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Old 03-26-2013, 12:21 PM   #171

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Here is a great article on our little nuggets.

The Denver Nuggets' streak, stardom and the resilience of depth

By Tom Ziller on Mar 26 2013, 12:00p  @teamziller 1

The Denver Nuggets have replaced a superstar with superior depth and a large rotation. The Hook posits that with the spreading of responsibility comes a diffusion of risk and a strengthening of the team's game-to-game resilience.

The two teams that had been rampaging through the NBA couldn't be more different. The Miami Heat, threatening the record for consecutive wins, are built around three stars. The team's supporting cast has been improved a great deal since 2010, but compared to most good NBA teams, it's still lacking. The success of the team depends almost wholly on how well LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh play. Luckily, all three are excellent players; LeBron is clearly the best in the world.

The Denver Nuggets, who until Monday's loss to the Hornets had won 15 straight games, are the exact opposite. There's not one 2013 All-Star on the squad, and only Andre Iguodala has earned that honor in the past. No one from this team is likely to make the All-NBA team, which recognizes the top 15 players in the league. We don't have anyone likely to earn postseason award consideration, either, though Iguodala could land on an All-Defense team. (The front office is a different story: Masai Ujiri should battle Daryl Morey for Executive of the Year votes.) George Karl could also receive a look in the Coach of the Year contest, though Erik Spoelstra, Gregg Popovich, Frank Vogel and Bernie Bickerstaff are in the mix.

What you need to win at the level the Heat and Nuggets have won at is resilience. Players just aren't going to be totally consistent every night. Energy, injuries, match-ups, unavoidable randomness: it all plays a role in determining the final numbers for any player and team. If you flip a coin 100 times, you expect 50 heads and 50 tails. If you break those 100 flips into 10-flip games, you wouldn't in the least be surprised to have a few 7-3s, 6-4s, even an 8-2 result. The same applies to, say, shooters. A 45 percent shooter isn't going to shoot 45 percent every night, even excepting injuries and tough match-ups. Some nights he'll shoot 30 percent. Some nights he'll shoot 70. It happens.

For the Heat, the team needs at least one of its stars to have a good night against most teams. Against better teams, it needs even more. Luckily, LeBron at his worst is still better than most. (In 70 games, LeBron has six in which his GameScore was below 15, which is NBA average. None of those were below 11.) Having a great player who is nearly always good and frequently great is a helluva form of resilience. So long as LeBron and Wade play the way that they have since February, the Heat will be in position to win. That reliable production -- which has of course been efficient, unlike the sort of production you get from a Monta Ellis or Kobe Bryant -- is a cushion against spectacular performance by opponents and a launching pad toward victory. Having LeBron right now is almost like a 400-meter head start in a 1-mile race.

The Nuggets are so very different. Their resilience isn't in one reliable producer. The Heat are using a weighted coin to get more heads than tails. The Nuggets are just flipping a ton of coins every night. Karl's rotation goes 9-10 deep, and every last one of the players is good. In many cases, really quite good. Few teams boast two point guards as proficient as Ty Lawson and Andre Miller, two big men as athletic as Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee, two wing defenders as defensively stout as Iguodala and Corey Brewer and two perimeter shooters as sharp as Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. The rotation is solid enough that Karl can basically not use Timofey Mozgov (a perfect usable big man) and bring in Anthony Randolph only for crunch-time defensive possessions. Second-year wing Jordan Hamilton has shown an ability to step in and produce when needed. In other words, while Karl uses 9-10 per game, he actually has 11-12 players who can come in and play at league average level or better.

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