Playin’ the Nuggets, but First a Word

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Published: November 27, 2008

My initial reaction was much the same as our fellow Hornets Blogs when I read ESPN’s Bill Simmons’ most recent NBA article.  I’m sure most of you have seen it by now, but in a nutshell he says that Chris Paul is showing signs of having turned on Byron Scott.

I wanted to dismiss it, but here’s the thing:  I don’t get to watch the Hornets in person, I see them on TV only, which means the interactions I see between Paul and Scott are brief snippets from timeouts or quick shots where he is standing near Byron when free throws are happening.  That’s hardly inclusive of all the interactions they have.  So can I dismiss what he’s saying?

I like Bill Simmons.  There’s quite a bit of scathing rhetoric about Simmons throughout the blogosphere, some deserved, most not.  Simmons can be very wrong, but in all I enjoy his humor,(sorry ticktock, his Deron line was clearly humor for those who read his stuff) and it actually is fairly common for him to produce some insightful pieces.  So Simmons watched the Hornets, made some observations, and called it like he saw it.  It happens.  He’s not the only commentator or observer completely stumped by New Orlean’s struggles and grasping blindly for an explanation.(Free Throws and Turnovers, guys!)  The way most people look at it, this team is nearly the same as the one last year – and can anyone say with a straight face that Jannero Pargo leaving should make that much of a difference?  Right, neither could I.  So couldn’t internal strife be a factor?

To paraphrase Niall from an earlier comment, would it surprise you if Paul, his feral desire to win in full bloom, did treat Byron dismissively during the game?  Is it beyond the realm of possibility that a rift could form between them if Paul thought Byron was a part of the problem?   West and Paul can be volatile, and neither hold back on the floor.  Hell, I remember a game last season against Portland where West and Paul were ripping one another apart so furiously after a turnover the announcers were flat out shocked.(and gleeful)

With all that said, do I agree with Bill Simmons?  No.

All I need to remind me what sort of person Chris Paul is – and what sort of relationship he has with Byron Scott – is this clip from youtube:



That sort of personality, that sort of respect for authority, does not change in seven months.  No matter what struggles a team may be going through.

On to the game:

Matchup: Hornets(8-5) @ Nuggets(9-5)

Off Efficiencies: Hornets 106.7(4th), Nuggets 101.5(21st)
Def Efficiencies: Hornets 101.8(13th), Nuggets 98.8(6th)

As I write this, I have the Clippers v Nuggets game on the TV, so by the time you read it, the above numbers have probably changed some and the Nuggets probably have another win.  The Nuggets have had a pretty nice run since they traded away Allen Iverson four games into the season for Chauncey Billups.  Since then, they have gone 8-2, proving once again the value of having an actual point guard on your team.

The Nuggets efficiencies fly in the face of their reputation as an all-offense, no defense team.  This isn’t really a reflection of Billups impact, or the loss of Iverson.  Even last year, the Nuggets defense was more efficient than given credit for – and it’s offense was much less efficient than given credit for – but the reality was masked by the fast pace and sheer number of shots the Nuggets and their opponents got, increasing both team’s points scored per game.

So far this season, they’ve been very hard to score on, and doing it honestly by simply making it very hard to get good shots as they have held opposing teams to 43% shooting from the field, and 31% shooting from deep.  They draw also draw a lot of fouls per game, shooting 30 free throws per contest.

Their weakness is that they have been shooting poorly from deep(31%), turn the ball over 16 times per game, and generally lose on the battle for the boards due to their shallow frontcourt.

Should be an interesting game.

Injuries

Hornets: Doesn’t look like Peterson will be playing yet.
Nuggets: None

Positional Analysis

PG: Chris Paul v Chauncey Billups
Advantage: Hornets
Every time the Hornets played the Pistons last year, they got blown out.  Part of that was due to the rough defense Billups would play against Paul.  Billups is one of the few players that actually make Chris Paul’s life difficult on the offensive end.  Expect him to bump, push, and generally knock Paul off balance all night.  Still, Paul handles it, and will have the advantage.

SG:
Rasual Butler v Dahntay Jones
Advantage: Even
Neither of these guys should be starting for an NBA team.  I rate Butler’s offense a little higher, and Dahntay’s fast-footed defense a little better.  Rasual has the potential to have more impact if his shot is falling, but in all this is likely to be a draw.

SF: Peja Stojakovic v Carmelo Anthony
Advantage: Nuggets
Both of these forwards have about the same shooting percentage.  Typically, you’d like to be compared to Carmelo or Peja, shooting wise, but in this case, both of them have been way below their career norms.  Still, the non-shooting parts of their games make it pretty clear.  Anthony does almost everything else better than Peja.  Much better.

PF: David West v Kenyon Martin
Advantage: Hornets
Kenyon Martin is putting up 13 points and 7 rebounds so far this season, but most of his impact has been on the defensive end, where he’s been grabbing a couple steals and a couple blocks a game.  It should be interesting to see West’s superior offensive game against Martin’s superior defensive game.  I have a feeling that Martin’s eagerness to block shots will be used against him several times by West’s pump and head fakes.

C:
Tyson Chandler v Nene
Advantage: Nuggets
Nene is a solid defender who works hard down low.  He’s also proven to be good in the pick and roll so far this season.  Though I don’t think his defense actually matches up to Chandler’s, Chandler has been out of sorts in the early going, and will have a newborn on his mind.  I doubt it will be this game that he starts getting back into gear again.

Bench
Advantage: Even
The Nuggets have four reserves they trust off the pine: Linas Kleiza, Anthony Carter, Renaldo Balkman and former Hornet JR Smith.  This bench is actually a lot like the Hornets.  Kleiza is a forward who prefers shooting corner three’s(Posey), Renaldo is a frenetic energy guy who is a bit undersized for the big man positions he’s required to cover(Julian), Anthony Carter is a serviceable back up guard(Devin Brown), and JR Smith is a guy with all the talent who can never seem to put it together.(Hilton Armstrong)

The Nuggets bench should have some offensive firepower, but has had a lot of trouble hitting their shots.  The Hornets bench has some defensive skill, but also has a lot of trouble hitting their shots.  The early parts of the second quarter and end of the third could be really ugly to watch.

Enjoy your Turkey Day.

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