Today Benjamin Hochman reported that Anthony "Carter gets lost in bench shuffle " and that, "Now that J.R. Smith is back from suspension, the Nuggets normally play three guys off the bench—Smith, Lawson and Chris Andersen."
Really, this is nothing new, as George Karl has played mostly with an eight-man rotation for the last couple of years—but is the approach effective?
Sure, the starters have to get their large amounts of minutes—the big four (Melo, Billups, Nene, K-Mart) all average over 31 minutes per game, but they do need their rest.
I realize balancing the minutes of an entire NBA team must be difficult and frustrating, but it seems that getting nine or 10 players on the court a night helps two-fold.
First, injuries happen, in the NBA, it's a fact of life. Now, I would absolutely love it if every one of the Nuggets stayed healthy for the entire season, but it's probably not going to happen.
And if someone is injured, others must be ready to step up and play. While Carter is not as skilled as he once was, taking all of his P.T. will make him a liability if and when he is needed. Malik Allen is the Nuggets fourth big man and he will have to play later in the season. And besides those two, Joey Graham may be the Nuggets bench player that needs the most time.
Graham is versatile, as his size (6'7" 225) gives him the versatility to play both shooting guard and small forward, meaning he can guard both positions as well. But, Graham only gets in for 10 minutes a game, and it's usually during garbage time. While his services aren't a must now, he will be needed or the Nuggets will be outsized when Carmelo Anthony wants a breather.
The other reason a bigger rotation is better is that it makes it easier to give starters rest. Let's face it, this Nuggets team is built to go deep into the playoffs, but if they want to do that, starters will definitely required some time off.
Chauncey Billups is aging, as is Kenyon Martin, and and the other big two play so much they may be too fatigued come playoff time to lead Denver deep into them.
Why not rest some players regularly throughout the season, instead of too often during the stretch run?
While both players have stayed healthy the past couple years, each one has sustained major injuries earlier in their careers that forced them to miss entire seasons (three together) and both have to sit lots at the end of the year. Last season, the two sat out of 22 games combined and most were in March and April, so why not evenly distribute those games earlier in the year?
Plus, anyone that watches the Nuggets knows if K-Mart or Nene go down for a significant part of the season, Denver's year is likely over.
Lastly, the Nuggets have been blowing teams out, but still some starters have remained in the game deep into fourth quarters. Those situations present perfect opportunities to get all the deep bench players more P.T. and in turn make the Nuggets more deep overall.
So, at least for now, Karl should ponder the idea of a nine or even 10-man rotation instead of the eight-man one he's currently going with. By giving starters more rest now, it could benefit the team in the long run.