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.
There were eight teams (that we know of) having some level of contact with Phoenix about getting in on a Trevor Ariza trade. The Lakers were one and — as with all things Lakers — were the most talked about.
But the Lakers were never going to pull off that trade because the Suns’ owner, Robert Sarver, didn’t want it to happen, according to David Aldridge of The Athletic.
Sarver — a very hands-on owner when it comes to basketball decisions — is probably still stung by buying out Tyson Chandler and watching him go to the Lakers and dramatically helping their defense (the Lakers are allowing less than a point per possession when Chandler is on the court). And certainly spiting the Lakers will play well with the Suns’ fan base.
However, the best franchises put aside petty thinking and do what’s best for them. If the Lakers had made the best offer (and we don’t know if it was) then take it. If it makes the Lakers better this season, or even the next few seasons, so what? If you’re the Suns, you’re in a rebuilding process and should be focused on the long term.
That said, the Laker trade was always going to be complicated and hard to pull off, LeBron James wasn’t going to be able to call up Suns GM James Jones and make this one happen. The Lakers wanted to land Ariza but also wanted to send out Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and KCP doesn’t fit with what the Suns wanted (a point guard and young players or draft assets). That means a third team was going to have to get involved, maybe Philadelphia, and possibly even a fourth. The Lakers were not going to trade any of their four core young players, making this trade even harder.
What the Suns got in the trade with Washington was what they wanted: A point guard (Austin Rivers, who is not all that good, as evidenced by his 7.1 PER this season, but is better than anyone the Suns have) and a young wing in Kelly Oubre who fits on the timeline of Devin Booker and the other young Suns. Phoenix did reasonably well in this trade.
Could they have done better? Doesn’t matter, if the owner is shooting down an idea then it’s dead. That’s his prerogative.
The No. 2 pick in last June’s draft, Marvin Bagley III is having a solid season. He’s averaging 12.7 points and 6.1 rebounds a game coming off the bench. He’s got a good 59.2 true shooting percentage and the 6’11” big man gets most of his buckets at the rim or at least in the paint although he can hit threes when he steps out there (taking one a game but hitting 35.7 percent). He’s lost on defense, as most rookies are, but there is some potential there.
The Kings are going to have to get by without him for the next 10 to 14 days due to a bone bruise in his left knee, the team announced Friday night.
The injury happened in the second quarter of Friday night’s Sacramento loss to Golden State, when Bagley was battling for a rebound and landed awkwardly. He got a bucket out of it because he was “cherry-picking” after not being able to run back down the court, but he waved to the coaches and asked out after scoring. Bagley left the game, had to be helped to the locker room and did not return.
With Bagley out expect to see a lot more Justin Jackson. Harry Giles III has been out of the rotation of late but he could potentially get a little run, too.
Well played Sacramento.
Golden State came to town Friday night and during player introductions the Kings ran a video on their jumbotron of the moon landing to troll Stephen Curry.
Curry this past week said on a podcast that he didn’t think we landed on the moon, later saying it was obviously a joke but he would take NASA up on their offer of a tour of their lunar labs.
Curry can laugh at himself and gave the Kings and “A for effort” with the video.
Brooks who? Turns out Phoenix and Washington didn’t need a third team involved to get a trade done.
Phoenix gets a point guard, and the Wizards get a veteran presence in a trade that is straight up between the two: Trevor Ariza heads to Washington while Austin Rivers, Kelly Oubre are going to Phoenix, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
The struggling Wizards get a veteran presence in their locker room — something the team where players don’t like each other and it shows on the court could use. Not that one move solves all those problems. Plus, Ariza brings a solid wing defensive and three-point shooting presence (36 percent) to the team (although he has struggled this season inside the arc). That said, there was a lot of trade value in Oubre and to get one player and no picks back in this trade — they would have gotten second rounders in the blown up Friday night deal — feels like the Wizards sold short. Washington also saves about $1.5 million in salary and luxury tax, but they need to add a 14th player to the roster in the next two weeks and even at the minimum that will eat into some of those savings.
Phoenix has desperately needed a point guard and now they got a rotation level one in Rivers, which is an upgrade for this team (whatever you think of Rivers). Plus the young Kelly Oubre fits better on the Suns’ timeline — with Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and the rest — than the veteran Ariza, but the Suns are already deep on the wing. Oubre will be a restricted free agent next summer, by then the Suns should have a sense about him and if they want to keep him.