Kleiza, Balkman, Jones – One must sit, and that one is Dahntay

[Note: Originally Posted 03-12-2009 at 08:17 PM by DenButsu

After the OKC game, PSD Nuggets forum poster Game Over reported:

Originally Posted by Game_Over View Post
Just heard Karl, he said when K-Mart is healthy he will have a decision Balkman or LK.. He basically said he won’t play them both

This seemed like idiocy to me, and I started preparing a post which either was going to be a “LK or Balk – who should play?” poll or I was going to make the case that they both need to be in the rotation. So for that purpose, I did up this Balkman-Kleiza comparison (green arrows indicate a Balkman advantage, blue for Kleiza – stats from http://www.basketball-reference.com/):

Two points I see in this…

If I’d done the either/or poll, I’d probably have used this to make the case for playing Balkman and not Kleiza. And the essence of this argument would be that Balkman, although his per game production might look somewhat paltry compared to Kleiza’s, is actually the much more efficient and effective player, which is revealed if you look at the per 36 minutes and advanced stats. First of all, Balk’s PER is 16.8 to LK’s 12.8, which right out of the gates is a solid indicator that he’s playing some higher quality basketball. Now, LK’s got one clear advantage over Balkman, which is his 3 point shooting. But the problem is he’s also somewhat of a chucker, taking the 3 nearly every time the ball comes to him at the arc. Balkman, on the other hand, is very restrained in his shot selection, resulting in a fantastic .570 fg% (which also is a result of tip ins and put backs). So even though LK puts in 3s and has a higher ft%, Balkman still ends up with the higher TS% and eFG%, for scoring that overall is more efficient. So that pretty much negates Kleiza’s biggest advantage, although he does have one more, which is that he’s less foul prone – Balkman has a fairly atrocious 5.1 fouls per 36 minutes, which I’m sure is part of the reason why Karl is reluctant to play him for too many minutes. But part of that is a function of the fact that he actually plays some very good, very aggressive defense (unlike LK, most of the time at least), which of course is one of Balkman’s advantages that the stats on this chart can’t indicate. And on top of that, all of the other contributions he makes – his rebounding (especially offensive rebounding) first and foremost, but also blocks and steals. When Kleiza doesn’t have the ball, he’s generally not doing much that’s worth much, but Balkman is always busy being effective and doing all the little things to help the team win.

So that’s my first takeaway, if it’s Balk vs. LK, I’m taking Renaldo in a heartbeat.

But the second takeaway zooms out the lens a little and asks, “Why force the either/or choice in the first place?” I mean, these two players obviously bring completely different skill sets and strengths (and weaknesses) to the court. Karl’s insanely stubborn insistence on limiting the rotation to 8 or 9 players could do this team a real disservice if he keeps benching players who could make real contributions to help this team win.

And that’s the second takeaway, that of course flows right into the usual “Karl’s a moron” rant.


Enter RMC, where a very different point was made that makes a lot of sense to me, especially since (as some of you know by now), I’m not a big Dahntay fan (click to see why), and it speaks directly to the exact thing I was thinking about, too:

Could it be that George Karl has decided to give Jones’ minutes to Renaldo Balkman?

The question I have been asking myself lately is how much better would the Nuggets be if Balkman was getting more of Kleiza’s minutes. The question I should have been asking is how much better would the Nuggets be if Balkman was getting Jones’ minutes. I am not saying play Balkman 17 minutes a night at shooting guard, but if we allow Chauncey Billups, J.R. Smith and Anthony Carter to play the 96 minutes available between the two guard spots, have Kleiza back up Melo for 12 to 15 minutes a night, have Chris Andersen back up Nene for 18 to 22 minutes a game and then give Balkman another 18 to 22 minutes behind Kenyon that is a pretty stout rotation. On some nights Balkman can also help fill in at shooting guard depending on matchups.

Balkman does not have a good jumper, but he knows it and rarely takes it. Kenyon Martin does not have a good jumper, but he chucks it up constantly. I love the way Balkman plays offense. He is always around the rim and has a knack for finding cracks in the opposition’s interior defense. I understand why Karl wishes Balkman could shoot a midrange jumper. Good outside shooting can open up the middle. Do not discount what Balkman does do though. His ability to find open areas and score in the paint breaks the defense down from its core, which is much more devastating.


So there you have it.

If you have to choose between Balkman and Kleiza, who do you go with? Well, bench Jones and the correct answer is, “both”. I really think that’s the solution.


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