The Denver Nuggets are not the same team they were a year ago — not even close. During a tumultuous offseason in which they lost — no, fired – reigning NBA Coach of the Year George Karl, the team became much worse off by also losing two key players.
Karl is where it all began with the Nuggets of 2012. A true player’s coach, Karl instilled some of the best practices on and off the court within his team and they played the game how it was supposed to be played. They rebounded well, played fast and had fun. They didn’t play the best defense, but it got them by and into the playoffs.
Over the summer, Denver’s satisfactory defense would take a hit. The Nuggets lost their top two defenders in Andre Iguodala — to the Golden State Warriors — and Corey Brewer — to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Just how badly are the Nuggets hurting because of those losses?
Denver is currently 26th in the league in total defense, where they’re giving up an average of 105.2 points per game. Sure, they’re still rebounding well — but that’s because they have to. They have no choice but to rebound on the offensive end — their defense can’t stop anyone from scoring.
Denver is also 29th in the league in steals per game at just 5.6. Iguodala and Brewer are each averaging at least 2.0 steals by themselves on the year, which makes perfect sense as to why Denver is doing so poorly on the defensive side of the ball. The team leader in steals thus far has been Randy Foye at only 1.6 per game.
If you’re counting on Foye’s defense to save the team, that most definitely won’t happen.
Here’s an interesting statistic: Through five games, Iguodala and Brewer have combined for 4.1 steals per game. The entire Nuggets’ cast of small forwards and shooting guards have combined for just 3.54 per game.
Denver, are you missing these guys yet?
The perimeter defense is no where near where it was a year ago. By no means could Iguodala or Brewer shut down a guy like Kevin Durant or Kobe Bryant, but they would sure make it a living nightmare on each of those guys to score the basketball. This year, the Nuggets have no one on the roster who can even come close to defending like those two could.
In a tough beginning to the season, the Nuggets look like just an average team at best, maybe even below average. Without Karl, Iguodala and Brewer, someone has to step up — at this rate, more than just one person has to step up, quite frankly. The team defense is flat out poor.
But then again, what else would you expect after that horrendous offseason?