How Unique is Denver Broncos’ 2022 Season?

So many have wasted many hours trying to make sense of the Denver Broncos’ 2022 season using “historical data”. The problem is, there is no data that matches this squad.

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I had a convo on Sunday before the Denver Broncos game against the Chiefs. And I was thrown the argument that the aggregate record of the three best defenses that had a bottom-3 offense in history existed in a number that the sample size mattered.

They also stated that their records were going to be astronomically better than the 2022 Denver Broncos because the Broncos have the worst offense ever. How the Broncos can have the worst offense ever when they don’t have the worst offense of 2022 is an idiotic take on it’s own but I degrees.

Below are the worst offenses by total yards per ESPN.com:

Let’s see if his argument that those teams were far and away more successful without a doubt and no research was needed to prove him right is true. I said it was ridiculous to make such a claim without research and his “historical data” (which he was unable to cite or give specifics on just “if you look at the historical data”) was irrelevant. Let us see if he had a single leg to stand on: (All stats and records are per Pro-Football-Reference.com)

Top-3 Defense/Bottom-3 Offense Aggregate Team Record from 2010-2021:

2021: n/a

2020: n/a

2019: n/a

2018: n/a

2017: n/a

2016: n/a

2015: n/a

2014: n/a

2013: n/a

2012: n/a

2011: n/a

2010: n/a

I’m stopping here. My point is two-fold. Never make blanket statements with zero research. Secondly, people need to stop trying to use “historical data” to explain this 2022 Broncos squad. Due to the injuries, mass changes, etc. this team is a true outlier.

Historical data means nothing more than trying to create a context for current events. You must learn from the past, but past success means almost nothing when it comes to future success. Historical data is useful, but it means nothing when it comes to what should happen, it only tells you what could happen. If you believe otherwise you have already lost every argument you will ever be involved in.

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Causation and correlation are not always synonymous. Just because you shave down the edges of the square peg to shove it in a round hole doesn’t change the fact that you shoved a square peg in a round hole. You didn’t solve the problem, you cheated your way to a false positive.

There always comes a time in historical data that a first comes around. It’s a novel concept I know but stick with me. No offense this bad has had a defense this good and vice versa. This 2022 Broncos squad is a first in many ways, but one above all others. How does a team become this lopsided? Simple, injuries. I know that’s not very exciting and is more boring than “Team X scored 35 points in 3.5 seconds while the Broncos haven’t scored that many in 35 blood moons.”

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I’m obviously being facetious but the premise remains, historical data means what you could have, not what you are entitled to. People can keep banging their head against a wall of irrelevant stats to try and justify their narrative. But the simple fact remains that this team is way to injured to be effective.

How do you run a complicated offense and dive deep in a playbook when four-out-of-five lineman have no more than 3 starts this season? How do you run a complex blocking scheme that requires after snap identification of the man you are blocking while running full speed sideways that requires you knowing exactly what the guy next to you is going to do on every single snap and against every single defensive front you will face each week? Not to mention 7 different running backs have taken double digit carries in a game. So no excuse why they might not know who is going where right?

You can’t do any of that, periodt. There is absolutely no way you can expect guys that only have between a few weeks to as little as a few days on a team to know an entire playbook. If you do, you are a disengenous and insufferable human being.

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How any human, let alone so many that can’t throw a football with fully intact shoulder ligaments can say Russel Wilson’s shoulder injury doesn’t matter is befuddling to say the least. Let alone all the injuries around him to be “excuses”? Calling broken bones and torn ligaments “excuses” is one of the most asinine statements I have ever heard a human utter. The best any team in the table below can call themselves any better than mediocre. And they all have something in common.

Below is the “top”-5 most injured squads in the 2022 NFL season per Spotrac.com:

How can you see those numbers and the teams around the Denver Broncos and say that doesn’t matter? That it has to be deeper? I get pundits and experts have to find daily talking points and it seems most in this business are very bad at finding their own as they copy cat off each other. This is not an assumption, it’s a fact. I have had multiple professors teach me to literally rip off places like USA Today and The Athletic for talking points because it’s easier. They stated it didn’t matter if it was an original idea as long as it got “clicks” and “views” and you put the story in your own words. This is the problem with media today, it’s all about what’s sensational, not so much truthful or accurate.

The 2022 Denver Broncos have an easily discernible problem, it’s not the moronic claim that Russell Wilson is washed. It’s not even the more viable but overstated low hanging fruit of an inept Nathaniel Hackett offense. Three touchdowns by Russ and 4 total by Hackett and Co against the Kansas City Chiefs begs to differ on the latter though. Yes they lost the game, but if Russ finishes that game, I have every belief the Broncos leave Empower Field a Mile High.

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So you can be the ones that bloviate about this irrelevant number or that one from NFL seasons past to try and cope with your fee-fees about this team not doing what you want them to do. Or you can accept the fact this season is lost to injuries and has been since the first month. I told you all exactly 31 days before this was published this o-line would not allow the Broncos to be successful.

I don’t do hindsight, I tell you how things will happen beforehand. This is what we do at The Answer is 42, and why you Don’t Question the Blue!

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Denver Nuggets Battle in the Bayou

The talk was about the Denver Nuggets’ Joker and the Pels’ Zion. But a player averaging 8.7 ppg steals the show in New Orleans.

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As much as I and Santiago talked about the deadly trio in New Orleans and the dynamic duo of the Denver Nuggets. It came down to. a battle of the benches in the bayou. The Pelicans’ bench outscored the Nuggets 59-18. You always hear coaches talk about if you contain their best and get beat by their secondary options, you gotta chalk it up to it being their day. But Nuggets Coach Michael Malone was tossed after two technicals with a few minutes to go in the fourth.

Regardless of the antics on the Nuggets bench. It was quite the day for Jose Alvarado. Alvarado came into the day averaging 8.7 pts and 36% from three, an undrafted free agent out of Georgia Tech. He had also never scored more than 29 points at any level in his life and scored 38 of those 59 pts off the New Orleans bench. Alvarado went 8-11 from three, almost all of the catch-and-shoot variety. He outscored the Nuggets bench by 20 points all by himself.

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Brandon Ingram of New Orleans didn’t play in this contest due to a toe injury. You can live with Zion Williamson putting up a slash of 25 pts/4 ast/6 reb and C.J. McCollum putting up a measly 7 pts/3 ast/6 reb. You got plenty out of Nikola Jokic with a 32 pts/9 ast/16 reb double-double. You got enough from Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon, and Bruce Brown.

Unfortunately Jeff Green and Michael Porter Jr. were both still in street clothes. And Bones Hyland was only able to go for 5:00 minutes. You don’t want to make excuses, especially after this Nugget’s loss on Friday to a short-handed Hawks squad. But it is what it is.

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The silver lining, which I’m sure is hard for Denver sports fans to see after watching both active teams struggle offensively in the third quarter and their defense falter when it mattered most. This is only the second time this season Nuggets have lost back-to-back games. Speaking of the third quarter which is the Bermuda triangle for this Nuggets’ squad. The Nuggets had a five-point lead with 5:00 minutes to go in the frame. Then Nikola Jokic went to the bench and the Pelicans went on a 19-4 run.

The Nuggets only made 7 total shots in the 3rd quarter. Graphic courtesy of Yahoo! Sports:

The Nuggets starters played well defensively, Jamal Murray had 2 blocks, and Joker 2 steals. Aaron Gordon and Bruce Brown combined for 14 total rebounds. The depth of this Denver squad we have touted so much just has not shown up in the last two games. You saw a lot more staggering starters and bench players.

At one point four guards (Murray/Smith/Brown/KCP) were on the floor at the same time. Although I liked what I saw at times with those four on the floor, you are giving up some serious size with that lineup. And there were times when they were forced into bad iso’s because nobody was big enough to set any high screens for the pick and roll. This led to multiple turnovers and bad shots.

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The league’s 2nd best three-point team the Nuggets only went 8-31 from deep as a team. This means they made as many threes as a team as Jose Alvarado did off the Pels’ bench in three times as many attempts. Coach Malone needs his guys MPJ, Bones, and Uncle Jeff back.

He is trying to cover for the lack of offense from the bench by overusing his starters. All four starters played more than 30 mins. With Jokic, Brown, and Gordon all logging over 37 mins. It is way too early in a long season to be having starters on the floor that long, especially when one is coming off a major injury. Those are playoff minutes.

The Denver Nuggets get a chance at a rebound on Tuesday with a home date against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks. They will need more than 4 players to show up if they want to avoid wearing a third straight L.

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Denver Nuggets vs Pelicans Preview

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Two of the best in the NBA clash as the Denver Nuggets host Zion and the Pelicans. Who will continue their torrid pace?

Not too many Sundays have been a blessing for Denver sports fans as the football town has dreaded the play of the Broncos the last few weeks. But the Denver faithful will have something to look forward to as the 14-8 Nuggets will take on the 14-8 Pelicans. A game that screams playoff atmosphere. Both teams are currently tied for the second seed in the prestigious western conference. Denver is coming off a frustrating 109-117 loss against Atlanta on Friday. The Pelicans are coming off an 18-point victory against the Spurs.

Both teams have had their share of injury issues, Nuggets Forward Michael Porter Jr. will sit out his sixth straight game with a heel injury. While the Pelicans will be without All-Star Brandon Ingram and second-year role player Herb Jones. As good and exciting as the Nuggets have been the Pelicans have developed their own storyline through the first 22 games of the season. Here are two things to look out for during Sunday’s afternoon match-up.

Denver Nuggets Sweep Rockets at Home

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Back-to-back home games for the Denver Nuggets against the Houston Rockets lead to back-to-back double-digit wins. The latest is a 120-100 drubbing on Wednesday night.

We told you last game the Denver Nuggets dynamic duo was back, but Wednesday the rest of the Bat Family showed up. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic were back at it going for 33 pts./14 asts/13 rebs/1 stl/1 blk combined with Blue Arrow firing up a game-high 26 points. That may not seem like much until you realize they both only played a little over 5 minutes in the 4th combined. And you don’t need the gaudy numbers from game 1 against Houston when Bruce Brown and Aaron Gordon combine for 38 points and 6-11 from three.

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the Slovenian Sniper Vlatko Cancar did his best Dr. J impression from the Denver Nuggets free throw line:

Denver Nugget Vlatko Cancar takes flight from just inside Free Throw line.

Cancar did more than put up a highlight dunk as he put up 13 pts and 5 rebs on 5-6 shooting while going 3-4 from deep. Fellow bench player Ish Smith had a nice contribution of 6 pts/7 asts/2 rebs. That slash from Ish isn’t his biggest contribution, it’s his leadership and control of the floor as a vet. He showed it best after the game when he apologized to Coach Malone and the starters for not being good enough to keep them on the bench in the 4th of a 20-point win. He does a great job of being a defensive pest and keeping everyone involved and energized on offense.

I want to see a bench lineup with him and Bones, I don’t think you need to pick and choose who to have on the floor. Calvin Booth is showing exactly why Minnesota was able to poach Tim Connelly. Bruce Brown has already shown to be a free-agent steal, Ish is starting to show he was more than a throw-in for the KCP deal with the Wizards. I think Ish as the backup PG and Bones as the backup SG will make a deadly second unit once this squad is fully healthy.

The Rockets’ starters were not terrible as you can see below courtesy of Yahoo! Sports:

Kevin Porter Jr. and Alperen Sengen were most impressive, not just because Porter lead his team in scoring at 23 points, or because Sengun had a double-double. But because Porter Jr. went 5-7 from three and 8-18 overall in over 32 mins on the floor. Sengun was even more efficient with 8-12 shooting. They didn’t just pad their stats in a blowout by chucking up 25+ shots.

The Rockets look to be well coached as well as they did fight hard enough at the end to force Coach Malones hand on the Denver Nuggets bench and send his starters back on the court to insure an easy victory. This forced Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon to spend more than 30 minutes on the floor, something you don’t want in a 20-point win against a rebuilding bottom-feeder. The Rockets came into Ball Arena with the worst winning percentage in the NBA. They left with it even lower, just as it should be.

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That may seem harsh for those who root for the Rockets, but when a top team in any league faces the bottom, this is what should happen. Unfortunately, for those who root for the Denver Nuggets, that’s not how it always goes. So you can forgive those of us in Nuggets Nation that began the series with bated breath after the Rockets were coming off back-to-back 120+ point outings. The Nuggets though gave yet another reason to be optimistic about what they can do in the 2022-2023 season.

What’s Next?

@Atlanta Hawks on Friday, Dec. 2nd at 5:30 PM MST/7:30 PM EST

Denver Nuggets Clean House

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Dan and Santiago both called for a double-digit victory by the Denver Nuggets over the Houston Rockets. What they didn’t predict was a vintage Joker and Blue Arrow two-man performance.

March 30, 2021 that’s 607 days from Sunday’s game that pit the Denver Nuggets against the Houston Rockets. It’s the best of the west vs the worst. And we got to see Jamal Murray go for 30+ for the first time in 607 days. We also got to see something that took even longer at the same time, 618 days to be exact, since Joker and Blue Arrow both went for at least 30 pts. The NBA’s deadliest two-man game is back.

I and Santiago have been back and forth on when we would see this type of performance from the Nuggets franchise cornerstones. We were both wrong, but Nikola Jokic, as always, was spot on. Back in the pre-season Joker was asked when we would see the old Jamal. He said pretty plainly “I love to play with him, of course. I know he’s gonna be really bad for the next 20 games, but we’re gonna survive,” Jokic said, per Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

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Some tried to take it as a jab, but even Murray knew he was only being honest. After that much time away from competition you have the proverbial “rust” to knock off. Well, Sunday night showed exactly what this well oiled ore-cart could do at a mile high. Once Jokic and Murray got started down the tracks, nothing could derail them other than rest at designated stops. I said I wanted a game where the starters didn’t play in the fourth, we got exactly that. All 63 points, 14 rebs, and 13 assists by the dynamic duo came in the first three-quarters.

That left Young Justice (Ish Smith and Zeke Nnaji) coming off the bench in the fourth and closing out a double digit victory with a little flash from the backup duo themselves dishing out 25 pts/8 asts/8 rebs/2 stls/1 blk combined. Ish has been impressive in his two games back from the calf-strain that sidelined him. Blocking shots, playing sticky defense, as well as some slick passing as the backup PG in Bones Hylands absence due to a non-Covid illness. Davon Reed was another bright spot going 3-6 from deep and playing top-notch defense in 25+ mins. on the court.

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We keep talking about it, but it’s a worthy item of discussion, and that is the depth of this team. As Santiago stated, it wouldn’t be a Denver Nuggets game if there wasn’t a few names on the injury report. That was the case yet again with this one that saw Michael Porter Jr. and Jeff Green in street clothes. That has not, and seemingly will not be an excuse for this team. It’s next man up, and nobody flinches.

So down key players again, this squad responded with an oldie but a goodie that included a dominate third-quarter. This has been a bugaboo of this Denver Nuggets squad that has gotten entire segments on talk shows about it. And that is how bad this Denver Nuggets team has tended to be in the 3rd quarter of games. Houston was able to keep up in the first quarter with the Nuggets only amassing a 3-point lead 42-39. Then Houston won the 2nd quarter 29-28 despite Murray putting up over a third of his point total in the frame. I’m sure most in Denver felt a “hear-we-go-again” mentality creeping in during the halftime show.

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Then Joker exited the locker room, and he could. not. miss. Almost literally (he missed one free-throw), Jokic went 7-7 in the third including two 3-pointers for 17 of his 32 points on the night. This lead Denver to a 106-91 going into the 4th and Joker and Murray getting the rest of the night off. This was well earned and should leave them well rested for game two of this mini homestand versus the Rockets on Wednesday night.

What’s Next?

vs Houston Rockets Nov. 30 @ 7:00 PM MST/9:00 PM EST

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Preview Game 21 Rockets @ Denver Nuggets

Game two of the Denver Nuggets vs Houston Rockets will take place Wednesday at Ball arena. Denver took care of Houston with no issue in the first meeting on Monday with a 129-113 victory.

By Santiago Salazar
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A game that featured a nostalgic Jamal Murray performance. Scoring a season-high 31, the most points since returning from the ACL injury he sustained back in March of 2021. Despite Blue Arrow making an appearance, the best performance goes to two-time MVP Nikola Jokic who tallied 32. A dominating performance all around, nonetheless the reigning MVP gave praise to the Rockets’ young big man Alperen Sengun, who has idolized Jokic since before joining the league. Sengun, who led his young team with 18 pts, looks forward to the second half of this back-to-back matchup and showcasing what he learned while guarding the Serbian Sensation during Monday’s contest. If the Nuggets want the same result as Monday they will have to come up with a no-mercy approach against a team with the worst win percentage in the Western Conference. Here are three things to look out for ahead of Wednesday’s game

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Denver Nuggets Continue Road Dominance

The Denver Nuggets have quietly moved into 2nd place in the West, just a game back of Phoenix. Being 8-5 on the road after beating the Clippers in L.A. is a big reason why.

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I’m sure many will want to put an asterisk next to the Denver Nuggets win Friday night in L.A. After all both of the Clippers biggest stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were both in street clothes. The reason I reject that caveat is this Nuggets squad has had an infuriating habit of playing up, or down, to their opponents level. Friday night, despite missing one of their stars (Michael Porter Jr.) and best bench player (Bones Hyland) was a buck in that trend.

In the last two weeks we have watched this Nuggets team lose their first home game against a below average Knicks squad. Then lose 4 of 5 starters due to COVID and other illnesses in Dallas yet pull out an improbable victory over an almost fully healthy Mavericks team on the road. Then give Detroit their first road win despite all those stars returning. Only to bounce back with consecutive wins on the road against the Thunder and Clippers. So I don’t care who was or wasn’t on the court for Los Angeles, the Nuggets needed this win to improve to 12-7, first in the Northwest Division, and second in the Western Conference. They are only .5 games back of the 12-6 Phoenix Suns.

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There were no triple-doubles, even though Nikola Jokic had a 19 pt/10 reb double-double, the burden was spread around the Nuggets stars on the court. I just told you about Joker, Jamal Murray had 21 pts/9 asts/6 rebs, and Aaron Gordon lead all scorers while staffing every stat column with 29 pts/7 rebs/3 asts/2 stls/2 blks. Air Gordon was his best self against L.A. and it helped the Denver Nuggets to absolutely dominate beyond the final score of 114-104 would lead you to believe.

Even despite a typical poor 3rd and average 4th quarter that actually led L.A. to outscore Denver by two points in the second-half. You never really felt the ending was in question. John Wall lead all Clippers in scoring with 23 off the bench. No L.A. starter scored more than 16 with three not even cracking double digits. Only Marcus Morris and Terance Mann accomplished that for the Clippers.

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As you seen above, Nuggets were one Joker free throw made from three starters cracking 20. That starting five included Bruce Brown with MPJ out. That means the nuggets are now 6-2 with Brown in the starting lineup. I love Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and what he brings but I still believe the Denver Nuggets best-5 includes Bruce not KCP. Pope has been lights out from three still shooting an absurd 49.4% from deep. But Bruce is no slouch at 38.7%, where the biggest difference comes is in the paint, both offensively and defensively. With Bruce starting the Nuggets average more than 60 points in the paint per game. That drops to less than 50 with him coming off the bench. There is also an almost 20 point swing in how many points opponents score in the paint against the Nuggets starters with/without Bruce.

I don’t think it’s disrespectful to say KCP is best served off the bench, salary is secondary to winning. Bruce brings a hustle and controlled chaos to this squad no one else can match. I have a fever, and the only prescription is more Downtown Bruce Brown. He’s not just a hustler, he’s a closer with a killer instinct the Nuggets have lacked outside of peak Blue Arrow since they started this journey during a Taco Bell commercial. He leads all Nuggets in 4th quarter minutes with 128, number 2 is Joker at 107. Some may say I’m crazy if they just look at the boxscore and see his slash of 8 pts/4 asts/4 rebs/1 stl. But you can’t just watch the highlights and be able to appreciate what this man brings to the team.

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This team was dealt a tremendous blow when multiple viruses wrecked the locker room heading to Dallas. But the way they have responded as they slowly get healthy and still have Murray and Porter on pitch-counts after both missed all of 2021-2022. The way Bruce has been able to cover every hole that has ruptured in the Nuggets flagship so far this season has earned him a bigger role even when they are bak to full strength. Coach Malone said it best per Mike Singer of The Denver Post “Some guys are in the foxhole with you, some guys, like they’ve got one foot in, one foot out,” Malone said after the game. “Bruce is, he’s all the way in.”

You may ask, “Who takes his place off the bench? The natural answer might be, well who he replaces, KCP. But I posit that being a much bigger human in Vlatko Cancar. He does all you get from Bruce but with a less consistent shot. I believe Vlatko can iron out that shot if just given time on the hardwood. Here’s to hoping the Denver Nuggets are “all the way in” with Bruce as they head back home for their first home back-to-back of the season against the last-place Houston Rockets. And to them finally being over that roller-coaster of matching the opponents level and playing to their potential on a consistent basis.

What’s Next?

vs Houston Rockets at 7:00 PM MST/9:00 PM EST on November 28 & 30.

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Denver Nuggets Bounce Back vs Thunder

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After a disappointing loss to Detroit. Denver Nuggets dig deep against OKC and pull out an OT victory 131-126.

Many wondered if the Denver Nuggets would have enough energy to put up a fight in Oklahoma City after the hard-fought loss to Detroit at home Tuesday night. You could understand if the team’s stars didn’t have 100% to give on the back half of a back-to-back with a flight in between. Significant stars and role players were out as Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., Bones Hyland, and Jeff Green all with a mix of non-Covid illnesses/injuries. Third-string point guard Ish Smith has been out with a right-calf strain for a while now. Which meant the Nuggets were playing will all three PGs inactive. Things got so thin 2-way player Jack White logged almost 10 mins. pitching in 2 blocks and a rebound.

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The Denver Nuggets came out of the gates hot building a 17-point lead after the first quarter horn sounded at 38-21. Then the defense decided to be optional as the Nuggets gave up 76 points while only scoring 46 of their own in the 2nd and 3rd. The Thunder had an 86.6% win probability and a 13-point lead at this point. Then the 4th began, Air Gordon was cleared for take-off, and the Denver defense came along for the ride giving up only 29 points to the Thunder in the 4th and overtime combined.

Aaron Gordon put it best after the game when he said “It was a point-guard by-committee approach.” People have spent a lot of time asking “who cares if you have a 5 that can pass?” when talking about Nikola Jokic. Well, now you see how it is so much more than a luxury. After a night where I and Coach Malone pointed out a lack of production from those around Joker, you got 30 points from Aaron Gordon, and Bruce Brown produced his first career triple-double. It wasn’t cheap either, Bruce put up a 17 pts/10 asts/13 reb slash line. More importantly, the Nuggets improve to 5-2 with Downtown Bruce Brown in the starting lineup.

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We haven’t even mentioned AG being 2 rebounds shy of a double-double, or the 19 points he scored in the 4th and OT to spark the Denver Nuggets to a comeback and the season-high 30 points we mentioned before. Oh, and the Slovenian Sniper Vlatko Čančar(chawn-char) had a career-high 20 off the bench. This was only a night after Čančar didn’t log a single minute against Detroit. We didn’t get the two-man game from Joker and Blue Arrow we love so much, but you got the next best thing with Niko and Vlatko. Despite constant double teams Jokic fell one assist shy of a triple-double, again, with a 39 pts/9 asts/10 reb slash. All of this led to a season-high 131 points for the Nuggets.

For a second consecutive night, the 3-pointer abandoned Denver for stretches. They finished 36.8% from three, but that was buoyed by a less than likely 4-5 from deep from Air Gordon. Without him, the Nuggets barely reach 30% from beyond the arch. They were better at the stripe shooting 80.5% but is still below where you would like it. You want it more in line with OKC’s 85.7%. The only truly worrying thing though is the fact that for the second consecutive night you allowed sub-.500 teams to have a 20+ point scorer off the bench. Tuesday it was Alec Burks (21), and Wednesday it was Isaiah Joe (20). Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his torrid 2022 pace with a 31 pts/11 asts double-double. The most impressive part of SGA’s 31 points is he only had 12 points at the half on 4-of-7 shooting. You expect SGA to get his, you can’t allow the same lapses from the Denver bench against good teams.

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Despite all the adversity, all the injuries/illnesses, poor officiating, and going from a 17-point lead to a 13-point deficit. The Denver Nuggets improved to 3-0 against the Thunder and setting. upa season swee on January 22, 2023. There never was any quit in this team, it’s something I talked about after the Detroit game that had nine lead changes. This Nuggets squad has depth and pride never before seen in Ball Arena. No matter who is on the floor, or who isn’t, this team expects to win.

This is the second road win this week they had no business pulling off. The defensive effort might not always be as consistent as you would like. It has shown up when it’s needed most more often than not. Games like these are why you go out and get Aaron Gordon, Bruce Brown, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. This trio has held opponents to less than 34% from the perimeter. You don’t like back-to-back nights of 60+ points in the paint to teams that are plainly not on the same talent level. But you will always take the notch in the win column.

What’s Next:

@L.A. Clippers Friday, Nov. 5th at 8:30 PM MST/10:30 EST

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Denver Nuggets Give Detroit First Road Win

The Denver Nuggets came in with the best home record against a Pistons team that had yet to win on the road. After a seesaw affair, Detroit squeaked out a 110-108 win.

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After one of the more improbable wins in recent memory in Dallas on Sunday night. The Denver Nuggets followed that up with a dud at home against the 3-win Detroit Pistons. It seemed like an endless uphill battle all night, every time the Nuggets pulled it close with an impressive run, Detroit always had an answer. All this after the three starters missing in Dallas (Jokic/Murray/Gordon) all returned to the lineup for the Association’s fewest 6th home game of the 2022 season.

This tweet by James L. Edwards III of The Athletic sums up just how unlikely this Denver Nuggets loss was:

We have talked a lot about the Nuggets rebounding woes, Nuggets are still undefeated when they out-rebound the other team. They are under .500 when they don’t. Even Coach Michael Malone said it after the game in his presser “They out-worked us on the glass, to me that’s the story of the game”. Rebounding has zero to do with talent, it’s 100% about hustle. To punch his point home Coach Malone advised that Detroit had 12 offensive rebounds for 17 pts. The sloppiness on the offensive end wasn’t helpful as the Nuggets committed 18 turnovers for 26 Piston points.

The Nuggets did get some offensive production as six players left Ball Arena in double digits. Led by reigning MVP Nikola Jokic who fell one rebound short of a triple-double with a 31 pt/10 asts/9 reb slash. But the defense that held Luka Doncic and Co. to just 97 in Dallas, was non-existent for too many stretches Tuesday evening. The Pistons were even missing their most dangerous scorer in Cade Cunningham yet still managed to shoot over 50% from the field for only the second time all season.

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There were nine lead changes in this game, while lead changes are not abnormal in basketball, this is a lot in a game where the trailing team was 12-point home favorites against a team winless on the road. This is made possible when your depth disappoints. Many will point to Bones Hyland not playing in the second half (non-Covid illness) as why Detroit’s bench outscored the Denver Nuggets bench 53-22. In comparison to the Nuggets’ six players in double digits, Detroit only had 4. Where it gets to Detroit getting so much from the bench as opposed to the Nuggets. Detroit had 10 players make at least two buckets, the Nuggets only had seven. The depth that impressed in Dallas dried up in Denver.

This is not a five-alarm fire, it’s not even a candle glow. This is the first half of a back-to-back that has Denver flying from DIA to Oklahoma City after the game for a 6:00 pm tip-off. You hate to call this a trap game as you assume all three starters that returned gave it their all and the focus was there to almost erase a 15-point deficit with less than six minutes remaining to almost force OT on a last-second desperation shot that came up just short by Aaron Gordon off an intentional free-throw miss by Jamal Murray with 3.4 seconds left.

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Speaking of missed free throws, missing nine continues a troubling trend for the Nuggets. The Denver Nuggets are 24th in the NBA in free-throw percentage at a paltry 75.5%. Here’s a quick reminder they only lost by two points. Free throws are named thus for a very obvious reason. How a team can shoot 40.9% (1st) from three and 49.2% (2nd) from the field and be so bad from the charity stripe is staggeringly mind-bending. I have a feeling Coach Malone is going to emphasize both free-throw shooting and hustle on the boards over the next several practices. This is a team full of vets that haven’t let a bad outing snowball into bad outings. Just look at the responses from losses to the Utah Jazz and L.A. Lakers as examples of how this team tends to bounce back. Here’s to believing that trend is the one that continues against the Thunder.

What’s Next:

@Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 6:00 PM MST/8:00 PM EST

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5 Keys to a Successful Colorado Rockies Offseason

What would it take for the Colorado Rockies to succeed this off-season? Come join me as I give you five keys to making it happen.

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When the Colorado Rockies ended the 2021 season, everyone expected the loss of Trevor Story. Kris Bryant trying to fill the power vacuum that was created though, I don’t believe many seen coming. So, while there is bound to be a surprise or two in store, I’m here to show how slow and steady can win the race.

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Fire Bill Schmidt and hire James Click.

I went in-depth with this potential franchise-changing move here. But to sum it up, the Colorado Rockies need an outside voice bringing a fresh perspective to the franchise. The latest World Series winning GM surprisingly became available due to a miser in Houston who wouldn’t offer him more than a year of job security. James Click would carry the clout necessary to ensure Dick would be willing to acquiesce the necessary power to re-align this club to what Coors Field and this loyal fan base deserve.

James Click’s specialty is finding pitching, especially in the low-cost international player pool. He is also familiar with working in a small market when he was in Tampa Bay’s front office before being hired by Houston in 2019. He was given credit for finding current Rockies ace German Marquez during his time there. In Houston they traded Jake Odorizzi at the deadline, Justin Verlander can leave during free agency, and they will still have six starters under contract until at least 2025. All six of those starters helped the 2022 Houston Astros clinch that World Series we mentioned earlier.

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Revamp the analytics department.

The first key will lead directly into the second. One of the biggest sticking points for Click leaving Houston wasn’t just about the money spent on him, but his analytics department. Coming from Tampa which has one of if not the most robust analytic departments in baseball it’s easy to see why he values analytics so much. The Monforts are tied for the 4th-lowest net worth at $700MM. That is obviously still very rich by any standard, but when you are competing against the Steve Cohens ($16 Billion) and Steinbrenners ($3.8 Billion) you need to be running your front office like your peer Stuart Sternberg (owner of the Rays).

Sternberg is just above the Monforts at $800MM and is a perfect case study of how you can be cost-conscious while putting a consistent contender on the field.  Four of the most consistently winning teams over the last decade (Rays, Braves, Astros, Dodgers) and the last three World Series Champs (Braves, Dodgers, Astros) can all trace their front office lineage back to Tampa Bay. And what is the consensus of baseball on why they have been so good? Their analytics department.

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Address the bullpen with familiar faces.

What is the most nauseating take for those clad in purple and black in LoDo? You can’t pitch at a mile high. The below four names know more than any that’s simply not true. While it is an inherent disadvantage to pitch half your games at Coors Field, it is not impossible.

Adam Ottavino is arguably one of the best relief pitchers in Colorado Rockies’ history. From 2012-2018 Otto was 17-18 with a 3.41 ERA, 17 SVs, 452 Ks in 390.2 innings, and a ERA+ of 136. When you remove his first full season of 2012 where he was adjusting from life as a former first-round pick as a starting pitcher into a late-inning reliever, that stat line drops the ERA to 3.12 and bumps the ERA+ to 149 with all 17 of those saves and 12 of the wins. He was also touted as a true leader in the bullpen. Something the Colorado Rockies are still sorely missing just beyond the right-field Bridich Barrier. And after coming off a season that saw him have the 2nd lowest ERA of his career (2.06) and 2.3 WAR (2nd best of career) over 66 appearances, it’s not just a nostalgia move. Otto is still lights out.

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After a rocky start to his career (no pun intended), Carlos Estevez is coming off his best season in purple pinstripes. He had a career-best 3.47 ERA and his 2nd-best total in ERA+ (135). His 1.1 WAR in 2022 more than doubled his career total to 2.1. Relief pitching is relatively inconsistent and infuriatingly futile to try and predict. But I have always been a proponent of if you find a guy that can find it at Coors, you keep him. Carlos can also be most likely retained at a low number to save money for other moves down the list.

What was said about Estevez applies to Jesus Tinoco. The only difference is it took a change of scenery to find his rhythm. Coming off a season in Texas that he posted a 2.18 ERA (albeit it in only 17 games) and .6 of his career .7 WAR. It’s not just me either, Brian Kenney stated on MLB Now on the MLB Network on November 14, 2022, that Tinoco is poised to turn the corner into a dominant force in the middle to the back-end of a bullpen.

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Miguel Castro is a direct replacement for a recent move made in LoDo to let Tyler Blach free to explore his options. Miguel doesn’t have the pedigree or ceiling of the above pitchers, but he has been a reliable “innings-eater” pitching at least 66 innings in 4 of the last 7 years. As mentioned above, pitching at Coors Field is treacherous for even the best in the game. So having someone that can consistently come in and take it on the chin is invaluable. Think back to Chris Rusin, Gabe White, Darren Holmes, et al.

There has been one consistently successful type of pitcher at altitude. Big fastball with movement and some combo of a high spin-rate slider/sinker/curve. The proof is in the puddin’, Ubaldo Jimenez, Jhoulys Chacin, Pedro Astacio, and German Marquez. Every one of the men mentioned matches this criterion. There are outliers that find success with a below-average fastball, but they are few and far between (i.e., Aaron Cook, Kyle Freeland). And most importantly, they should all be affordable with none making more than $4MM in 2022.

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Bring Brandon Nimmo back to the Rockies.

Brandon is a top-tier athlete that grew up at an even higher altitude than Denver in Cheyenne, WY that has the Rockies home beat by almost 800 ft at 6,036’ above sea level. So, he knows the rigors of roaming center field at altitude. A former first-rounder (13th overall) of the New York Mets has spent his entire career in the pressures of the Big Apple. There are some grumblings mentioned by Brian Kenney on the same MLB Now episode mentioned before that he would listen to his childhood team should they make a pitch.

With Charlie Blackmon to at least start the season and Zac Veen seemingly poised for a big-league breakthrough sooner rather than later in right field. Plus Kris Bryant is entrenched in left field for at least the next couple of seasons with the paychecks he is owed. That leaves center as the biggest hole left in the outfield.

The Colorado Rockies have a long history of stellar outfielders, and the semi-local kid could put another notch on that belt. He is coming off his best season per WAR at 5.1. He is a top-of-the-order bat with pop as evidenced by his 53 combined extra-base hits and 130 OPS+. He is also a stellar defender with speed at 6’3” and 210 lbs. He’s built sturdy and seemingly born to thrive at 5,280’. He won’t be cheap, but somewhere in the 5-7 year and 130-170 million range should get him to the ballpark barring a bidding war.

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Bring in Seth Lugo as a starter.

Seth has spent the entirety of his career bouncing between the bullpen and rotation as a valuable piece of the New York Mets staff. Yes, there are a lot of New York Mets ties here, but why not? They only went and won 101 games in 2022. Why not pick off what you can from that golden goose while the gettins’ good?

Seth has a lively 4-seam fastball in the 94-96 range, a tight sinker at 92-94, and a high spin-rate curveball in the low that is unhittable when he has the feel for it. He also has a good slider he can throw for strikes. The spin rate on his curveball has never dipped below the 99th percentile in his entire career.

While it is a bit of a projection to make him a full-time starter and take him from Citi to Coors Field. But that is where the Colorado Rockies must shop for starting pitching. Lugo could help start to change that narrative and do it at a team-friendly rate for a few seasons to prove himself as an every-5th-day starter. The Rockies offer a low-pressure situation to establish a place as a starter.

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This is obviously contingent on a lot of variables, such as a front office shake-up in a franchise that hasn’t hired an outside voice of any note since 1999 when they brought in Dan O’Dowd. Then that same franchise not only staying at a record payroll number almost $30 million more than they ever have spent. They would have to go even higher to make all the moves listed.  

Currently, the Rockies are projected as 3rd in the league in payroll for 2023 at over $154MM. If they were able to make all these moves that number would be closer to $180-190MM. There is talk about the Rockies adding even more than they did last year, but even so, this is a tall task. Yet it is completely doable with the right motivations in the right places.

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