Reviewing Denver vs. Oklahoma City

The following post is from Andres Alvarez.

Well the Denver Nuggets fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder and with that so did my hopes in the Wages of Wins Smackdown. This series felt oddly similar to the Indiana-Chicago series with a slight difference. Denver let game 2 go but was remarkably close in every game in the series. Despite only going five games, this series felt much closer.

The Games

 

Game DEN WP48 DEN WP OKC WP48 OKC WP
1 0.074 0.37 0.126 0.63
2 -0.010 -0.05 0.208 1.04
3 0.082 0.41 0.120 0.60
4 0.122 0.61 0.078 0.39
5 0.076 0.38 0.122 0.61
Total 0.069 1.72 0.131 3.27

Game two was a blowout. Every other game was close. In fact looking at the numbers, the Nuggets Wins Produced record in 1, 3, 4 and 5 was 1.77 to 2.23. Unfortunately the NBA doesn’t give partial wins — and the refs may give impartial treatment — and the result of the two was an early vacation for the Nuggets.

Breaking down the Nuggets

 

Player G MP MPG Pos WP48 WP
Ty Lawson

5

167

33

1.0

0.259

0.9

Nene Hilario

5

162

32

5.0

0.148

0.5

Chris Andersen

5

73

15

4.6

0.263

0.4

Kenyon Martin

5

148

30

4.0

0.097

0.3

Danilo Gallinari

5

148

30

3.2

0.032

0.1

Raymond Felton

5

152

30

1.5

0.000

0.0

Gary Forbes

1

2

2

2.2

0.000

0.0

Kosta Koufos

1

2

2

4.5

0.000

0.0

Arron Afflalo

3

85

28

2.0

-0.056

-0.1

J.R. Smith

5

76

15

2.4

-0.063

-0.1

Wilson Chandler

5

115

23

2.7

-0.042

-0.1

Al Harrington

5

70

14

4.5

-0.069

-0.1

Grand Total

0.068

1.7

 

Where’d our new players go?

A lot was made of trading for Gallinari, Chandler and Felton. While Chandler’s performance was so-so, Gallinari and Felton both played very well during the regular season. In the first round of the playoffs, though, Gallinari and Felton were significantly below average and Chandler was downright terrible.

Wasn’t SG supposed to be figured out?

With Afflalo playing well and J.R. Smith finally “maturing”, the two was a position I expected us to exploit when playing Oklahoma. Afflalo returned from injury, but sadly he was not the same caliber he had been during the regular season. J.R. Smith lost his head, his play, and his minutes. In a position we might have had a slight edge against Oklahoma, we instead ended up with a big hole.

Did we play the right players?

Our best player was Ty Lawson and he also got the most minutes. Yet his total minutes per game was less than three quarters of play. A lot of this was due to sharing minutes with Ray Felton. This is the playoffs, though, and winning is what matters, not handling players’ feelings. Lawson should have gotten more minutes.

In the frontcourt… Chris Andersen is old, overcoming injury, and Denver should limit his minutes. These arguments almost sound plausible except he played behind Kenyon Martin, who is the poster child for the above comments. Additionally Birdman essentially played as many minutes per game as Al Harrington. Andersen was one of our best players per-minute during the regular season and one of the best in the postseason. Unfortunately the power of good play is limited on the bench.

Final Thoughts

While convenient to blame bad calls or injuries, the truth is that only Lawson and Birdman showed up to this series. Unfortunately against a fairly balanced team that wasn’t enough. A familiar story plays out in Denver. If the Nuggets had played the whole season the way they did after the trade (in short if we had a full season without Melo and with Lawson) they could have had a better playoff seed. Unfortunately they ended up without home court against a tough opponent and lost. Here’s hoping for next year.

Breaking down the Thunder

 

Player G MP MPG Pos WP48 WP
Kevin Durant

5

209

42

3.2

0.299

1.3

James Harden

5

150

30

2.0

0.288

0.9

Serge Ibaka

5

159

32

4.3

0.272

0.9

Thabo Sefolosha

5

107

21

2.4

0.179

0.4

Russell Westbrook

5

181

36

1.0

0.053

0.2

Eric Maynor

5

59

12

1.0

0.081

0.1

Daequan Cook

5

52

10

2.5

0.092

0.1

Nick Collison

5

100

20

4.0

0.048

0.1

Kendrick Perkins

5

129

26

5.0

-0.112

-0.3

Nazr Mohammed

5

55

11

5.0

-0.436

-0.5

Grand Total

0.132

3.3

 

Playoff Mode

When looking over the regular season numbers for the Thunder a very clear thing stands out. They have many good players but no “Superstars” (WP48 > 0.250) In the first round of the playoffs Durant, Harden and Ibaka went into “playoff mode” and played much better than they did during the regular season. If these players can keep that up, then it is a scary prospect for future opponents.

Will Westbrook and Perkins be back?

Russell Westbrook was a very good player during the regular season. Perkins was a moderate center. Neither player showed up. However, if these two players can revert to their regular season numbers then the Thunder will be complete top to bottom.

Sticking with Arturo’s Plan

Arturo’s Half Baked Theory (which I will mention in every playoff write-up I do) essentially says your top six players in terms of minutes decide your playoff fate. The Thunder had an easy template to follow; they just played their top six players using the same scheme they used since the Perkin’s trade. We also notice they pushed the minutes Durant played (a strategy I wish Denver had followed with Lawson). With four of their top six playing very well — and regular season numbers suggesting Perkins and Westbrook can play better — the Thunder look in good shape.

Final Thoughts

I expected a fight this series and I got it, mostly. The Thunder are playing very well, and with Los Angeles and San Antonio struggling this year may see them in the Finals. Giving Durant the ball seems to be working out well — and thanks to Jeff Green leaving — the Thunder finally have a decent big. That said their front court is weak (with only Ibaka playing well), and their back court is dependent on Westbrook showing up.  Still, the Thunder should be able to handle the Spurs or Grizzlies next round.

-Dre

P.S The Wages of Wins Network is doing a wrap up of every playoff series this year. Here are our previous wrap ups

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