How Denver Nuggets Will Sort Through Their Crowded Point Guard Situation
So how does new Denver Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw divide the playing time for three point guards that combined for 39.4 points and 17.2 assists last season?
There's the leader Ty Lawson, newcomer Nate Robinson and veteran Andre Miller. On several occasions last year, we saw George Karl play both Lawson and Miller at the same time.
When the free-agency period began, Fox Sports' Chris Tomasson reported that Miller may be traded before the 2013-14 season begins. But after the Nuggets signed Robinson in late July, according to Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post, Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly said Miller will "absolutely" still be with Denver.
With three point guards in the mix and since we know Lawson and Miller can mesh, does a dual point guard situation work with Robinson?
Offensively, it can work. Defensively, it's trickier.
Lawson and Robinson Can Only Be Used Briefly at the Same Time
The one-two punch of Lawson and Robinson will be fun to watch. They are quick, dynamic and skillful.
But having two players under 6' in the game at the same time is a huge disadvantage, especially without Andre Iguodala and Corey Brewer there for defense.
Lawson will clearly get the start and Robinson will come off the bench, but there are only two scenarios where Lawson and Robinson should be in the game together.
The first is when it's time for Lawson to re-enter the game in the second or fourth quarters, but Robinson is on one of his hot streaks. The second is at the end of each quarter if Denver is playing for the final shot and Shaw has a specific play drawn up.
Even in the first situation, there can't be a significant overlap between the two point guards, because the lack of defense will catch up with them. But when it does happen, Darrell Arthur needs to be on the floor.
Until Danilo Gallinari returns from his ACL injury, we will likely see a fair amount of Arthur. Arthur doesn't bring a lot offensively, but he is a solid defender.
This way KryptoNate can continue his streak at the point, Lawson briefly plays at the 2 and Arthur is at the 4 on offense while defending the 3. Arthur is better suited defending the power forward and in the pick-and-roll, but as long as it's only for a couple minutes, he is good enough on the perimeter to handle some of the older small forwards that aren't as explosive.
This works against the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs have Jose Calderon and Devin Harris at point, Monta Ellis and Wayne Ellington at shooting guard and Shawn Marion and Vince Carter at small forward.
All four of the guards are 6'4" or shorter, and Robinson and Lawson should be able to hold up for a few minutes defensively. Then Arthur should have no problem with Marion or Carter.
While this would work in some scenarios, it's best to have Lawson and Robinson in at separate times. Both players are at their best commanding the offense, and it will ultimately help the Nuggets over 48 minutes.
Depending on the Opposing Lineup, Robinson and Miller Can Play Together
Putting Robinson and Miller together is an easier task since they are two different types of point guards. Robinson is faster and the better outside shooter, while Miller can post up and is a better distributor.
Still, the only time Shaw can pair these two is when the opposing second unit has two guards they can match up with. That means the shooting guard has to be someone who is shorter and is in just for defensive purposes or three-point shooting.
The Los Angeles Lakers are a good example with Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks.
When Denver is on offense, Shaw puts Miller at point, Robinson at the 2 and has Robinson run off of curls or baseline screens. Then on defense, have Robinson defend Blake at point and Miller guard the 6'4" three-point shooter in Meeks.
But having Miller, who is 6'2" and 37 years old, defend a taller shooting guard that will primarily run the floor or attack the basket is a bad move. Denver will turn to Randy Foye, Evan Fournier or Wilson Chandler for that.
How the Minutes Will Be Distributed
Even though the Nuggets have another deep roster, Shaw can't take away minutes from Lawson. He's too valuable.
Lawson has played over 34 minutes per game the last two seasons, and that is the correct number for the 2013-14 season.
As far as the other two, it breaks down differently.
Robinson will be the primary backup to Lawson for the entire season. He brings more firepower than Miller, and Denver wouldn't bring Robinson in for just a limited role.
As a general rule, for the first and third quarters, Robinson enters with approximately three minutes remaining and exits in the second and fourth quarters with about six minutes on the clock.
Although, Lawson comes back in the game with about eight minutes remaining in the second and fourth quarters. That's where the small overlap occurs.
With that and potential overtime games, I expect Robinson to give about 19 minutes. It's a tough situation since over the last two seasons Lawson has played over 34 minutes per game and Robinson averaged 24.7, but the time has to be condensed somewhere.
What will Andre Miller's role be this season?
For Miller, he should get more playing time in the beginning of the year with Gallinari out. Granted they play two different positions, but it gives Denver the option to go small and take advantage of certain opponents. In other instances, Miller will see fewer minutes, and Shaw will give Jordan Hamilton a chance to prove himself.
When Gallo does return, Miller's role should diminish. By then the Nuggets will want to move closer to a primary 10-man rotation and prepare for a playoff push. With Lawson, Robinson, Foye, Fournier and Chandler all there, it's tough seeing how Miller fits into that equation.
As far an average for the season, Miller will have around 14 minutes.
Miller has produced solid numbers in the five-and-a-half seasons he's been with Denver and is one of the great players in Nuggets history. But at his age and with only one guaranteed year remaining on his contract, according to Hoopsworld.com, there may not be much time left.
Nevertheless, if one of the guards goes down or needs a night off, Miller is a great option to turn to. It's an example of why Denver has one of the deepest teams in the NBA.
(All statistics are from Basketball-Reference.com)
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