Coaching Advice to the Nuggets from Greg Popovich

The Nuggets haven’t been doing well. I’d love to blame this all on George Karl. Sadly the blame actually gets shared among the whole team. The truth is that the Nuggets have been playing terribly.

2013 Denver Nuggets through 2 Games via The NBA Geek

Name Pos GP MPG PoP/G
Ty Lawson PG 2 37.0 -1.7
 Andre Iguodala SG 2 25.5 -1.0
 Danilo Gallinari SF 1 35.0 6.0
 Kosta Koufos C 2 28.5 1.7
 Andre Miller G 2 26.5 0.3
 Corey Brewer SF 2 25.5 -4.4
 Wilson Chandler GF 2 19.5 -5.7
 Kenneth Faried PF 2 18.5 -0.2
 JaVale McGee C 2 15.0 -1.3
 Evan Fornier SG 2 8.5 -1.6
 Jordan Hamilton SF 2 8 1.4

Ignoring small sample sizes and all that, the simple truth is a majority of the Nuggets just aren’t playing well. This includes our top players in Faried, Lawson and Iguodala, who have traditionally been very good. But moving on, I do get to criticize George Karl. I have no problem playing Lawson and Iguodala and Lawson a lot, even if they’re doing poorly. Why oh why are Brewer and Chandler getting so many minutes?

Small Ball?

Looking over the listed positions we see Faried, Koufos and McGee are the only players explicitly listed as bigs. Perhaps Karl is trying to do the small ball strategy that worked for the Heat. Except as Patrick point out, that’s a red herring. It’s not about putting out some system that confuses the opponent. It’s about putting out your best players. With Faried and McGee buried in the minutes, Karl is playing the perfect strategy to let the opponent win.


In hockey if an goalie is doing poorly they tend to get pulled. Now the secret in hockey is that goals are pretty random and goalies are pretty interchangeable. Pulling the goalie may be more of a ritual than actually useful. (Although, not pulling the goalie can have bad effects too) When I’ve asked why Karl isn’t playing Faried more, I get this kind of justification. Karl has to pull Faried because he was playing poorly. That brings me to my favorite coach. Greg Popovich had a great take on this scenario.

When asked how he could start Manu in the third, Popovich just says “He’s Manu Ginobili.” The truth is players can be all over the place. Players are essentially weighted dice. You want the players that give you the best odds to win. Sitting Faried because he played a poor quarter is like folding pocket aces in poker because you’ve lost with them the last two times you had them. Of course, I suspect Popovich may in fact be a robot devoid of emotion, which could explain his edge as a coach. (see proof below.)


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