rebounding rate to almost 80 percent during the stretch (Orlando leads the league at 77 percent). This is a completely different team on the defensive end.
At the same time, it’s very important to note that none of these things are blanket indictments of Anthony’s defense. ‘Melo’s departure has likely allowed George Karl to place a renewed focus on the defensive side of the ball; at the same time, two of Denver’s primary defensive improvements — defensive rebounding and foul rate — have been in areas Anthony historically excels in.
The removal of one player — especially not a player who is a defensive anchor in the paint — is not going to make this kind of change. For whatever reason Denver has changed its focus on to the defensive end and is playing with much more energy.
Denver is a team playing with a chip on its shoulder, and at the NBA level defense is as much or more about effort than just scheme. They are trying, they are committed on that end of the floor in a new way.
And that is taking them into the playoffs, where defensive teams are hard to knock out.
Patrick Beverley is going to have a key role with the Rockets — he is their best defending guard. And it’s not close. He can help space the floor as a three-point shooter, he can work off the ball on offense and serve as a backup playmaker, but mostly what he brings is fearless, physical defense.
Except he’s not going to bring it for a while.
Following rumors he might knee surgery comes this from Houston coach Mike D’Antoni, via Calvin Watkins of ESPN.
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said he expects guard Pat Beverley to miss at least 20 games with a left knee injury. His absence “complicates” some roster spots.
The Rockets are going to have one of the best offenses in the NBA but whether they finish fourth or seventh or out of the playoffs completely in the West will come down to a combination of health and how well they defend. This is a setback on both counts.
Expect to see more Eric Gordon, Tyler Ennis, and P.J. Hairston. Gordon has a real chance here. This is going to be an interesting year in Houston.
The Chicago Bulls traded Derrick Rose to New York, in hopes that the locker room, “whose team is this?” drama would head East with him. This is Jimmy Butler‘s team, with Dwyane Wade now assisting.
But the drama isn’t gone yet.
On their way out the door, the camps around Rose and Joakim Noah tried to paint Butler as a Diva who was the real problem. When Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times asked Butler about it, he basically laughed off the idea.
“Am I a diva? I don’t call it that,’’ Butler said before Thursday’s 97-81 loss to Atlanta in their final preseason game. “My will to win rubs people the wrong way sometimes. I can blame it on that, but won’t apologize for it. Never will.
“As far as that talk goes, I don’t care. I’m going to keep working and if people don’t like it, people want to say what they want to say, that’s fine. I know, and I think these guys know, where my heart is and how I want to do right by everybody.’’
Rose and Noah thought Butler tried to jump the line to be the leader of the team, which they saw as still their right as the veterans. Butler didn’t care what they thought then, he certainly doesn’t now.
What matters more, Nicola Mirotic and Doug McDermott and Bobby Portis don’t care, and they are the guys still there.
Who will finish with the better record, Bulls or Knicks, is one of my favorite subplots of the NBA season.
The Spurs are counting on Danny Green to regain his top-flight “3&D” form this season and give them another defender and weapon when they go up against that potential juggernaut out West. And the Clippers, too.
But that comeback is getting off to a slow start, the team announced Friday.
This likely means a little more run for Manu Ginobili and Kevin Martin to start the season, plus some funky lineups from Gregg Popovich.
Green played great defense last season but struggled from three (where 60 percent of his attempts are taken). Green shot 33.2 percent from deep on the season, which is well below his career average of 40.3 percent (and last year’s down numbers were buoyed by a red-hot January, he was much worse the rest of the season).
It’s something for Spurs fans to monitor, they need to get his legs right before his shot can return.
The NBA’s award season seems more wide open than ever.
Ben Simmons was going to enter the season as the heavy favorite to win Rookie of the Year, but with him out injured the door is flung open to a lot of players. Coach of the Year is always a game of “which coach exceeds expectations.” Even MVP seems more open with Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant — the award winners the past three seasons — teamed up in the Bay Area.
In this latest PBT Extra I throw out my predictions for the awards, but let’s get on with the games next week and see who earns them.