They're not so coincidentally the NBA's best league pass team. Get ready for the Denver Nuggets, the hopeful heirs to that old Phoenix style of efficient entertainment. Though lacking a star on the Steve Nash level, the Nuggets have enough speed and athleticism to win over 50 games based on their break.
It isn't just the break, though. There is subtlety to the Nuggets' attack, revealed in the data collected from Denver's camera tracking system. Zach Lowe at Sports Illustrated details the findings:
"Lawson is super speedy and Miller is a basketball professor, but there is something broader going on here — something good, considering Denver had the league’s third-most efficient offense last season. The Nuggetsattempted the fewest long two-point jumpers per game in the league, a remarkable thing, considering their breakneck pace of play. Their ability to earn heaps of free throws obviously helped, since shooting fouls wipes away shot attempts on the stat sheet, but you don’t earn those free throws by simply chucking long twos."
Credit is due to Ty Lawson and Andre Miller, both underrated players, but for different reasons. Miller excels in aspects of basketball that fans rarely appreciate. He a fine passer and he rebounds well for a guard. These qualities can be appreciated when practiced by an athletic player like Rajon Rondo. Andre Miller is just too methodical to make his subtle brand of ball exciting.
Ty Lawson plays a thrilling style, but George Karl curtails his minutes some. At only a 1.5 personal foul average, Lawson could easily play upwards of 40 minutes. Denver's depth allows for the speedster to play less than 35 per contest.
Also, fans sometimes aren't quite sure what to do with "score-first" point guards. Lawson is a scoring machine with a .579 true shooting percentage. He can seemingly get to the rim at will, though the diminutive guard suffers the occasional blocked shot once he gets there. Lawson is so defined by his speed, though, that fans and writers can forget about one of his best skills: The kid can make it rain from deep:
The most exciting element of Denver's 2012-2013 just might be the much-maligned JaVale McGee. There are a few reasons as to why the Nuggets cashed him out at upwards of $10 million per season, but I believe that his fastbreak capability was up there as an attribution.
Unlike many seven-foot big men, McGree can run up and down the court with the speed of a wing. Outside of Dwight Howard, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better center at sprinting and finishing on the break.
We are far from guaranteed quality play from the likes of JaVale McGee. The Nuggets are hoping that George Karl can work with the raw big man, much in the way he once helped shape a young Shawn Kemp. As confusing as it sounds, JaVale's defense is crucial to Denver's offense. If he can block shots and force misses, the Nuggets will be off and running in the other direction.
JaVale isn't the only Denver big man who can fly. Timofey Mozgov has Usain Bolt speed. Just kidding, I'm referencing Kenneth "The Manimal" Faried as the other fast frontcourt player. Faried is an elite rebounder, and his boards can help spur Nuggets fastbreaks. He's also quite adept at finishing near the rim, despite his relative lack of height.
Finally, we have Andre Iguodala, the new addition, acquired in a trade for Arron Afflalo. Not only is Iggy one of the game's best defensive players, but he's also an elite athlete blessed with an above average handle. There are few faster end-to-end players in the NBA. Expect a lot of this.
The Nuggets were second in pace factor last season, and I wouldn't be shocked to see them at the No. 1 spot. Now that Nash has left a dismantled Phoenix roster, Denver officially has the "seven seconds or less" mantle.