The Denver Nuggets are not who we thought they were, or would be. After 24 games the Nuggets are 12-12, good for fourth in the Northwest Division, which is well off the pace of their preseason predictions of being one of the top teams in the Western Conference.
This season has not been stellar, to say the least. There are big questions with the way players, mainly Ty Lawson, have responded to big contract extensions. There are also huge concerns with the ability (or in this case inability) for the Nuggets to shoot from both three-point range and the charity stripe.
Adding Andre Iguodala in the offseason seemed to be the perfect fit to propel the Nuggets into a true title contender. The expectations were set, and the bar was raised.
But did they change all that much, really? Looking back the Nuggets are exactly who we should have thought they were.
First off, Denver just finished the most ridiculous start to a season with 17 of their first 23 games on the road. That was the most road-heavy schedule since the 1985-86 Chicago Bulls who endured that stretch without Michael Jordan who was out with injury.
It is no big secret that teams tend to play better at home. The, former, New Jersey Nets were the only team to post a better road record than home record last season. With winning comes better shooting. Last season the Nuggets shot 47.6 percent from the field, compared to 46.5 this season. The shooting struggles from three are nearly identical to last season with the team shooting 33.2 percent last year and 33.4 this season.
The free throw woes, while not a unique problem to this season, are a telling sign about this Nuggets team. Last season the Nuggets ranked 25th in the league shooting 73.5 percent. This year the Nuggets are dead last shooting a mere 68.2 percent. Danilo Gallinari and Andre Miller remain the only two players to shoot above 80 percent on the team in both seasons.
Ty Lawson is down from 82 to 67 percent this season. Lawson has also declined in three-point percentage every year he has been in the league. In his rookie year Lawson shot 41 percent, and so far this season, he is down to 35.3 percent. Gallinari has followed the same trend, shooting 44.8 percent in his rookie year with the New York Knicks and declining every year since, hitting 39.3 percent this season.
Denver is currently 6-11 away from the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center, winning 35 percent of their road games. If that trend continues they will go 8-16 during their remaining road schedule. On the contrary, they are 6-1 in their high altitude home games, good for an 86 percent winning percentage. Keeping on that pace, the Nuggets would win 29 of 34 in a home heavy schedule the rest of the way.
This would give the Nuggets a total of 49 wins, which would probably put them in position to land the 5-8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Sound familiar?
There is a good chance the Nuggets won’t win 29 of 34 at home, but they probably won’t go 8-16 on the road either. However, there is a good chance the difference averages out and they still finish around the 50 win mark and a middle seed come playoff time.
The Nuggets aren’t struggling this season. We simply overreacted to the Iguodala trade. Denver will get better, but the numbers and history don’t lie. They are exactly who we thought they should be.
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