The Denver Nuggets in 2005-06

Carmelo Anthony has been the subject of a number of comments in this forum. Although Anthony is often linked to Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, the following posts have argued that Anthony has never offered the level of productivity we observe from Flash and King James.

One Prediction is (Almost) Right: Carmelo Anthony Gets Max Money

The NBA Post-Season Awards

This same observation could be made about Anthony in the playoffs last season. In the regular season Anthony produced only 4.8 wins and had a Win Score per-minute of 0.161. Overall, his productivity was close to the NBA average. In the Nuggets five forgettable post-season games, though, Anthony was quite a bit below average. He hoisted 99 shots, but only made 33. Carmelo also committed 15 turnovers, or three per contest. So Anthony might be Denver’s star, but in the playoffs he was not always helping their cause.

And then Anthony went to Japan. Playing for Team USA he was often the best player on a team of best players. Although Team USA faltered against Greece, it was not because of Anthony. His per-minute Win Score in that game was a stellar 0.375. In the Bronze Medal game Anthony did slip, hitting on only six of seventeen shots against Argentina. Still, his overall performance in the World Championship was extremely good.

Going forward one wonders if Anthony has indeed changed his game. In Japan Anthony hit his shots and limited his turnovers. He was still not a particularly strong rebounder. But Denver fans have to hope that what we saw in Japan is a sign that Anthony is actually ready to produce like the star he is perceived to be.

If Anthony could become one of the NBA’s elite, then the Nuggets can become one of the NBA’s top teams. One can see this by looking over the Nuggets in 2005-06.

The team was led in Wins Produced by the often injured Marcus Camby. Although Camby frequently doesn’t play, when he does take the court he is one of most productive players in the game. Only 19 players produced more wins than Camby, and he produced his quantity of wins while missing 26 games.

Camby is not the only productive player in Denver. At point guard, only Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, and Gilbert Arenas produced more wins than Andre Miller. Mid-season addition Reggie Evans was also above the average in productivity.

So the team has a few productive performers, but questions remain. Kenyon Martin posted a Wins Produced per minute [WP48] of 0.184 his last season in New Jersey. Given that average is 0.100, Martin was clearly a very good player for the Nets. Injuries, though, have reduced the effectiveness of K-Mart. Both seasons in Denver he has been below average.

Injuries also took Nene away for all but three minutes last season. Despite not playing, Nene was given a 6-year, $60 million contract this past summer. Thus far, his performance in the NBA does not justify such a contract. For his career he has merely hovered around the average WP48 mark. Clearly Denver must expect Nene to play better after the injury.

Signing Nene was not the only move this team made this past summer. At shooting guard the Nuggets lost Greg Buckner – an above average player last year — to the Mavericks. The potential replacement is J.R. Smith – who was a below average shooting guard for the New Orleans Hornets in 2005-06. If Smith does not improve, the team took a step backwards swapping J.R. for Buckner.

The other move Denver made was acquiring Joe Smith from the Milwaukee Bucks. Joe Smith was first player taken in the 1995 draft. To put his career in perspective, Kevin Garnett produced more than 30 wins every season from 2002-03 to 2004-05. For Joe Smith’s career he has yet to produce 30 wins, total. Still, he is capable of being an average performer in the front-court and can provide depth for the Nuggets.

In 2006 Denver won their division and was awarded the number three seed in the Western Conference playoffs. With only 44 regular season wins, though, Denver was clearly not one of the top teams. In fact, it was likely Memphis and the LA Clippers tried to lose a game towards the end of the season to earn the right to play Denver in the first round.

If K-Mart is healthy and Anthony has truly improved, the Nuggets can actually become a very good team in 2006-07. Of course, in the Western Conference – home to the Spurs, Mavericks, and Suns – very good might not be enough for this team to be one of the three best.

– DJ

Wins Produced and Win Score are Discussed in the Following Posts

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

Teams Analyzed Thus Far

The Eastern Conference Reviews

Dallas Mavericks

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