Denver Nuggets: Nene Getting His Game Back?

[Note: Originally Posted 12-23-2008 at 05:07 PM by DenButsu]

Anybody who’s been paying attention to the Nuggets in the past couple of weeks will have noticed that, until very recently, Nene had really been struggling (or, perhaps, not struggling hard enough). Whatever the reason for the funk he was in, here’s a comparison between his stats for the last two games vs. the five games prior to that, and they might as well be for two different players:

Code:
DATE		FGM	FGA	PCT	FTM	FTA	PCT	STL	BLK	TO	PF	OFF	DEF	TOT	AST	PTS
12/10/08	2	5	.400	1	2	.500	1	1	1	3	4	5	9	2	5
12/13/08	5	6	.833	1	5	.200	1	1	1	4	0	2	2	0	11
12/15/08	4	10	.400	4	6	.667	0	4	1	3	1	8	9	2	12
12/16/08	5	14	.357	0	0		1	0	1	5	6	1	7	1	10
12/19/08	0	2	.000	1	2	.500	1	0	2	4	1	2	3	1	1

AVERAGES 3.2 7.4 .432 1.4 3 .467 0.8 1.2 1.2 3.8 2.4 3.6 6 1.2 7.8

12/20/08	9	12	.750	2	3	.667	0	2	3	2	6	9	15	0	20
12/22/08	7	11	.636	5	6	.833	2	1	3	4	5	6	11	2	19

AVERAGES 8 11.5 .696 3.5 4.5 .778 1 1.5 3 3 5.5 7.5 13 1 19.5

DIFFERENCE 4.8 4.1 .263 2.1 1.5 .311 0.2 0.3 1.8 -0.8 3.1 3.9 7 -0.2 11.7

To a certain extent, the Nuggets live and die by Nene, so it’s great to see him rediscovering his groove, and I sure hope it sticks.

To me, the two key conclusions to be drawn here are:

1. Nene needs the ball more.
I’d actually at some point like to go through his game log for the entire season and see if this can be backed up statistically, but at a glance at these numbers (albeit from a very small sample size), in which he attempted 4.1 more field goals in the last two games than the previous five and was much more effective, it would seem to suggest that he plays with more confidence and competence when more plays get run through him. George Karl, Nene’s teammates, please get this guy the ball more often!

2. Nene needs to always focus on crashing the boards harder.
The fact that Nene, in the last 2 games, improved his fg% by .263 and also averaged 3.1 more offensive rebounds is not a coincidence, as some of those extra makes came from putbacks. Also, one improvement in the last two games that doesn’t show up on the stat line is his overall defense. We can see the +3.9 differential in his defensive rebounding, but this is part and parcel of him playing a much more energized and engaged all-around defensive game which included more attention to the defensive glass but also featured some very solid one-on-one defense. Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla combined for 6-8 shooting, which percentage-wise might seem to suggest that they were having their way, but the Nuggets had a points-in-the-paint advantage of 38-30 and a fg% advantage of 45.8% to 41.8%, and in large part this was due to Nene doing an effective job of denying good spots on the court to Oden and Przybilla, preventing them from getting easy buckets, and resulting in an increased number of Portland possessions that resulted in mid- or long-range jumpers.

I hope Nene will take good measure of the differences in his two recent styles of play – the bad and the good – and make a big effort to be the player the Nuggets need him to be in order to be successful, the player who showed up for the last two games.

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