Why Denver Nuggets Have the Most Thrilling Offense in the NBA

Jamal CollierAnalyst IIIFebruary 27, 2013

January 6, 2013;  Los Angeles, CA, USA;   Denver Nuggets small forward Danilo Gallinari (8) reacts with point guard Ty Lawson (3) after he hit a 3-point shot with 13 seconds left on the clock in the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center. Nuggets won 112-105. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Speed kills, especially when it’s being displayed at a breakneck pace in the thin Rocky Mountain air.

The Denver Nuggets are second only to the Houston Rockets in offensive pace. They’re third in the NBA in points per game (105.4), third in assists per game (24.1), fourth in field-goal percentage (47.4 percent) despite being 25th in three-point percentage (34.1 percent), and first in offensive rebounds (13.5).

Defensively, they’re tied for second in the league with 8.9 steals per game, opening up plenty of transition opportunities. JaVale McGee does the same thing with some of his “blocked” shots that aren’t swatted; they’re legitimately caught out of the air.

You never know who’s going to lead the team in scoring before watching a Nuggets contest. Danilo Gallinari leads the team with 16.9 points a night, but six Denver players average double-figure scoring. McGee (9.9 PPG) and Andre Miller (9.1) aren’t far off.

While Denver is a mediocre three-point-shooting team—it’s 18th in long-distance makes and 16th in attempts—five guys are averaging at least one three per game. The Nuggets are also fifth in offensive efficiency, even at their high rate of play.

It’s easy to run at high speed when your big men are as athletic as Denver’s. At seven feet tall with a 30-plus-inch vertical, McGee is one of the NBA’s most exciting finishers. Denver doesn’t have the “Lob City” reputation that has been granted to L.A. by the Los Angeles Clippers, but veteran point guard Andre Miller is one of the best at setting guys like McGee up over the rim.

The Nuggets are stocked with finishers on the wing, including swingmen Corey Brewer, Wilson Chandler and Andre Iguodala.

Head coach George Karl likes to go with smaller lineups, sometimes featuring Gallinari and Kenneth Faried at the 4 and 5. Gallinari can handle the ball pretty well for a 6’10” guy and stretch the floor with the trey. Faried is just bouncy.

He plays bigger than his 6’8” frame, and is an extremely high-effort player who gets boards on taller guys due to his activity. Faried plays center at times—despite being routinely described as an “under-sized” power forward—and still pulls down 9.6 rebounds per game. 

Guys can’t keep him off the glass, and it’s off to the races once he gets the rock out to Ty Lawson. Lawson is enjoying a very productive February as his team gains cohesion during their nightly track meets.

Denver’s starting point guard is scoring 22.6 points per game in February on 49.7 percent field-goal shooting, 37.2 percent three-point marksmanship and 81.7 percent free-throw shooting with 8.6 dimes, 2.4 turnovers and 1.5 steals.

The Nuggets are 6-4 on the month, including 2-4 on the road.

They’re 24-3 at home this season, good for third-best in the NBA behind the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat. Both of those teams lead their respective conferences in the standings.

Denver’s offense is predictably even more effective in the Pepsi Center: The Nuggets are putting up 109.1 PPG on 48.1 percent field-goal shooting and 35.6 percent three-point shooting with 25.5 APG, 14.0 TOPG and 9.7 SPG.

Aside from turnovers (seventh) and three-point percentage (20th), they’re top-five in the above metrics—including assist-to-turnover ratio—among NBA teams playing in their respective home arenas.


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