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Trouble from the Top Down in New York

The Knicks are a troubled franchise, which stems from the top of the organization, writes Tommy Beer.

Tommy Beer

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After over six months of silence, Phil Jackson finally spoke with the media last week. During his nearly hour-long press conference, Jackson addressed a broad range of issues. Many of them have been covered in depth, including his startling assessment of Carmelo Anthony and Melo’s future in New York, as well as his admission that he plans to take a more hands-on approach in practices next season.

However, one topic that hasn’t been discussed much was Jackson alluding to, on numerous occasions, how the system he is running with the Knicks is similar to that of the San Antonio Spurs and the NFL’s New England Patriots.

When asked about the Triangle, Phil’s meandering answer eventually led to him discussing current dynastic franchises and the men responsible for running them. Jackson explained that he believes it’s crucial to have a trusted template when you “build a system of anything.”

Jackson elaborated on this point.

“It’s no wonder the Spurs can have some success continuing their action,” Jackson said. “Or the Patriots can have success, because they can put people in places. We could do that with the Bulls and the Lakers. … You can have something that’s concrete.”

“Whether it’s teams that I have coached or Belichick, there is an identifiable way in which they play. When you develop that system so that people are all on board with that system, then you have something that’s concrete. A format.”

It all made sense, especially coming from one of the greatest coaches in NBA history. However, Phil is no longer a coach, which is part of the reason why his comments missed the mark. Also, the premise of his argument was off-base as well.

One of the keys to success for the Patriots under Bill Belichick has been Belichick’s willingness to adapt his game plan, on both sides of the ball, to his personnel. Belichick has never been chained to one particular approach, dating all the way back to his days as defensive coordinator with the Giants under Bill Parcells, when Belichick was able to slow down the Buffalo Bills’ seemingly unstoppable K-Gun offense in Super Bowl XXV.

Obviously, Belichick had to employ a different strategy to defeat the Rams (“Greatest Show on Turf”) in 2001 than he did to beat the Seahawks in 2014. The Pats have switched from a base 3-4 to a 4-3 defense and back on numerous occasions during the Belichick era.

Time and time again, Bill Belichick has adapted his schemes to match his personnel on offense and defense.

Obviously, Tom Brady has been indispensable for Belichick and the Pats in much the same way Tim Duncan was for Gregg Popovich and the Spurs during Duncan’s illustrious career.

However, even when a knee injury sidelined Brady for the entire 2008 campaign, Matt Cassel was named the starting quarterback and the Pats still managed to win 11 games that season. Of course, Belichick had to run a far different offense with Cassel under center than when Brady was taking snaps.

On a similar note, Tim Duncan was a shell of himself by his final NBA season in 2015-16. Duncan averaged just 8.6 points, but the Spurs still went on to win a franchise-record 67 games in the regular season. And, after Duncan retired last summer, the Spurs came back and once again cracked the 60-win plateau in 2016-17. Pop could no longer dump the ball down low to an all-time great in Duncan. Popovich was forced to modify his attack and did so quite successfully.

The juxtaposition of the Knicks and the Spurs is an easier ‘apples-to-apples’ comparison for obvious reasons. And comparing these two franchises allows us to make a dramatic contrast, which predates Phil Jackson, and shows why Knicks fans shouldn’t be overly surprised that the Zen Master experiment has been a disaster.

*****

The Knicks and Spurs squared off in the 1999 NBA Finals. That series ended on June 25th, 1999, with the Spurs capturing the crown by winning Game 5 at Madison Square Garden. Since that day, the two franchises have gone in completely divergent directions.

Starting with each team’s next game, which was opening night of the 1999-2000 season, the Spurs have compiled a regular-season record of 1,040-420. Yes, that’s 620 games over .500, which equates to a .712 winning percentage.

The Knicks, on the other hand, are 208 games under .500 at 626-834.

The Spurs have won 136 playoff games (and counting) and four NBA championships over that same time frame.

The Knicks, on the other hand, have won only of three postseason series and a total of 18 playoff games since the turn of the century.

The Spurs have won at least 50 games several times and qualified for the playoffs every single season since 1999.

The Knicks have won over 50 games just once.

*****

Pinning the Knicks struggles solely on Phil Jackson would be a mistake. There is a systemic dysfunction plaguing the Knicks that can be traced back to the change in ownership. Since Jim Dolan seized control of the team, the Knickerbockers have been a laughingstock, generating far more attention from missteps on and off the court than any success they have had between the lines.

With Gregg Popovich and General Manager R.C. Buford running the ship in San Antonio for owner Peter Holt, the focus of the franchise has been winning ball games. No more, no less. No sideshows. No circus attractions. You know what didn’t happen in San Antonio this season? Buford didn’t use Twitter to insult his team’s top scorer. Holt didn’t feud with a beloved former player and have said player arrested and escorted out of his home arena in handcuffs, only to then to make accusations of alcoholism. When’s the last time Holt interfered with trade negotiations and overruled Pop and Buford? Dolan has, which resulted in the Knicks giving away the farm for Carmelo Anthony and a first-round pick for Andrea Bargnani.

The Knicks have been awful for the last three seasons, but they have also been brutally bad and mostly unwatchable for the 15 prior seasons as well. There is one common denominator spanning those 18 years of futility.

Success, or failure, starts at the top.

Each season, ESPN puts out a management ranking, which rates executives of each franchise from top to bottom (team presidents, vice presidents and general managers). In 2017, once again, Popovich and Buford finished first. The Knicks (Jackson and Steve Mills) finished 29th. In the overall rankings, which includes ownership, management and coaching, the Spurs ranked first, and the Knicks were dead last.

*****

While Dolan’s culpability is undeniable, that doesn’t mean we should let Phil off the hook.

Dolan, recognizing past mistakes, announced publicly that he would be completely “hands off” when he hired Jackson.

“I am by no means an expert in basketball. I’m a fan, but my expertise lies in managing companies and businesses,” said Dolan on the day he introduced Jackson. “So I think I’m a little out of my element when it comes to the team. I found myself in a position where I needed to be more a part of the decision-making for a while. It wasn’t necessarily something that I wanted to do, but as chairman of the company, I felt obligated to do.”

Dolan has stuck to his word. However, since taking control of the decision-making in the organization, Phil has let his ego get in the way of the team’s advancement, which brings us back to Friday’s press conference.

Phil alienated current players and fans alike with his inflammatory comments, in addition to referencing the Patriots and Spurs.

It would be one thing if Phil were on the frontlines as the head coach installing this system with a group of talented players that were willing to buy into it. Instead, he’s attempting to pull strings from his office or 15 rows behind the bench. For three straight seasons, the team’s best players have rebelled, and now two coaches have been coerced to go against their preferred strategies to implement something they’re not entirely comfortable with.

What if, back in Chicago in the 1990’s, Bulls General Manager Jerry Krause had informed Phil that he had to ditch The Triangle and run more pick-and-rolls if he wanted to keep his job? How would Jackson have responded? How would Jordan and Pippen have felt, unsure if it was their coach or GM that was deciding how they would run their offense? Obviously, this is an untenable situation.

Jackson does share something in common with Bill Belichick and Gregg Popovich nowadays. All three are antagonistic towards the media. The difference is Pop and Belichick have recently earned rings and racked up plenty of wins on the sidelines this decade.

Phil comes across as dismissive despite the fact that his team has lost 166 games over the last three seasons.

In addition, Belichick and Popovich have thrived in recent years because they have been so willing to embrace change and tweak their approach based on personnel, as opposed to forcing the personnel they have to fit into a rigid system.

Popovich promotes a culture of culpability but is not married to a particular brand of basketball. Earlier this month in this space, we discussed the problems inherent in attempting to win in today’s NBA by relying solely on Triangle principles. Well, one of the rare teams that are successful in the modern day NBA without being overly reliant on the three-point shot is the San Antonio Spurs. They do lead the NBA in three-point percentage, but they don’t mind getting LaMarcus Aldridge or Kawhi Leonard open looks in the mid-range area. Still, the Spurs have proven they can win with their current roster composition and offensive approach. That’s primarily because they have always been a defense-first organization. That’s what they remain committed to, through thick and thin. Furthermore, it is important to note that when the Spurs won their most recent title back in 2014, Pop’s team averaged 23.6 3-point attempts per game during the Finals, which set a record for the most long-range attempts by any champion in NBA history.

The last time the Knicks finished near the top of the league in three-point attempts was 2012-13, which just happens to be the year they won 54 games and advanced to the second-round of the postseason. The last time the Knicks were committed to defense and made that the focal point of their franchise was back when Patrick Ewing roamed the paint. Those Knicks teams advanced to the playoffs every single season from 1987 through 2000.

The Knicks’ recent past is littered with losses, and the organization is in trouble moving forward as well. That trouble starts at the top. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to envision either Jim Dolan or Phil Jackson doing what is necessary to remedy the situation and lead the franchise back to respectability.

Tommy Beer is a Senior NBA Analyst and the Fantasy Sports Editor of Basketball Insiders, having covered the NBA for the last nine seasons.

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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.

Ben Nadeau

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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.

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The Most Disappointing Teams So Far

Shane Rhodes looks at a few teams that have disappointed so far this season.

Shane Rhodes

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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.

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NBA AM: Paul Millsap’s Injury Derails Denver

With Paul Millsap injured, the Nuggets hopes to become a contender take a hit.

Lang Greene

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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.

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
2013-14 2.06                 63                   12
2014-15 2.22                 43                    8
2015-16 3.26                 12                    2
2016-17 3.35                 14                   5
2017-18 1..62                 31                  9

 

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.

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