The Nuggets were largely considered to be underachievers during the bulk of George Karl’s nine years as the team’s head coach.
But would you consider those teams to have been “soft?”
It’s a nebulous term at best, but Denver’s new head coach, Brian Shaw, wants to make sure it no longer applies. He’s trying to impress a defensive-minded toughness upon his guys in the early stages of training camp.
The Nuggets have a new way to play.
“Smashmouth basketball,” new Denver coach Brian Shaw said.
I asked Shaw to define his terms. What qualifies as smashmouth basketball?
“Smashmouth means that you are literally going to get your mouth smashed if you’re going against us for a rebound or a loose ball,” Shaw said. “We want to have a nasty disposition, both offensively and defensively.”
“The style of play … is going to be a little different than what it has been around here for the past few years,” Shaw said. “We do still want to take advantage of getting up and down the floor and take advantage of the climate and the altitude. But, with that being said, the teams I’ve been associated both as a player and as a coach have had success establishing a presence inside, executing in half court and having a defensive identity, as well as being a good rebounding team.”
What’s interesting here is that Denver wasn’t bad defensively last season. The team finished 11th in the league in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions), while finishing fifth in the league in offense and playing at the second fastest pace. The Nuggets also finished fourth in the league in rebounding rate, without smashing anyone in the mouth that I can recall.
Most head coaches would love to get their players to buy in to bringing an all-out assault to the defensive end of the floor on a nightly basis. But it takes a certain mindset from the individuals on the team to be able to bring that intensity, and it’s unclear if the personnel is in place on the Nuggets roster to give Shaw exactly what he’s looking for in his first season patrolling the sidelines.
But the good news is, the team’s defending and rebounding is already statistically well above average.