Stack’s Stats: Nuggets of Wisdom
The Denver Nuggets change their ‘tude; Q+A with the Bobcats’ sales ticket director.
by Kyle Stack / @KyleStack
We’re into February in the NBA, otherwise known as All-Star month. Given that tag, I’ll make my much-anticipated All-Star bench picks within Fast Break Points. I know you’ve been waiting for that.
There’s a look at what is helping the Denver Nuggets maintain one of the League’s best records. Another slew of milestones are being recorded by several future Hall of Famers, and you might be surprised—or not—by a Deron Williams statistic uncovered.
The interview this week, on the second page, is with Flavil Hampsten, who runs ticket sales and database marketing for the Charlotte Bobcats. I thought it would be helpful to hear how one small/mid-market team is getting creative to sell tickets in this economic environment. Hampsten came to the Bobcats in June 2010 after spending a year managing team marketing and business operations for the NBA.
The Main Dish
No doubt one of the reasons the Nuggets won 15 of their first 22 games to take position near the top of the Western Conference was their versatility. A hallmark of the team for several years, the Nuggets appear to attack teams in waves. They’re doing it this season in a more unselfish manner.
The Denver Nuggets lead the NBA in assists per game at 24, which shouldn’t be an incredible surprise for a George Karl-coached Nuggets team. (The Spurs are next at 22.8, as of Friday afternoon.) Since his first full season with the Nugs in ’05-06, his team has finished 3rd, 5th, 3rd, 6th, T-17th and 10th in average assists per game. Only once has a Nuggets team during that tenure eclipsed 24 per game—24.7 in ’07-08.
This Nuggets incarnation has a different look from most of Karl’s teams since he arrived in Denver. Most notable is the absence of Carmelo Anthony, who acts like sort of a human Black Hole. The same goes for J.R. Smith, who’s never seen a 26-foot three-pointer he didn’t like. Anthony, in New York City with the Knicks, and Smith, in China with the Zhejiang Golen Bulls, in different spots has helped established a different culture in the Rocky Mountains. One Western Conference scout elaborated.
“The one thing people don’t realize is they are very unselfish,” said the scout, who wished to not be identified while discussing other players and teams. “When they played with Carmelo, you could say it was a one pass-shot kind of offense. Now, the ball moves and they go from defense to offense quicker than anybody. They create a lot of easy baskets. You can’t turn the ball over against them; otherwise it’s two points the other way. That’s why their points in the paint and their points off turnovers…it’s almost like playing an old Golden State team with Nellie (Don Nelson).”
The scout’s comments hold water when looking the Nuggets’ nine-game stretch from January 17 to February 2 in which they won seven games. (Their two losses were by four and three points.) During that time frame, the Nuggets outscored opponents in the paint 53-42 per game and barely edged opponents on points off turnovers by one, 18 to 16 per game. Hey they are the Nuggets, so they still turn the ball over at an undesirable clip—16.2, fifth-worst in the NBA.
But their double-headed point guard combination of Andre Miller (7.2 apg) and Ty Lawson (6.4 apg) keep the scorers well-fed. That includes team scoring leader Danilo Gallinari (17.0 ppg), who the scout had nothing but positives things to say about. Sorry, Knicks fans.
“Gallinari is very underrated. He’s a freight train going to the basket. He runs the floor extremely well, he gets to the foul line at a high rate. That [Carmelo Anthony] trade gave [the Nuggets] so much more…you lose Carmelo but it was almost like a Heschel Walker type of trade. The [Knicks] gave up a lot.”
So, the old addition by subtraction adage is at work here. The Nuggets gave up possibly their most talented player in their 45-year history. What they got back is a sense of commitment to the game; to follow their coach’s mantra of keeping everyone involved. And that’s benefited them as they sit in the second spot in the Western Conference.
Fast Break Points
–The Nets are 0-10 when Deron Williams has eight or fewer assists and 8-5 when he records nine or more.
–Brendan Haywood blocked five Spurs shots January 29. That made it the third time he recorded five or more blocks in the 94 games he played since signing a six-year, $55 million deal with the Mavericks in the summer of 2010. Note that he accumulated five or more blocks eight times in just ’09-10. (He did average 30.6 minutes per game that year, versus 18.5 and 22.1 the last two seasons.)
–Anderson Varejao notched his first career 20/20 game January 31 against the Celtics when he went for 20 points and 20 ‘boards. Zydrunas Ilgauskas never achieved a 20/20 for the Cavs, Brad Daugherty did it once and Carlos Boozer accomplished it twice.
–The Knicks keep losing but at least Landry Fields has found his game. He averaged 7.2 points in his first 13 contests and 13.6 in his 10 subsequent games. He made at least half his shots in seven of those 10 games.
–Jamaal Tinsley racked up 13 assists February 2 versus the Warriors. Tinsley hasn’t been in the League for awhile. Last time he got 10-plus dimes: January 21, 2008, when he collected 12 assists for the Pacers against the 76ers.
–A breakdown of the 76ers’ first 16 wins: Seven of them came with not one player reaching 20 points. Three of those came with six players scoring between 10-19 points and two others with five guys in the same points range. Four Sixers victories have come with five or six players scoring 10-19 points and just one going for 20-plus. Balance, indeed.
–Nitpicky Stat of the Week: Josh Smith’s five games of totaling at least five digits in three of five categories (points, rebounds, assists, blocks steals) are his fewest such contests 23 games into a season since ’05-06. For example, take a line of 11 points, 8 rebounds and 6 blocks. That qualifies as a game of at least five digits in three of the five main counting state categories. In previous seasons, Smith totaled 10, 6, 8, 10 and 9 such games through his first 23 matchups.
–Kobe Bryant needs 50 points to become fifth all-time in points scored. As has been well-documed, he’ll be passing Shaq for that fifth spot.
–Steve Nash recently passed Mark Jackson for 16th on the all-time turnovers list. Nash, at 3,160 career turnovers as of Friday morning, now “chasing” Robert Parish (3,183).
–Dwight Howard is tied with Shawn Kemp for 44th all-time in blocks with 1,279. Next up on the list are Dr. J and Greg Ostertag (not exactly a pair you would ever expect to see) at 1,293 shot blocks.
–Kevin Garnett attained 10,000 career defensive rebounds Friday night against the Knicks. KG’s now at 10,002, trailing Robert Parish (10,117) and Karl Malone (11,406). AND KG is 22 total rebounds from becoming the 13th ever to reach 13,000.
–Tim Duncan will become the 30th player in NBA history to reach 5,000 free throw makes with another 16 hits from the line.
–Now for some All-Star stats: Don’t let anybody tell you that the February 24 game is the latest in the calender year that the NBA has had. The first All-Star way back in 1951 was played on March 2, in Boston. That’s the only one later than when this year’s contest will be played.
–Kobe Bryant can become the NBA’s first five-time All-Star MVP with a nod this year. He’s tied with, wait for it, Bob Pettit (’56, ’58, ’59, ’62) for most MVPs.
–Shaq, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson are the only players with three All-Star MVPs. LeBron James can join that club with an MVP this year.
–In what will be his 13th All-Star Game (14 selections), Kobe has a good chance to become the mid-season classic’s all-time leading scorer. At 244 career points, he trails Oscar (246; 12 ASG), Kareem (251; 18 ASG, 19 selections) and Jordan (262; 13 ASG, 14 selections).
–Finally, Kobe’s 14 All-Star selection ties him with Kevin Garnett for third-most ever. Shaq has 15 and Kareem has 19.
NBA Schedule Quirk of the Week
(The team arguably most screwed for the next week)
Oklahoma City Thunder—Six games in eight days
Good thing these OKCers have young legs. The host Memphis Friday, play at San Antonio Saturday, visit Portland and Golden State February 6-7, then travel to Sacramento and Utah February 9-10. By the 9th, at least half of the team won’t remember what city they’re in.
Honorable mention: Houston Rockets. Their Friday home game against Phoenix sets off a six-game road trip, four of which will be played in the next week—Saturday at Minnesota, February 6 at Denver and February 8-9 at Portland and Phoenix.
Insightful NBA Player Tweets of the Week
(Tweets unedited from how they were originally written)
Shelden Williams @SheldenWilliams
“today is the second day since the season started that i have time to be able to cook!! the last day i cooked was for christmas dinner!!!”
Metta World Peace @MettaWorldPeace
“I wise man once told me” Ron , one teaspoon of salt is enough. You should be fine”
Larry Sanders @LarrySanders
“Don’t ever trust a girl that looks at her phone more then you..lol smh, #readthesigns”