About three quarters through the Nuggets waltz over the Rockets, I sat and wondered to myself, “Damn, this team is scary.” It wasn’t the outstanding play of Javale McGee, or the emergence of “Good” Ty Lawson that caught my attention though. Don’t get me wrong, a commanding win over Houston was due to the team, but Wilson Chandler brings the Nuggets into a very scary, dare I say, confident territory.
Yes, Ill Wilson Chandler is no longer ill. By that, I mean his surgically repaired hip is finally looking comfortable. Chandler has been running the court well and providing a “presence” that this Nuggets team has been missing throughout the first half of the season. It’s hard to explain that epiphany wednesday night when the Nuggets rotated with almost effortless flow against a driving, three point shooting Rockets team. Instead of being picked apart by the likes of Chandler Parsons and Carlos Delfino, the Nuggs closed out quickly, with the right players coming to help at the right time and playing the lanes enough to fool the Rockets into thinking they had 10 players on their side. It was so nice that Greg Smith got caught for a 3 seconds as the Rockets tried to pass around him forwhat seemed like a minute. Houston announcer and NBA legend Clyde Drexler could only complement the Nuggets on their…. Defense?!! It’s time to look at the impact of Ill Will’s return.
The addition of Wilson Chandler is incredible for this Nuggets team. He’s a player that we’ve almost forgotten because of how much time he’s spend injured, but his role fits perfectly. He fits in for three reasons: Covering the stretch 4, Rotating intelligently, and Providing a long ball threat.
Solving the “Stretch 4″: All throughout the year, long stretch forwards have decimated the Nuggets, and Kenneth Faried, for all his merit, is not quite the perimeter defender that can play against them all. He has trouble leaving the paint for defense on pick and rolls and often won’t pursue the man if he steps beyond the arch. This is where Chandler is more comfortable. Ill Will has more confidence as a perimeter man and can play the Bosh, Bargnani type players that Faried isn’t quite comfortable with. While he’s not quite manimal-istic on the boards like Faried, he provides a quicker, more comfortable defender for the perimiter if needed.
Rotating Intelligently: Intelligently being the key word here, we’ve seen teams pass around as the Nuggets rotate like a wheel, if that wheel were a triangle. It’s been painful. You’ve got Koufos or McGee on the paint, Faried on the perimeter, Gallo or Iguodala trying to stay with their assignment, Brewer running like an excited puppy and Andre Miller playing his own version of a box-1 where he stays in his little zone. It’s led to a litany of mismatches and open three point shooters. Insert Chandler. Chandler can play the three comfortably, cover guards with his quickness, and at 6’8″ can bang down low with big forwards. Now, Koufos or McGee don’t always have to rotate to help, Faried can play small ball center in the paint where he’s most comfortable, Gallo, Iguodala and Brewer can rotate with Chandler to almost any player at their position with minimal loss of defensive prowess and Andre Miller’s zone just got a lot more effective. The rotating power that Chandler brings to the Nuggets is indispensable because Karl likes rotating and because he’s interchangeable with the other swingman type players that we have playing the 2, 3 and sometimes 4. Add competent rotations and it’s like adding another few corners to that triangle wheel; It’s not quite a circle, but an octagon rotates a lot easier, right?
The long ball threat: This season the Nuggets have been dreadful from three point land. After losing Afflalo and Harrington, Denver lost two legitimate three ball threats. The results haven’t been pretty. Iguodala isn’t quite a spot up shooter and the biggest threats have been the streaky Gallinari, the even streakier Corey Brewer and the uncontested Andre Miller “Three seconds on the shot clock” laser beam to the hoop. Not exactly terrifying. To add to this, the Nuggets seem to accept that they’re bad at the three, constantly passing up some decent looks to pass into contested ones. Chandler will shoot. He’s just gotten back into the rotation, but he’s not shown any hesitation to hoist a few threes. They’ve gone in too! If Chandler plays our own stretch 4, then there’s a legitimate threat on the perimeter again. If he plays out, that decongests the paint, allowing for dribble penetration, something that the Nuggets need to survive in the half court. Final word: Teams like to just stack the paint against the Nuggets, Chandler can make them pay for it.
While Ill Will may not change or solve all the Nuggets’ woes, he goes a long way to making this team deeper, scarier and even more freakishly fun to watch. It’s time for a six game home stretch, the only question is if the Nuggets will take advantage of their newfound team-ness on their way to the fight for home court advantage? One thing is for certain though, Wilson, it’s good to have you back.