The Denver Nuggets currently sit at 6-5 and if the season ended today they would be out a half game out of the NBA Playoffs.
Luckily the season doesn't end today, and there are some obvious areas of improvement that George Karl and staff should be working on with the team.
Based on their ranking among other NBA teams, here are the top five areas the Nuggets need improvement.
5. Technical Fouls (19 - NBA Rank, first)
Generally being ranked first in any category is a good thing, but not when talking about being whistled for the most technical fouls. I am not necessarily anti-technical foul. I think there are good times for a coach to get T'd up, like when arguing a call and showing his team that he cares, but there is also a point where enough is enough. Take the New York Knicks game for example, Carmelo Anthony got a T late in the game at a crucial time. That is one time where a T simply hurts your team. Playing with emotion and fire is great. Letting it get the best of you isn't.
4. Opponent Point Per Game (104.5 - NBA Rank 22 out of 30)
The good news is that the Nuggets are fourth in the league in scoring per game at 105.8. The bad news is that they are giving up nearly as many points, ranking in the bottom ¼ of the NBA in the number of points their opposition is scoring. With a points differential of only 1.3 ppg, basically the Nuggets are gambling on the final shot going in or rimming out. In order to improve, and grab a playoff spot, the Nuggets need to man up and play tighter defense. This all begins in the backcourt where Chauncey Billups, Arron Afflalo and J.R. Smith (if he ever gets in) need to keep in front of their guys, creating ill-advised looks and causing turnovers.
3. Blocks Per Game (3.2 - NBA Rank 28 out of 30)
We knew that the frontcourt of Nene, Shelden Williams and Al Harrington was going to be decent but not a menacing interior presence, so ranking near the bottom in blocks shouldn't come as a big surprise. The Nuggets will get help on the inside once Kenyon Martin and the Birdman, Chris Andersen, return from injuries, but until then teams know they can take the ball right at the Nuggets without fear of rejection.
2. Opponents Blocks Per Game (6.9 - NBA Rank Tied for Last)
It's one thing to rank near the bottom in blocks, but ranking last in being blocked is a different story. What this tells you is that the Nuggets aren't getting uncontested looks at the basket. They aren't driving, drawing the defense then dishing to an open man. A block can only happen if you take a shot with a man in your face, and clearly that's what is happening to the Nuggets. Again, the guards need to step up if the Nuggets want to move from the cellar in this stat.
1. Opponents Defensive Rounds Per Game (33.3 - NBA Rank Last)
This is a symbiotic stat to the blocks per game, but again this shows that Denver doesn't have the interior presence needed in today's NBA. What can be discerned is that if the Nuggets miss a shot, there is a high likelihood that they should start to transition to the defensive end.
With a record just above .500, the Nuggets can look at these stats and know where they need to improve to make a playoff run, mainly on the inside. When the Birdman and K-Mart come back they should have help there, but the currently healthy guys also need to step it up, now and in the future.