Nuggets vs. Pistons: Takeaways and Player Grades

Apr 8, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic (23) reacts next to guard Gary Harris (14) after a play in the fourth quarter against the San Antonio Spurs at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets got demolished by Andre Drummond and the Detroit Pistons, losing by 17 points despite attempting 11 more Field Goals in the game.

Well, that certainly did not go as planned for the Nuggets, but after watching the game, one has to wonder if Denver even had a plan going in.

As this team soars and sinks, one thing has become apparent over all else; this team needs to play smarter basketball. Against Detroit, this Nuggets team played with the sort of lackadaisical energy that one might expect from the all-star game.

Shooters were being left wide open, bonehead shots were going up left and right, and the Nuggets’ offense was generally executed as if their weak defense was being returned… it wasn’t.

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As far as takeaways goes, this one seems quite simple. The Nuggets need to be more methodical. On both offense and defense, unorganization and improvisation reigned supreme. Whether this comes from a lack of preparation, or a failure to carry preparations onto the court remains to be seen.

Regardless, the season will be long and disappointing if the Nuggets fail to correct their general sloppiness, which can be basically broken down into one major factor for both offense and defense.

Mar 21, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone reacts during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavs won 124-91. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Nuggets need to prepare for pick and rolls and stop praying for misses.

The emerging defensive weakness for this Nuggets squad seems to be reacting/adapting to pick and rolls. While watching this Nuggets game, it felt as if every other pick and roll resulted in an obvious mismatch somewhere on the court. Pick and rolls and of the most basic offensive game-plans. The Nuggets simply must be better prepared to handle them. Assigning and carrying out the appropriate switches needs to be a defensive priority. This could be a result of lineups, or maybe its just an overall team issue. Either way, fixing it will start with practice, and defending pick and rolls has to be on the top of the Nuggets’ priority list.

Mandatory Credit: Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports

On a similar note, the Nuggets need to start showing more respect for their opponents. Particularly against shooters, the mentality seems to be playing conservatively and hoping for misses. This has helped the Nuggets secure defensive boards, but it has also caused them to give up A LOT of easy shots. Every game seems to hot handed guard who simply has their way with the Nuggets. Against Detroit, it was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. He was hitting just about everything, and even then he was getting relatively uncovered shots. There needs to be an injection of energy into this Nuggets defense.

At the moment, Kenneth Faried looks like their best defender, as one of the few bringing energy and effort into every defensive match-up. Will Barton brought a similar caliber of defensive energy onto the court, and he was sorely missed against the Pistons. Gary Harris looked rusty, and Jamal Murray played like a rookie. Much of basketball is mental, and if the Nuggets continue to give up the space that players need to feel confident in their shots, then the shots will keep falling. Nuggets defenders need to make shooters feel the pressure, and second guess their shot selection. Handing confidence to shooters on a silver platter is never a good idea, and KCP got to feast.

Andre Drummond was simply unstoppable. He clearly took the loss to Brooklyn (just before this Nuggets match-up) quite personally. He was on a mission of redemption, and he accomplished it, backed by the support of a home crowd. The Nuggets tried to contain him, but Drummond would simply not be stopped. He went 7-11 from the line. That alone should tell you that the basketball gods were smiling upon Andre Drummond last night.

Even with their unimpressive defensive effort, the Nuggets had a chance to close in on Detroit’s lead, but blew it with alarmingly poor offensive execution.

Oct 21, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) reacts after a play in the third quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 101-75. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Nuggets need a leader to step up, and bring in a sense of offensive accountability.

The Nuggets need to take better shots. This game was generally a rough one, and some good shots just would not fall. Fortunately, there were also a good amount of terrible shots taken, as each player seemed to be gunning for the one-man comeback after ending the 1st quarter. I say “fortunately” because this should be an easy problem to fix, it is simply a matter of composure. Denver’s coaching staff and veteran players need to up their leadership and start holding each other responsible for taking bad shots. Whenever a bonehead three bounces off the rim, the players simply wait for their next opportunity to score. This is unacceptable.

Mandatory Credit: Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports

The Nuggets need a Chris Paul type figure to step up and start upping the accountability for shot selection. This does not mean vocalizing blame and starting fights, but it does call for on-court leadership and assertive encouragement. As it stands, Wilson Chandler seems to be the player best poised to take on this role.

His veteran experience and relentlessness on the court are two great ingredients for making a team leader. This would mean going harder on himself too, which also seems right in Chandler’s wheelhouse. The look of frustration on Chandler’s face after a late game turnover was refreshing, as it revealed just how much he cared. That sort of passion can be contagious if applied correctly. If Wilson Chandler can harness the respect of his teammates, then he could very well lead them to a turnaround in offensive and defense accountability. One thing is for sure, the sort of “it is what it is” mentality being displayed by most of these Denver Nuggets is just not cutting it. Its time to play with more responsibility.

Take a look at these Nuggets player grades from Detroit’s match-up. It won’t take long for this inefficiency and lack of accountability to make itself apparent.

Mar 4, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) reacts after a play in the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

This would be a report card to hide from Mom…

It might be a little harsh, but I’m handing out an F tonight. No player deserved an A, but Wilson Chandler would come close, leading the pack with a B+, the team’s only player, that logged 16 minutes or more, to break out of the C’s.

You can check out the box score here to see how you feel about our assigned player grades.

Now, without further adieu, let’s roll out the report card !

Nov 5, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Stanley Johnson (7) battles with Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) during the fourth quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Detroit defeated Denver 103-86. Mandatory Credit: Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports

Jamal Murray

Grade: F

Teacher’s Comment: Your son displayed a lack of self-control

I expected more out of Murray. A simple look at the box score might not warrant the F that he was given, but after getting to know Murray’s personality in the off-season, I expected way less bonehead three’s and bad passes. He turned the ball over 4 time, and only logged 2 assists. He went 4-10 from the field, which isn’t terrible, BUT, three of those shots were terrible three-point attempts.

This lack of self-control is worrying, as I expected much more maturity to brought into this game by Murray. He was also incapable of slowing down KCP, leaving him deserving of the F in my opinion.

Mar 4, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) reacts after a play in the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at the Pepsi Center. The Nets defeated the Nuggets 121-120 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Emmanuel Mudiay

Grade: D

Teacher’s comment: Your son needs to calm down during class

Mudiay, Mudiay, Mudiay. He has shown glimpses of greatness, AND is still under the legal drinking age, but Mudiay needs to relax his play on the court. He plays energy that at times seems completely unhinged, which leads to panic and poor decision-making.

Emmanuel needs to slow down and calculate his attacks, instead of going full throttle one hundred percent of the time. As a point guard, he is expected to run the offense with efficiency, and he utterly failed to do so against the Pistons.

He went 0-7 on the night, and continued to force shots up even though the Pistons were completely smothering him. Mudiay was taking awful shots, including two three-point attempts, which we are all ready to see him stop taking. He was also unable to slow down Ish Smith, a player traditionally known for a lack of scoring ability. Mudiay flirted with an F tonight, but his efficiency from the line got him the D+.

Oct 3, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari (8) takes a free throw against the Toronto Raptors during the third quarter at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Danilo Gallinari

Grade: C-

Teacher’s comment: Your son needs to contribute more during class

Gallinari just had a weak night. Its pretty plain and simple. Most of his missed shots came from his inability to get the calls that would normally send him to the line. Yes, he too had his handful of bad shots, but most of this game’s frustration, for Gallo, came from failing to get to the line. Gallo went 4-5 from the line, and finished the night going 5-14 from the field, for a total of 16 points.

If Gallinari is to be this team’s leading offensive threat, then he needs to score more. relying on free throws night after night is not going to cut it. In every game, there is a point where players, coaches, and fans can pretty much tell how the calls are going. If they aren’t going Gallo’s way, then he needs to start looking for more genuine scoring opportunities from the field. Instead of running into traffic again and again, Gallo needs to adapt his play to the flow of the games and score more, and through a greater variety of ways.

His inability to adapt is the leading cause of his C-. He did not commit a single turnover though, which saved him from getting the D.

Feb 3, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) reacts to a foul during the second quarter of a game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Kenneth Faried

Grade: C

Teacher’s comment: Your son may be falling behind

As usual, the effort was there for Faried, but he too had a bad night form the field. He ended up going 1-8 from the field, and scored just 4 points. He made a decent defensive effort, and grabbed 6 rebounds in just 16 minutes, but he failed to make an impact on the game. 5 of his 6 rebound were offensive boards, and most of those came in the form of failed tip-in attempts. His box score isn’t terrible, but it’s not very good either, and watching him play was a tough task.

As the spark off the bench, Faried was somewhat counted on to turn the Nuggets around after they fell to an early lead, but he failed to do so. He took some bad shots, and seemed out of rhythm all night. He did go 2-2 from the line, but he failed to secure defensive boards, or log a single steal or block. He even blew a dunk, which was the cherry on top of his unmanimalistically timid night. Hopefully he bounces back quickly.

Mar 6, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) warms up prior to the game against the Dallas Mavericks at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Nikola Jokic

Grade: C

Teachers comment: Your son needs to be more active in class

Jokic just didn’t do much of anything. He was very quiet. Coming off of last year’s commended season, Jokic needs to do more for this team. Making the adjustment from playing center to playing PF has proven to be a speed bump for Jokic, which he will not overcome through passive play. Jokic needs to be more active and aggressive.

With his length and versatility, Jokic has the potential to do great things, but he needs to up the energy offensively and defensively. He played too passively against the Pistons, and simply waited for the ball to come to him. His stat line wasn’t too bad, but his effort level was uncharacteristically low.

Nikola is a competitor, and my guess is that the frustration of switching positions has led Jokic to play with less confidence, and therefore less aggressiveness. Now that Darrell Arthur is back, maybe Jokic will see more time at center, and his competitiveness will return. Either way, his low activity level, displayed against the Pistons, is not going to cut it.

Feb 3, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Denver Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic (23) reacts to a call during the second half against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Jazz won 85-81. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Jusuf Nurkic

Grade: C+

Teacher’s comment: Your son was bullied by another student

Andre Drummond destroyed Jusuf Nurkic last night. Nurk did all he could, but he is just not ready to take on a player like Drummond quite yet. He did manage another double-double, and shot well, going 5-8 from the field and getting his double-double in just 24 minutes, BUT he also had 4 turnovers compared to just 1 assist.

Mainly, his low grade comes from the complete inability to stop Andre Drummond, who as a player, does not posses much offensive versatility. But still, he dropped 19 points on the Nuggets, going 6-10 from the field, and getting to the line for 11 shots. Beating the Pistons ALWAYS starts with stopping Drummond, and Nurkic’s inability to do so was probably the leading factor in the Piston’s dominance. Offensively, Nurkic wasn’t too bad, but defensively, Drummond made a fool of him.

Nov 5, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Jameer Nelson (1) drives the ball to the basket during the second quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports

Jameer Nelson

Grade: C+

Teacher’s comment: Your son is struggling to keep up with his classmates

Jameer did not have a terrible night, but he was pretty lackluster. Unlike his former self, he struggled to set up plays for his teammates, though this also came from his teammates’ inability to score throughout the entire game. Jameer went just 1-8 from the field, and showed his age on the offensive end. At this point in his career, Nelson should be looking for catch and shoot threes and free-throw attempts.

Instead, against the Pistons, he continued attempts to create his own shots against active defenders, and his stat line shows the results. He did manage to record 4 assists to just one turnover, and brought in three steals on the night. Overall, it was a pretty average night for Nelson, but disappointingly so.

Oct 16, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler (21) shoots against the Portland Trail Blazers during the first quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Wilson Chandler

Grade: B+

Teacher’s comment: Your son has displayed extraordinary effort

Wilson Chandler, the great redeemer. This was at least the case last night, as he was clearly the top performing Nugget. Not only was his stat line impressive, but the general determination with which he played was admirable to say the least.

Where most of the players seemed to give up early on, Chandler continued to fight, and even surged the Nuggets back to a single-digit deficit before half time. He scored 21 points, but his effort would not be enough. Chandler did get overzealous at times, turning the ball over three times without logging a single assist. This is really the only factor that kept Chandler from getting an A-. Watching this game made me wish that every Nuggets player would match the ferocity that Chandler brought into the game. But besides maybe Jusuf Nurkic, no player would even come close, as Chandler was more or less left to keep the team alive on his own.

Chandler has been one the most consistently performing players this season, which will hopefully launch him into a position of being the team’s on-court leader. Until that happens, the Nuggets will have to continue relying on luck more than determination, which can only yield so much success.

The Denver Nuggets will square off against the Boston Celtics tomorrow in hopes to get their third win of the season. Check back in at Nugg Love for your highlights and pre-game needs met.

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