Denver Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw‘s favorite strategy is, “starting unit: wear them down; reserves: wear them out,” and with the Nuggets getting Arron Afflalo to go along with Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee, Nate Robinson, and J.J. Hickson returning from injuries — Shaw’s plan of attack will play an even bigger role this season.
Shaw’s plan to split minutes evenly between his starters and reserves makes sense. Good coaches will coach to their team’s biggest strength in order to win the most games, and the Nuggets have a team just about as deep as any in the league.
The Nuggets’ depth allowed them to finish with a reasonable 36-46 record in the Western Conference even with the injuries they had last season. Now that their depth only got better in the offseason, the current roster shows two good NBA players at every position:
PG: Ty Lawson, Nate Robinson
SG: Arron Afflalo, Randy Foye (not to mention a capable Gary Harris)
SF: Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler (not to mention a capable Quincy Miller)
PF: Kenneth Faried, JJ Hickson (not to mention a capable Darrell Arthur)
C: JaVale McGee, Timofey Mozgov (and yes, you guessed it, a capable Jusuf Nurkic)
The current Nuggets roster is LOADED with depth. They are basically three deep at every position if everyone can remain healthy, and chances of health increase with splitting the minutes as well. It’s no wonder Shaw wants to use the depth to keep fresh legs against teams who rely too much on starters in the 82 game grind of an NBA season.
“I think (the Afflalo trade) gives us a legitimate starter at the 2 position,” Shaw told reporters in his post draft press conference. “In terms of the depth of our team … we wanted to wear them down with the first unit and wear them out with the second unit. We never got an opportunity to get to that because of the injuries.”
The injuries are now gone, and Shaw will finally get the chance to implement his two tier system. But will it work? Can an NBA team truly succeed without having their best players on the floor for 40+ minutes?
Most signs point to yes. The Nuggets biggest area of improvement next season has to be winning consistently at home.
A historically great home franchise, the Nuggets only managed to win 22 of 41 home games last season. The “wear ‘em down, wear ‘em out” system will allow the team to play up to the natural home advantage that comes with playing 5,280 feet above sea level.
The system means Nuggets’ players can play at 100 percent knowing their time on the floor is limited, and teams who arrive late in Denver (where the airport is an hour away) should have no chance at keeping up with a run-and-gun team with consistently fresh legs. If the team can even go 31-10 at home (they went 38-3 two years ago), then they’ll put themselves in great shape to make the playoffs.
The Nuggets’ playoff hopes are riding on Brian Shaw’s idea. Now that he has Arron Afflalo to complete a “two-deep” roster, we should see his favorite strategy play out successfully.