Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Thumbs up on the Carmelo trade

I liked the Carmelo Anthony trade to the NY Knicks earlier this week from the Nuggets end. Carmelo wanted out of Denver and the Nuggets got a good package considering the circumstances. Two players coming to the Nuggets I especially like:

Danilo Gallinari 6'10 forward

I've had my eye on Gallinari since the Fall. In preparation for my annual fantasy draft I had targeted Danilo as a player I wanted, and one of the better up and coming young players in the NBA. I drafted Gallinari in the 4th round of my league, which drew some surprise responses from other owners. Danilo did start the season slow, hampered by an injury, but he's been playing much better recently.

What drew me to Gallinari was this scouting report I read in the Basketball Prospectus before the season:

"It’s hard not to compare Danilo Gallinari to Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani. They’re both tall. They’re both Italian. They were both high lottery picks. They both like to shoot a long ways from the basket. Whereas Bargnani has developed in fits and starts, Gallinari’s second year showed a clear progression over his first. He looks like a legit starter in the NBA with the potential for more to come.

Gallinari is already one of the NBA’s deadliest perimeter shooters, and last year’s .381 mark from behind the arc could prove to be on the low end of what he shoots from long range. However, he is more than just a spot-up shooter. Gallinari attacked the basket to get a fifth of his shots at the rim, where he converted at near the league average despite lacking strength. Gallinari also drew fouls at an above-average rate. 21 percent of his shot attempts were long twos, and while the .380 he shot there isn’t terrible, you’d like to see him get that up to a Korver-esque .460 or so. Otherwise, he needs to cut down on that portion of his game.

Gallinari’s passing skills improved as well, but they’re still not quite as good as they need to be, particularly if he ends up playing a lot of shooting guard this season. On defense, Gallinari is way better than expected. He moves well and uses his length to bother shots. Teams look at him and drool like he’s a New York strip, so 20 percent of his defensive possessions came against isolations. (And why wouldn’t you isolate him? He looks like a tall 12-year-old.) He responded by allowing .860 points per play in those situations, which puts him right at the league average. If he plays more twos, however, he’ll probably suffer against isos. The rest of Gallinari’s defensive profile looks solid. He’s a future All-Star."

This highlight reel of Gallinari last season shows he has talent:

The other player I like in the deal is Timofey Mozgov, who shows good mobility for a big man in this highlight reel:

Also coming to Denver are nba regulars Wilson Chandler and Raymond Felton making the Nuggets one of the deepest teams in the league, albeit without a superstar like Anthony.

In watching the post trade Nuggets last night, before the arrival of the new players, they reminded me of Larry Brown's first Nuggets team in the 70's. A running team that plays good defense with no established star. That 1974-75 Nuggets ABA team had the best record in basketball (65-19) and an amazing 40-2 record at home.

The key to successful basketball in the Mile High City is to play the running game. Visiting teams not accustomed to the high altitude are no match for a well conditioned Nuggets team. In listening to Nuggets coach George Karl last night that is exactly his plan - to run and play good defense - and he now has two former North Carolina point guards to coordinate that style of play (Ty Lawson and Felton).

Like many Denver basketball fans I will miss Chauncey Billups. With the 34 year old Billups, though, the Nuggets played a slower half court game to setup Anthony.

While Carmelo Anthony was a great talent, I think he was one dimensional. A great offensive player but a liability on the defense. I think the Carmelo Anthony Nuggets had their best chance for an NBA title in 2009. That year they reached the NBA Western Conference Finals and outplayed the eventual champion Lakers in the first two games (splitting those games 1-1). The Lakers rebounded to take the Series 4 games to 2, and swept Orlando in the Finals. Carmelo played well in the Laker series, but not at the superstar level needed to carry the Nuggets to the championship.

I am hearing younger fans lament the loss of Anthony and that Anthony led the Nuggets to their best basketball in team history. I disagree. The 70's Larry Brown Nugget teams were better playing an up tempo style. Perhaps the 2011 Nuggets will play like those 1974 Nuggets with no established super star. It'll be fun to watch.

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