The 2016-17 season marks the 70th anniversary of the New York Knickerbockers franchise. To commemorate seven decades of Knicks basketball, Tommy Beer of Basketball Insiders, in a two-part series, has ranked the 70 greatest Knicks of all time. Here, we cover the first half of these rankings:
70. Jeremy Lin
Lin played fewer than 1,000 minutes, appearing in just 35 games, including only 25 starts, in his entire Knicks career. Nonetheless, few players have matched his impact, both on and off the court. “Linsanity” not only took over New York City in the winter of 2012, but it also became an international phenomenon. During the peak of Linsanity, a ten game stretch in February, Lin averaged 24.6 points, 9.2 assists and 2.4 steals. He scored a combined total 136 points in his first five starts, which is the highest point total in the first five starts of any player’s career since the NBA and ABA merged in 1976. Only three other players had scored more than 100 points: Shaquille O’Neal (129), Michael Jordan (116) and Allen Iverson (107). Yes, the flame didn’t last long, but it sure was fun to watch it burn while it lasted.Another tidbit: There are only two players in Knicks history who have appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated multiple times: Patrick Ewing and Jeremy Lin.
69. Len Chappell
Chappell played three years in New York. His first season, 1963-64, was his best. Chappell was named to the All-Star team that year, averaging 17.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per contest.
68. Chris Childs
Childs was a starter on the 1996-97 squad, and a valuable reserve the following three seasons. He may be best known (and most loved) for clocking Kobe Bryant.
67. Xavier McDaniel
He only played one full season with the Knicks, but it would still feel wrong not including him on this list. The X-Man averaged 13.7 points and 5.6 boards in 1991-92 and was phenomenal in the postseason that year as he averaged 18.8 points and 7.2 rebounds. He earns bonus points for bullying MJ and Scottie.
66. Dean Meminger
Dean the Dream was a playground legend in NYC before ever suiting up as a professional. He played four seasons with the Knicks and was a reliable contributor off the bench during the team’s title run in 1973. During the postseason that year, Meminger played in all 17 games, making 31 of 56 field-goal attempts — good for a team-leading 55.4 shooting percentage.
65. Kenny Walker
After starring at the University of Kentucky, Walker was selected with the fifth pick in the 1986 NBA draft. He ended up playing for five coaches in his five years with the Knicks. Sky Walker won the 1989 Slam Dunk Contest. He wasn’t even supposed to appear in the contest, but was asked to be a last-minute replacement and agreed. Competing in the memory of his father, who had just passed away a few days earlier, he took home the title.
64. Raymond Felton
Felton had two separate stints with the Knicks. In total, he started 189 games and averaged 13.4 points and 6.6 assists.
63. Nate Robinson
Always entertaining, Robinson was one of the greatest all-around athletes to ever wear the orange and blue. Nate was an All-American in high school in both football and basketball. He won the NBA Slam Dunk contest three times.
62. Dave Stallworth
“Dave the Rave” had two solid seasons in New York before suffering a heart attack in 1967, which sidelined him for two years. He rejoined the team in 1969-70 and was a valuable contributor off the bench. When Willis Reed was injured early in Game 5 of the 1970 NBA Finals, Stallworth had the unenviable task of trying to stop Wilt Chamberlain. But Stallworth held his own, and the Knicks managed to secure the incredibly important victory.
61. Eddy Curry
Unfortunately, due to the way his career ended, Curry is remembered as a disappointing underachiever. However, he had some productive seasons in NYC. From 2005 through 2008, Curry averaged 15.7 points and six rebounds per game. In December of 2006, he averaged 21.6 points and 7.9 rebounds. How about this factoid: Over the last 35 years, only three Knicks have scored at least 20 points and grabbed five rebounds in 10 or more consecutive games: Patrick Ewing, Amar’e Stoudemire and … Eddy Curry.
60. Tom Gola
Played four years for the Knicks and made the All-Star team in both the 1962-63 and 1963-64 seasons. In 1968, Gola was elected to the Pennsylvania State House. He was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on April 26, 1976.
59. Rory Sparrow
Sparrow established himself as a starting shooting guard for the Knicks in 1983-84 and averaged 10.4 points and 6.8 assists in the regular season, and then contributed 11.2 points per game in the playoffs. He tallied a career-high 7.1 per assists per game the following season.
58. Howard Komives
Komives was named to the NBA’s all-rookie team as a Knick in 1965 and had his best professional season in 1966-67, when he averaged 15.7 points and 6.2 assists. He was also part of the package NY sent to Detroit to acquire Dave DeBusschere.
57. Louis Orr
Orr played six seasons in New York, qualifying for the postseason three times. In 1984-85, he posted career-highs in points (12.7 ppg) and rebounds (4.9 rpg).
56. Hubert Davis
Yes, Scottie Pippen did foul him. Hue Hollins made the correct call. Let’s move on.
55. Vince Boryla
Boryla played five seasons for the New York Knicks in the 1950s and averaged 11.2 points. New York went to the NBA finals in 1952 and 1953, losing both times to George Mikan and the Lakers. At age 28, after he had retired as a player, Boryla later took over as the Knicks coach for three seasons.
54. Trent Tucker
How many guys can claim they have a rule named after them? Tucker’s three-pointer to beat the Bulls with one-tenth of a second remaining would force the NBA to mandate that the game clock and shot clock must show at least three-tenths of a second for a player to secure possession of the ball to attempt a field goal. Among all Knicks, Tucker ranks seventh in career games played and ninth in three-point percentage (40.9).
53. Kristaps Porzingis
Figuring out where to place Porzingis on this list is extremely difficult, considering he has played only 130 games in his career thus far. However, he has already posted some eye-popping numbers and infused much-needed hope into a depressed fanbase. Believe it or not, Porzingis already ranks eighth in franchise history in blocked shots! Porzingis also has knocked down at least three three-pointers and blocked six shots in the same game three times in his young career. No other player in Knicks franchise history has done that even once.
52. Johnny Newman
Newman was a starter on a successful Knicks teams. New York went to the playoffs in each of his three seasons in NYC, advancing to the second-round twice. However, that was one of the very few stops in his NBA career in which he was a part of a winning team. Newman lost 664 games over the course of his 16-year NBA career, which are the most losses by an individual player in the history of professional basketball.
51. Charles Smith
He’d rank higher if not for the infamous final moments of Game 5 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals.
50. Marvin Webster
Webster gets bonus points for having the coolest nickname on the list: The Human Eraser. He blocked 542 shots over six seasons as a Knick, the third most in franchise history.
49. Dick Van Arsdale
Van Arsdale was selected by the ‘Bockers in the second-round of the 1965 NBA draft. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team in 1966, along with his identical twin brother Tom Van Arsdale. Dick averaged 12.8 points and 5.7 rebounds in his three seasons as a Knick.
48. Toby Knight
Knight played four seasons in New York. In 1979-80, he posted career-highs in points (19.1), steals (1.4) and blocks (1.1), while shooting over 52 percent from the floor and 80 percent from the charity stripe.
47. Jamal Crawford
Crawford was (and still is) an incredibly gifted scorer. He appeared in a total of 299 games for the Knicks, averaging 17.6 points and 4.4 assists. Crawford would later find his groove coming off the bench in subsequent NBA stops. He won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award in 2010, 2014 and 2016, becoming the first three-time winner of the award in NBA history.
46. Wilson Chandler
Chandler is the only player in franchise history with at least 200 blocks and at least 200 made three-pointers. (And they used to play the “Willllsssssooooonnnn” sound effect from the movie “Cast Away” when he scored at MSG.)
45. Max Zaslofsky
Zaslofsky helped lead the Knicks to two consecutive NBA Finals in 1950-51 and 1951-52. He was named to the All-Star team in the 1951-52 season and he led New York in scoring with 14.1 points per game (13th in the league).
44. Bud Palmer
Palmer is widely credited with popularizing the jump shot in the late 1940s. He was the Knicks first captain and their first leading scorer. Palmer played three seasons with the Knicks, averaging 11.7 points per contest. He increased his scoring to 14.4 points in 14 playoff games.
43. Ray Felix
Felix spent six seasons in New York, from 1955 through 1960. He averaged 12 points and 9.1 rebounds as a Knick.
42. Derek Harper
One could make a very strong argument that Derek Harper would have been named MVP of the 1994 NBA Finals had Hakeem Olajuwon not gotten a fingertip on John Starks’ three-point attempt in the closing seconds of Game 6. Harper averaged 16.4 points, six assists and 2.4 steals in that series. He also hit a ton of big shots and played spectacular defense, locking up Kenny Smith.
41. Cazzie Russell
Few players arrived in New York with higher expectations than Cazzie Russell. The Knicks selected Russell with the first overall pick in the 1966 draft after a standout career at the University of Michigan. However, Cazzie never quite lived up to the hype, averaging a solid, if unspectacular, 13.3 points and 3.7 rebounds during his five seasons as a Knick.
40. David Lee
Not much was expected of Lee after the Knicks took him with the last pick in the first-round of 2005 draft. However, Lee would go on to post some incredible stats during his five seasons in New York. In his final year, 2009-10, Lee averaged 20.2 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. He’s one of only four Knicks to average at least 20/11/3 over a full season. The other three are Ewing, McAdoo and Bellamy. Lee’s stats benefited greatly from playing in Mike D’Antoni’s high-octane offense.
39. Gerald Wilkins
Which is a worse fate: Sisyphus being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill for all of eternity, or being tasked with guarding a young Michael Jordan in his prime?
38. Spencer Haywood
Compared to his days as a superstar in Seattle, Haywood’s numbers in New York are not nearly as impressive. Nonetheless, he still averaged 17.1 points and 8.6 rebounds during his four-year stint with the Knicks. Also, he enjoyed his time in NYC. According to Haywood’s bio on NBA.com: “In the Big Apple he led the life of a star. He married glamorous fashion model Iman, and the celebrity couple were regulars on the social scene.”
37. Charlie Ward
Ward, who won the Heisman Trophy and a national championship for Florida State in 1993, appeared in 580 games over 10 seasons in New York. That’s the most by any player since Patrick Ewing arrived. He was a gritty, steady point guard for some very good Knicks teams. He ranks fifth in franchise history in made three-pointers, fifth in steals and seventh in assists. Amazingly, Ward is the last Knick draftee to sign a multi-year contract extension after his rookie deal expired.
36. Phil Jackson
Action Jackson earned NBA All-Rookie Team honors in 1967-68, along with two other Knicks: Walt Frazier and Bill Bradley. He was a key contributor on the 1972-73 championship squad, averaging 8.1 ppg and 4.3 rpg in 17.4 minutes. The following season, 1973-74, Phil averaged a career-high 11.1 points. He ranks fifth on the all-time Knicks career list in games played. As you may have heard, he’s done some other stuff in the NBA since retiring as a player.
35. Kenny Sears
Drafted in 1955, Sears led the Knicks twice in scoring. He poured in 18.6 points per game in 1957-58 and a averaged a career-high 21 in 1958-59. Sears also led the league in field goal percentage in back-to-back seasons, 1958-59 (.490) and 1959-60 (.477). He made two All-Star teams.
Be sure to stop by later this week when we will release the rankings for the top-35 Knicks of all-time.
NBA PM: Lopez Leading On And Off The Court
Brook Lopez has been a valuable addition to the Los Angeles Lakers, both on and off the court.
In spite of the ongoing media circus, an inherently tougher conference and a roster that features just five players with more than three years of NBA experience, the Los Angeles Lakers are 8-10. Naturally, that won’t be good enough to reach the postseason in the West, but it’s better than most expected the young Lakers to fare. Their early season successes can be chalked up to their glut of budding talent — Julius Randle, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, among others — but there’s one other major driving force at hand here and his name is Brook Lopez.
Following years of will-they, won’t-they rumors, Lopez was acquired in a shocking blockbuster trade with the Brooklyn Nets just prior to this year’s draft. The Lakers were eager to get out from under Timofey Mozgov’s lengthy, albatross-sized contract, so they packaged him with the once-troubled D’Angelo Russell, shipping the pair off for Lopez and the No. 27 overall pick. The deal was largely made with financial implications in mind, but the initial returns on Lopez have been a massive win for the Lakers as well.
Although Lopez is currently logging a career-low in minutes (24.3), he still often leads the way for Los Angeles — like the night he effortlessly dropped 34 points and 10 rebounds on 6-for-9 from three-point range against his former franchise. Through 18 games, Lopez is averaging just 14.8 points and 5.1 rebounds — a scoring mark that ranks only above his rookie season with the New Jersey Nets in 2008-09 — but his statistical impact is key on this inconsistent roster nonetheless.
But beyond that, it seems as if some of Lopez’s biggest contributions this season have come off the court — just ask Kyle Kuzma and Ivica Zubac.
“[Lopez] has taught me how to be a professional,” Kuzma told Basketball Insiders prior to their game against the Boston Celtics earlier this month. “He’s one of the first guys in the gym, one of the last ones to leave.”
Lopez, who has carried his fair share of incredibly poor teams in the past — and often with a smile — is in the final year of the contract he signed back in 2015. His expiring deal worth $22.6 million made Lopez the perfect acquisition for a Lakers team hoping to shed cap space before the upcoming free agency period — where, allegedly, LeBron James and Paul George are both targets.
For a 7-foot center that just added a three-point shot to his game and knocked down 134 of them last season alone, Lopez may be one of the greatest trade afterthoughts in recent memory. The Lakers will likely finish in the lottery rather than the postseason, but Lopez — along with veterans Andrew Bogut, Corey Brewer and Luol Deng — have been a helpful presence for the slew of young Lakers as they adjust to professional basketball.
“They’re all great — they’ve been there, done that,” Kuzma said. “They have a lot of experience in this league, so it’s good to learn from those guys because they’ve played 10, 13 years and that’s what I want to do.”
Kuzma, of course, was selected with that No. 27 overall pick that the Nets sent to Los Angeles in the trade, and he’s been red-hot ever since. Following an impressive combine, summer league and preseason, Kuzma jumped into the starting lineup after Larry Nance Jr. fractured his hand just eight games into the campaign. Although the Rookie of the Year battle has been dominated by the Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons so far, Kuzma — averaging 16.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game — has emerged as a strong runner-up candidate.
For Zubac, however, it’s been a slower start to his NBA career but with Lopez, he says, things have gotten easier.
“The whole summer, I worked on my three-point shot,” Zubac told Basketball Insiders. “But also [I worked on my] post offense too, that’s what [Lopez] is good at. I’m really focusing my game around the post, so that’s where I’m trying to learn.”
Last year, Zubac was a popular late-season member of head coach Luke Walton’s rotation and he finished his rookie year averaging 7.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in just 16 minutes per game. Unfortunately, the new arrivals and recent emergences have limited Zubac to just 10 total minutes over four appearances in 2017-18. Still, Lopez gives Zubac a mentor worth modeling his game after, even if it’s at the expense of real experience this season.
To get Zubac on the floor, the center has spent time with the South Bay Lakers, Los Angeles’ G-League affiliate, as of late. In two games, Zubac has averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds on 73 percent shooting from the field. Despite the lack of playing time, Zubac was more than happy to praise not only Lopez but the efforts of the other aforementioned veterans too.
“I can learn a lot from them and they help me play my game,” Zubac said. “Whoever’s on the court, whoever I’m playing with, I just try to learn as much as I can from them.”
Ultimately, though, it all comes back to Lopez.
Again, Lopez has averaged a career-low in minutes, but his contributions have been crucial in the Lakers’ overall standing thus far. In the games that Lopez has played less than 21 minutes, the Lakers are 0-5; but when he plays more than 30, the team is 3-1. On top of that, the Lakers are 5-1 when Lopez hits two or more three-pointers in a game as well. That sample size is still certainly small, but it’s nice indicator of Lopez’s inherent on-court impact, even when he’s not carrying the team on his shoulders.
“[He makes life] a lot easier for me,” Kuzma said. “He’s one of the most established scorers in the league and his career average is, like, 20 [points] a game. You can always count on him to be there every single night.”
While the Lakers can plan for a dream offseason haul involving James, George and others, they’ll have a tough decision facing them in July. Whether he’s efficiently stretching the floor, finishing off assists from Ball or setting the tone in an inexperienced locker room, Lopez has been quite the addition for Los Angeles.
This summer, Lopez enters unrestricted free agency and will likely garner offers outside of the Lakers’ pay range considering their big plans. If the Lakers decide to focus elsewhere, another team will reap the rewards. Until then, the youthful core in Los Angeles will benefit from having Lopez train and educate them each day.
“[Lopez] takes care of his body, he stays low-key and is never in trouble,” Kuzma said. “He’s the type of professional I want to be.”
Whether this is just a one-year detour in his extensively underrated career or the start of a great, new partnership, Lopez’s arrival in Los Angeles has been a huge success already. But as far as role models go for both Kuzma and Zubac, there are few choices better than Brook Lopez — both on and off the court.
The Most Disappointing Teams So Far
Shane Rhodes looks at a few teams that have disappointed so far this season.
Approaching the season’s quarter mark, NBA teams are finally starting to settle into their respective grooves. As more and more players become comfortable, their teams begin to demonstrate what they can really do on the court. While some teams have exceeded expectations, a number of teams have underperformed and are looking worse, in some cases much worse, than expected.
Here are six of the NBA’s most disappointing teams so far this season.
6. Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks were going to be bad this season. They just weren’t expected to be this bad.
At 3-15, the Mavericks currently hold the worst record in the NBA. They rank 27th and 22nd in offensive and defensive rating, coming in at 99.3 and 107.6, respectively. Collectively, they are shooting just 42.2 percent from the floor and 34.7 percent from three-point range, both below league average. Nerlens Noel, whom Dallas acquired at the trade deadline last season, has played sparingly.
But there is seemingly a light at the end of the tunnel. The Mavericks’ three wins have come against the Memphis Grizzlies, Washington Wizards and the Milwaukee Bucks, three teams that made the playoffs a season ago and are expected to do so again this season. Victories against the Wizards — who are currently the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference at 10-7 — and the Bucks — who boast one of the best players in the league in Giannis Antetokounmpo — are especially encouraging.
As of now, though, the team is still a mess on both sides of the ball.
5. Miami HEAT
The Miami HEAT were expected to be playoff contenders after a torrid second half last season that saw them win 30 of their final 42 games. Now, the HEAT are currently sitting at the 11th seed in the East and, with a record of 7-9, are currently boasting a worse record than the New York Knicks (9-7), Indiana Pacers (10-8) and the Los Angeles Lakers (8-10).
The offense just hasn’t arrived yet in South Beach. Miami has an offensive rating of 103.13, good for 26th in the NBA. They are shooting under league average from the field (44.5 percent) and from three (35.2 percent) and are fifth in turnovers per game with 16.6 per contest; not exactly a winning formula. The $50 million man Kelly Olynyk has contributed just 8.9 points and 5.3 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game while the roster outside its starting unit looks flimsy at best. Dion Waiters hasn’t shot the ball as well as last season, either.
The schedule doesn’t get easier for the HEAT, with four upcoming games against the Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors in their next seven. Expect Miami to get even worse before they start to get better.
4. Milwaukee Bucks
Last season, the Milwaukee Bucks were the sixth seed in the East. They boast one of the best young cores in the league, headed by phenom Antetokounmpo and supported by the likes of Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon and, eventually, Jabari Parker.
Somehow, the Bucks find themselves at just 8-8.
In a weakened Eastern Conference, Milwaukee was expected to make a play for one of its top spots. Instead, the Bucks have gotten blown out by the Mavericks, while barely squeaking by teams like the Charlotte Hornets and Lakers. The Bucks are 23rd in the NBA in defensive rating with a mark of 106.5, worse than the Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls while also sitting at 23rd in net rating at -2.2, behind the Los Angeles Clippers (-1.7) and Utah Jazz (-1.3).
Antetokounmpo has yet to improve his stroke from beyond the arc, an undesirable albeit expected deficiency in his game. But, much of the Bucks roster hasn’t shot well from three. Middleton is shooting just 32.1 percent while big-acquisition Eric Bledsoe is shooting an abysmal 16 percent from beyond the arc since arriving in Milwaukee. If they can’t improve here it will be extremely hard for the Bucks to improve their position in the standings.
With six of their next nine games coming against teams at or below .500, the Bucks have a great chance to rebound from their sluggish start. That doesn’t change the fact that, with one of the NBA’s more talented rosters, the Bucks have been a major disappointment up to this point.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
At the time of this writing, the Cleveland Cavaliers have won five straight games. Most would say that would or should exempt them from a list like this.
They would be wrong.
The collective record of the teams Cleveland has played during its five-game win streak? 35-48. It may be encouraging to the fans to see the team rattle off five straight, but the Cavaliers aren’t exactly beating the best teams in the Association. They have been careless with the ball as well, turning it over more than 15 times per game while
Their biggest problem, however, is the fact that they can defend absolutely no one. With a defensive rating of 109.4, the Cavaliers have the worst defense in the league. They have gotten away with a lackluster effort in the past, Cleveland’s current roster, outside of LeBron James, just doesn’t have enough offensive firepower to make up for it. And the offense has been good; Cleveland is currently averaging 110.9 points per game with an offensive rating of 109.4, but that leaves them with a big goose egg for their net rating.
The Cavaliers will continue to struggle to beat teams as they attempt to outpace them on the offensive end. For a team that has made three straight NBA Finals and has one of the greatest of all time on its roster, that should certainly be regarded as a disappointment.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
Another “Big-3” was formed in the NBA after Paul George and Carmelo Anthony were paired with reigning Most Valuable Player Russell Westbrook in the offseason. However, the 2017-18 season hasn’t exactly gone according to plan for the Thunder
Labeled as a team to rival the Warriors for Western Conference supremacy, the Thunder have done anything but so far this season. While the individual stats counting of Westbrook, George and Anthony have looked good, the Thunder have not as a collective. The team sits at just 7-9, good for 10th in the Western Conference. They rank 19th, 23rd and 21st in the NBA in points, rebounds and assists per game, respectively while shooting 44.3 percent from the field and 35 percent from three, both good for 21st.
Westbrook’s early season shooting struggles have hurt the Thunder as well. Westbrook is shooting just 39.4 percent from the field and 32.5 percent from three. The dominance he displayed last season, especially late in games, just hasn’t appeared this season and the team is hurting because of it. If the Thunder want to move up in the standings, Westbrook will need to find a way to improve his shooting numbers; they will go as he goes much like last season, even with George and Anthony on the roster.
On a brighter note, the defense has been one of the best in the NBA. But if the Thunder can’t figure it out on offense and score well as a unit, they will continue to struggle, especially when having to face the high-octane offenses of the Warriors and Houston Rockets.
1. Los Angeles Clippers
When losing a player the caliber of Chris Paul, some regression is to be expected. Fortifying the roster with guards Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams and Milos Teodosic and forward Danilo Gallinari, however, the Clippers were expected to weather the storm, to an extent.
Early on the Clippers did exactly that. The team looked impressive in the early going, winning five of their first seven games and averaging 109 points per. Since then? Everything has seemingly gone downhill in Los Angeles, and fast.
The Clippers have lost nine straight by an average margin of 9.8 points per game. Thirteenth in the Western Conference with a 5-11 record, they have looked nothing like the playoff team they were expected to be and are by far the season’s biggest disappointment. They have played poorly on the defensive end, ranking 20th in the NBA with a defensive rating of 106.2. Opponents have shot 45.4 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from three against them.
Things haven’t been the greatest on offense, either. In Paul’s absence, the Clippers have dropped from 15th in assists per game a year ago to 28th this season, averaging just 19.6 per game. While they are averaging 104.9 points per game, they are doing so on just 44.1 percent shooting.
Injuries have played a major role in the Clippers struggles; additions Beverly, Gallinari and Teodosic have all missed or are currently missing time with injury. But it’s discouraging to see that Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are unable to elevate the Clippers outside of the Western Conference basement.
NBA AM: Paul Millsap’s Injury Derails Denver
With Paul Millsap injured, the Nuggets hopes to become a contender take a hit.
After missing the playoffs for the past four seasons, the Denver Nuggets are a team on the rise. The team won 30 games in 2015, 33 in 2016, 40 in 2017 and are currently on pace to record 48 victories this season, which would be their most since 2013.
The squad features six players averaging more than 10 points per contest, not including two veterans in Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler, both of whom are career double-digit scorers. The Nuggets also boast one of the youngest teams in the league with only three players over the age of 30 (Paul Millsap, Chandler and Richard Jefferson).
But the team was dealt a huge blow this week when it was learned that four-time All-Star forward Paul Millsap will be out the next three to four months after suffering a torn ligament in his wrist.
Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsap's surgery will be to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist and could sideline him for three months, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 21, 2017
Millsap was extremely durable during his first 11 seasons in the league, missing 10 games just once (2017). This injury marks the first time in Millsap’s career where he will miss significant time while roaming the sideline in designer suits.
Millsap signed a three-year, $90 million deal this past summer and his acquisition was viewed as the next step in bringing the team back into the realm of the playoffs.
After an early season adjustment period, Denver (10-7) has rattled off seven victories in their last 10 games. For the team, Millsap’s injury news couldn’t have come at a worst time. The veteran was averaging 15.3 points and 6.2 rebounds through 16 contests. The points are his lowest since 2013 and the rebounding output is his lowest since 2010, but Millsap’s presence has helped stabilize the young Nuggets on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.
The Nuggets do have a plethora of power forwards on the depth chart. Veteran Kenneth Faried has started 366 contests for the franchise since being drafted in 2011. Faried’s future with the franchise has come into question in recent years as his playing time and role in the rotation has consistently diminished. The signing of Millsap likely solidified that fate, however, by not dealing Faried, the Nuggets were able to keep an insurance policy in the fold.
Third-year forward and former lottery pick Trey Lyles is another candidate for an increased workload. Lyles is currently averaging 6.8 minutes in 12 appearances but is shooting a career high from the field (52 percent) and three-point range (42 percent) in his limited court time. Another like candidate for more playing time is second-year big man Juan Hernangomez, who has currently appeared in just six contests.
Offensively, the Nuggets will be able to absorb his loss. Guards Gary Harris and Jamal Murray score the ball efficiently while swingman Will Barton provides pop off the bench. The team will also likely ride the back of their franchise player Nikola Jokic a bit more as well, with the big man averaging just 11.6 shot attempts per game—third on the team.
Perhaps the biggest area the Nuggets will have to adjust is on the defensive end.
According to ESPN’s real defensive plus-minus (DPM), Millsap ranks 31st overall in the league (1.62). He ranks seventh among power forwards with at least 10 games played this season. Last season, Millsap was fifth among power forward and 14th overall in DPM.
The veteran’s track of improving a team’s prowess on the defensive end is proven and it’s exactly the type of “silent” attribute the Nuggets needed on a loaded young team still learning how to play on that side of the ball.
|Paul Millsap – Real Defensive Plus-Minus|
|Season||DPM||League Overall Rank||Power Forward Rank|
The Nuggets will be tested immediately without Millsap in the fold. The team travels to Houston (November 22) and will play nine of their next 13 games are on the road. This includes a six-game road trip from December 4 to December 13.
The team is currently 7-2 at home and just 3-5 away from the Pepsi center.
They will, for sure, be tested without Millsap.