Nine New Orleans Pelicans Questions on Chris Finch, with Locked on Nuggets’ Adam Mares

Nov 27, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Denver Nuggets assistant coach Chris Finch against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Nuggets defeated the Suns 118-114. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Denver Nuggets assistant coach Chris Finch against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Nuggets defeated the Suns 118-114. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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The New Orleans Pelicans have added offensive mastermind and former Denver Nuggets Associate Head Coach, Chris Finch to the fold, as was confirmed by Scott Kushner of the Advocate.  Today we gauge his potential impact with the equally astute Adam Mares of Locked On Nuggets, Denver Stiffs, Nylon Calculus and Vice Sports.

The New Orleans Pelicans have officially brought Chris Finch on board.

Below is an excerpt of the conversation with Adam. We kindly thank him for his time and his well informed perspective on Chris Finch and the Denver Nuggets.

Adam is the site expert for SB Nation’s Denver Stiffs, the Podcast Host for Locked on Nuggets, and regularly contributes to The Nylon Calculus for FanSided’s “The Step Back,” as well as Vice Sports.

You can follow Adam Mares and his podcasts:






One of your staff writers (Zach Miksah) commented on the major turbulence the Denver Nuggets have been experiencing on their coaching staff outside of Mike Malone, including the four lost coaches last season (Dee Brown, Ed Pinckney, Noel Gillespie and Chris Fleming). Why is Mike Malone having such trouble avoiding coaching turnover?  

I’m not sure it’s fair to assume that there is turmoil with the Denver Nuggets losing assistants. That is certainly one possibility and the departure of Ed Pinckney last summer wasn’t exactly smooth, but it is also possible that guys like Chris Fleming and Chris Finch are just headed for a better opportunity.

From the outside looking in, it would appear that Finch will be even more valuable in New Orleans where the team will be aiming to create an entirely new offensive system.  Alvin Gentry also might be more likely to find himself on the hot seat if the Pelicans struggle out of the gate next season and Finch might be in position to take over as interim. So there are a lot of potential reasons for Finch’s departure.

Why New Orleans? Understandably the draw of partnering with Boogie and Brow must be alluring to any offensive mastermind. However, should the Pels stumble out of the block, the entire front office could be in upheaval. That includes Gentry and the coaching staff.  In addition, his position in New Orleans can be considered a demotion as we already have an Associate Head Coach in Darren Erman.  Why take the risk if you’re Chris Finch?  

Finch was the #3 guy in Denver as well so it appears to be more of a lateral move than a demotion. Finch came to Denver and helped develop a new offense around Nikola Jokic. I imagine he will do the same thing in New Orleans, hopefully finding creative and unique ways to use DeMarcus Cousins. In Denver, Jokic is as much of a unicorn as anyone in the league.

He has better touch than Anthony Davis and better passing than Marc Gasol. Using him as a traditional big would be such a waste. The same is true of both Davis and Cousins and I think Finch will help come up with unique and interesting ways to use both of them. I am prepared for some really cool stuff from the Pelicans next year.

There has already been much talk about Point Jokic and what makes a point center successful in Chris Finch’s system.  Other than shooting, what is the most important factor outside of Point Boogie in making Finch’s system work in New Orleans?  

I could go with shooting, cutting, and spacing – all of which are pretty essential. But I’ll focus more on Cousins himself and say good decision making. Take a guess as to who had a better point per possession total on post ups this year: Boogie or Jokic? The answer is Jokic by quite a bit and that isn’t because Jokic has better post up moves.

It’s because Jokic accepts passing up a lot of shots out of the post. Boogie will probably get a chance to do a lot of things in Finch’s offense but he has to learn to be patient and let the game come to him. He’s got to learn when a post up possession has turned into a low efficiency touch and kick the ball out. He has the tools to do it. He just doesn’t always have the patience and discipline.

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Jokic averaged a near elite five assists to two turnovers on the season.  Is ball control and maintaining possessions a strong suit of his, or is it something Chris Finch was able to instill in him?  I ask because Boogie, while a willing and talented passer, averages closer to four turnovers per game.

Nikola Jokic is special in that regard. Cousins is one of the more talented passing big men in the league and I think he can do enough to make the comparison a fair one but I don’t think he’ll be throwing no-look, over the head, pinpoint passes four times per game like Jokic does.

But he also doesn’t have to. He has more physical gifts and other types of scoring opportunities will open up for him. Once again, Cousins has the skill set to be anything he wants. Hopefully he buys in to the dribble-hand off style of play that Jokic does because that will be much more difficult to defend.

The Nuggets are doing quite well, with contributors like Harris, Nelson, Murray, Gallinari, Chandler and Faried. However, who would you say was the second most integral part of the Nuggets offense and making it successful?  Do you see someone on the New Orleans Pelicans’ roster capable of filling that role?  

This is the biggest problem with the Pelicans roster right now. They don’t have shooters that can space the floor and guys like Solomon Hill are good but not great cutters. Harris and Murray are excellent cutters and Chandler and Gallo can shoot. The Nuggets had a ton of spacing this year and that was a large part of why they were able to run this style of offense.