Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Backcourt Board Games

(Boulder-CO) With the news that Chucky Atkins is going to be out for at least six weeks with a severe groin strain some of my worst fears are starting to creep into my thought patterns on the eve of opening night. The Nuggets are a team that can ill-afford to have this kind of injury, (not to mention the chemistry problems and adjustment time needed afterwards), at this phase of the game. But yet the fact still remains that Denver’s only major off-season acquisition is down and the effects may be lingering.

Many of you may already know this, but I do not like Allen Iverson, with his historically one-on-one mastery, running the point. He is a creator. And like many creators from the history books before him, he is always near the top of the turnover leaders in the league. Does this diminish his contribution to the team? Absolutely not, but what it takes to be a creator in the game of basketball is not always synonymous with what it takes to be a great point guard.

A true point guard will always bring the ball down the floor and, unless he has an obvious exploitable mismatch, will immediately snap out the first pass of the offensive set and continue to carry out the rest his duties. This may include setting a screen, curling off a screen, flaring out of the paint after a short cut to position himself for an entry to a post player, or directing traffic to most advantageously put his team in a position to score.

Now, with all that being said, can Allen Iverson do this? The Answer, pardon the pun, is an emphatic “yes!” But is that what the Nuggets need him to do? My answer to that is an emphatic “no!” The Nuggets need Iverson to be on the receiving end of the ball and not distributing it. They need AI on the wing, curling off of double screens set by the bigs, stopping and popping, shaking and baking, and dribble penetrating the paint while slicing through defenses like a bird in the wind because Iverson is at his best when passing off to a man that is freed from a defensively rotating opponent after he leaves his man standing as if their feet were in concrete.

The difference, Nuggets Nation is point guards distribute to create, and therefore are not creators. Allen Iverson creates distribution and therein lies the pivotal difference.

So, what do I suggest the Nuggets do?

I suggest the Nuggets start veteran Mike Wilks at point guard and keep Allen Iverson free from having to do too much too early and see how it works. Forget about starting Yakhouba Diawara at shooting guard. Such a move will only slow the team down offensively because he doesn’t move very well off the ball and his shot selection is still in need of a little contextual work. The Yak averaged 4.4 points a game last season while shooting 28% from behind the three-point line with a combined 31.5% from the field in total. Statistically not becoming of a starting shooting guard in this league with the point being he is not ready to start in the backcourt for a team with as high of expectations as the Nuggets. It’s too much pressure for the second year player, and with so much seasoning in a guy like Wilks, why not just save ‘Khouba for defensive purposes? That is where he is going to be able to help this team the most, and in the game of NBA chess… Trying to use a rook for the job of a knight is surely going to leave you with your king wide open.

Go Nuggets!


JM said...

Here's something to chew on. When AI scored a double-double last year (points & assists), the Nuggets were 11-1. He'll get his 20+ a game when he runs the point, but he will also distribute the ball. He averaged nearly as many assists per game (7.3) as the dearly departed Andre Miller (7.8) last season. At the point, they can also run someone like Kleiza, who's big for a 2 but has good lateral movement and can compensate for AI's lack of size on the perimeter. And Kleiza is unselfish, can score when needed, and give smaller defenders fits in the low post.

Denver will have injuries, so will Dallas, San Antonio, Phoenix, Houston, and Utah. It's part of the game. It's just whether this team will use it as an excuse for not executing (ie: Denver Broncos). I feel that this team let excuses dictate their lack of execution. That needs to change more than anything.

Anonymous said...

I agree with JM here. I just really don't like starting AI with another tiny player. I know everyone hates JR now, but he, Jones, and Kleiza are the best options to start with AI depending on who we're playing that night. Yakhouba should be only for defensive purposes because he's way too much of a offensive liability.

I appreciate that sometimes a pure point guard is needed, but as JM said, this team is great when AI gets 20+ points and 10+ assists, and he's much more likely to do that from the PG position than he is from SG. And you don't have such a defensive liability starting two guys who are barely 6'0" and aren't exactly good perimeter defenders. I dunno, if we're running against another small backcourt or want to play small for a while, then by all means, start AI and another PG with Melo at PF - but that shouldn't be out normal lineup.

Jason said...

jm, I agree with you completely. Nick, I typically agree with you on most things...however this is not one of them. AI can and SHOULD be the starting PG of this team. He is at the stage in his career where he needs to adapt his game slightly to his teammates.

In Philly...he was the ONE guy that the 76ers had to score, period. He was forced to be the man, and did it quite well.

But here in Denver, he has quite possibly the #1 offensive player in the league in Melo...has other offensive forces in Nene, JR, and Kleiza and has plenty of athletic bigs.

So, here in Denver, if Denver is going to win a championship...it needs to be with AI running the point unless Denver can find a Big PG, (someone over 6'2" or 6'3"). Unfortunately...we don't have that guy. AI needs to be that guy, and can be that guy.

ThaAnswer said...

"I suggest the Nuggets start veteran Mike Wilks at point guard and keep Allen Iverson free from having to do too much too early and see how it works. Forget about starting Yakhouba Diawara at shooting guard."

As great as an idea that is...it simply will never, ever happen. We'll put our best players on the floor and do what we can.