As the Denver Nuggets approach the start of training camp and the beginning of the 2015-16 season, Danilo Gallinari made some headlines earlier in the week while playing for Italy in the Eurobasket 2015 competition by stating the Nuggets would be a “run and gun” team in the upcoming season. The statement seemed to be a stark contrast to the explanation of “pace” that new Nuggets coach Michael Malone tackled at his introductory press conference.
The thought of a “run and gun” style is one that’s sure to excite Nugget fans with a faster pace that is more in line with Western Conference foes Oklahoma City and Golden State. However, the “run and gun” mentality can also harken long-time Denver fans back to the days of Paul Westhead when he took over the team after leaving the college sidelines and Loyola Marymount (Calif.) following the 1989-90 season. Westhead tried to bring the “run and gun” of college into the pros and it worked on the offensive end as the Nuggets led the NBA in scoring at 119.9 points per game. However, the Nuggets also gave up an NBA-record 130.8 points per game while struggling to a 20-62 record.
Westhead’s philosophy changed the next season when the Nuggets drafted Dikembe Mutombo as Denver tried to slow down the pace. With Mutombo manning the middle, Denver went from leading the league in shots made to 21st. Despite the change in philosophy and personnel, the damage was already done and Westhead was gone after two seasons and a 44-120 record.
Malone stressed during his initial press conference that he would “play to the strength of his roster.” With rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, the Nuggets will look to spread the floor and allow their young playmaker to create. A healthy Gallinari has shown in the past his ability to catch and shoot in transition. From there, however, the picture gets murky.
One of Denver’s biggest strengths in recent seasons has been its ability to snare offensive rebounds, leading the league in 2012-2013 and finishing in the top four in the two most recent seasons since. Will Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, and Jusuf Nurkic be able to keep up the pace and work their magic on the boards in transition? That remains to be seen. With a team that finished 26th in the NBA in field goal percentage last season, rebounding will be a key factor again this season.
It will take some time for Denver to find its “pace” and settle into an offensive rhythm. As much excitement as Gallinari’s statement may have stirred among Nugget supporters, there’s still the reality that Denver’s roster may be better settled for working a more deliberate offense.