On the court Ty Lawson's gifts are easy to see — the speed the quickness the ball handling that help make him an elite point guard in the NBA.

On a computer screen full of numbers his game looks something like this: PIE (11.8 percent) TS% (54.9) TmTOV% (14.6) ASTRatio (28.2) and NetRtg (4.4).

Confused? You're not alone.

But the people who study it invented parts of it and are paid to crunch it see advanced metrics such as these in their sleep. And those figures can reveal scary truths such as this: In last season's playoffs though Lawson was the Nuggets' best player Corey Brewer had a nearly identical "usage" rate. Meaning Brewer was nearly as integral to the offense in terms of possessions per 40 minutes as was Lawson — though he wasn't close to Lawson in efficiency. Brewer's player impact estimate (PIE) was a paltry 1.5 percent compared with Lawson's 13.9 percent. His player efficiency rate (PER) was 7.35 compared with Lawson's 20.47. The league average is 15.00.
In other words the ball should have found someone else a lot more often in that playoff series.

That example is just the smallest of nibbles into the NBA's analytics pie. It's a pie the Nuggets are finally taking a full bite out of under the leadership of first-year general manager Tim Connelly. The Nuggets want to be more efficient on the court — and make better personnel decisions off the court.

"I think it's a tool that can't be ignored" Connelly said. "You can't bury your head in the sand and not get better. And it's such a fluid environment we have to always be up to date with any tools that can help us make better decisions. I've said it all the time: I just want to make 'informed mistakes.' Analytics is part of that."

The Nuggets hired a full-time manager of analytics Tommy Balcetis. And yes Balcetis has the background you think he would: Harvard educated (economics and psychology) and worked as a Fidelity business consultant. He then worked for the NBA in international media and at a basketball camp in Moscow he first met Connelly.

But here's the most important point: Balcetis played basketball in his native country Lithuania as well as in the United States. He was set to play at Harvard — about the same time as Jeremy Lin now a Houston Rockets point guard — but a heart condition cut short his career as a player.

Balcetis is among three individuals in the Denver organization who have strong analytic minds. Assistant general manager Arturas Karnisovas came from Houston which has been one of the NBA leaders in using advanced metrics. And international scout Rafal Juc also has a reputation for digging deep into stats.

"We'll be aggressive in making sure prior to making any moves or identifying potential acquisitions that we understand their statistical DNA and we're not left in the dark" Connelly said.

First-year Nuggets coach Brian Shaw is on board. He was old school as an NBA player but he is eager to keep up with new trends.