Starting off with the team as a whole, they played well after starting off the season 0-3 under first-year head coach Brian Shaw, but have now find themselves losers of six-straight heading into the last regular season game of 2013 against the Miami Heat on Monday. They had impressive home-and-home wins over the Dallas Mavericks on November 25th and 27th but that’s really it. But if you look at the schedule closer, who did they really beat? The fact that they can’t beat the best in the west is concerning, but they have been without Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee. The team currently sits at 14-15 on the season, 4th in the Northwest Division.
Wins: Atlanta, Utah, Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota (2), Chicago, Dallas (2), New York Knicks, Toronto, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Washington, New Orleans.
Losses: Sacramento, Portland, San Antonio, Phoenix (2), Houston, Oklahoma City (2), Cleveland, Boston, Utah, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State, New Orleans, Memphis.
Team Grade: C-
Players that will be left off of the list due to injury or playing time are JaVale McGee, Danilo Gallinari, and Quincy Miller.
11: Evan Fournier:
Evan Fournier has been the forgotten player in Brian Shaw’s regime. The Frenchman was drafted in the first-round, 20th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. Fournier would appear in 38 games last season under George Karl, starting four games while showing flashes of potential. He would average 5.3 points per game while shooting 49.3% percent from the field. This season however he hasn’t played consistent by any means. The 21-year-old is shooting a career-low 35.8% percent from the field and 33.3% percent from downtown. He is also struggling to find his stroke at the line, shooting just 11-for-19, 57.9% percent.
10: Randy Foye
Randy Foye has been a huge disappointment of late for the Denver Nuggets, most recently getting benched for his lackluster performance and inconsistent jumper. He played well at the end of November, shooting 40.6% percent from deep, scoring in double-figures nine times. Now the guard down to 33.6% percent behind-the-arc, his second-lowest three-point percentage since he played for the Los Angeles Clippers back in 2010. Foye’s player efficiency rating (PER) is third lowest on the team sitting at 9.8. Foye’s numbers haven’t been very productive in 23.3 minutes of play, averaging just 8.6 points per game while only accumulating 1.9 assists.
9: Andre Miller
Before I start on Miller, I would like to congratulate him on surpassing Rod Strickland on the all-time assist leaderboard, sitting in 9th place with 8,054 assists for his career entering December 29th. Andre Miller missed JaVale McGee in the offense, due to the fact that he can lob it to McGee in the post anytime he wants for the easy alley-oop assist. Miller is averaging 6.0 points per game, while tallying 3.4 assists off of a deep bench that has taken a hit of late with the injuries in the front court. Miller likes to target the younger guards in the post, backing them down using his YMCA moves in the paint. One thing that Miller has surprised the Nuggets with this season, is the fact that he can shoot the three. The 37-year-old is a career 21.6% percent three-point shooter, but this season he’s shooting a remarkable 50.0% percent, going 9-for-18. One thing that hurts the veteran is his lack of defense, as he is a liability on the court when guarding the speedy guards.
You may be surprised by the fact that I have Kenneth Faried all the way down here at number eight, but don’t let his stats fool you. The Manimal is averaging 9.5 points per game while bringing down 7.8 rebounds sitting at 5th best on the team in terms of PER with 19.4. Faried has shown no improvement on a consistent jumper nor the lack of one. His post moves are still very raw and hasn’t proven otherwise. Besides the offensive aspect of his game, the defensive side has been atrocious. Denver currently sits at 28th in the NBA in defensive efficiency from the power-forward position, which is mainly due to Faried’s play. Scroll to the bottom of this link and take a look for yourself on how bad Denver’s post defense play has been. Faried has been out of the Nuggets lineup of late due to an ankle injury.
Darrell Arthur has been a nice addition to this Denver Nugget’s offense off of the bench, even though his stats don’t show it. The forward out of Kansas is averaging 5.6 points per game while collecting 3.1 rebounds. He is the type of player the Nuggets have needed off of the bench, opening holes for the point guards with his tremendous jumper on the pick-and-roll. Arthur likes the elbow jumper, as he is shooting 24-45 from both the left and right side at a 53.3% percent clip. He struggles from the sides however, shooting 8-for-23, 34.7% percent. With Hickson and Mozgov being traditional posts, it frees Arthur up to excel in the type of offense he likes to run, knocking down 18-24 foot-jumpers.
Timofey Mozgov was the odd-man out last year in George Karl’s offense. He would be the third-string center behind Kosta Koufos and JaVale McGee. The Russian would appear in 41 games, getting one start in just 8.9 minutes of action. This season, he has earned the back-up center position under Brian Shaw as Denver traded away Kosta Koufos in the offseason for Darrell Arthur. The seven-footer is averaging 8.4 points per game while earning 6.2 rebounds. He would have two monster games, one at Toronto on December 1st as he scored 16 points, hauling down 15 rebounds. The other one was against the Brooklyn on December 3rd, when he would score 17 points, adding 20 rebounds and 2 blocks. Denver’s front court is small, but with the presence of Mozgov, he should be starting with McGee out. The problem with Mozgov is he is not a tradition pick-and-roll center due to his rock hands. Every time the Nuggets run a pick-and-roll with him, he seems to fumble the ball or bobble it away, and on the easiest of dunk attempts, Mozzy will somehow blow it.
What a surprise the forward out of the University of Texas has been. Hamilton was another guy that rarely saw the floor under head coach George Karl, but has blossomed off of the bench for Brian Shaw. The forward is averaging 8.4 points per game and 4.2 rebounds off of the bench, with a PER of 15,36. In the last five games, Hamilton has cooled off from three, shooting just 5-for-19, 26.3% percent. However, he has shot well from behind-the-arc for Denver this year, shooting 39-for-107 from deep, 36.4% percent. Hamilton’s on-ball defense has been a question ever since he made the league, but has been a good defender in the passing lanes. He is averaging a steal per game and usually guards the most potent scorer on the court. Before this season, Hamilton averaged 9.9 minutes per game in both 2011 and 2012, and this season his minutes have increased to 19.5.
Nate Robinson started the season off sluggish and inconsistent to say the least, the guard was missing easy shots that he knows he should have made. The guard would have his breakout game December 1st against the Toronto Raptors. He led the Denver’s bench that scored 72 points, as he would score 18 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, finishing with 23 points and 5 assists. Robinson is averaging 10.5 points per game on the season, with 2.4 assists and 2.0 rebounds. Nate has been a key part of Denver’s success at the free-throw line this season, shooting 52-for-60 at the charity stripe, 86.7% percent which is a career-high. Robinson has been an excellent three-point shooter from the corners, shooting 12-24, 50.0 percent from the field. But he has struggled from the 18-24 foot range with the elbow jumpers, shooting 7-for-25, 28.0% percent.
3: J.J. Hickson
J.J. Hickson has also been a nice addition to this Denver Nuggets squad. The center/power forward is averaging 11.2 points per game with 8.6 rebounds. Hickson played well against the Oklahoma City Thunder in both meetings this season, scoring 18 points with 19 rebounds in the first match-up and 20 points with 14 rebounds in the most recent game. He is however a liability at times due to his height, but no disrespect to his game. He stands at 6’9″ which is a disadvantage when guarding taller posts such as Dwight Howard or Andrew Bogut. With the injury to JaVale McGee, it puts more pressure on Hickson to excel against the top-tier centers. Hickson is struggling mightily at the line this season, shooting a career-low 54.5% percent. Denver is currently 25th in the league at the line shooting 72.5% percent which has increased from last year’s percentage of 70.1% where they were 28th in the league.
Wilson Chandler sat out the first six games due to a nagging hamstring that he suffered in the preseason. He has played well for the most part since his return, averaging 12.8 points per game, 1.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds, with a PER of 14.2, second on the team. In Denver’s last five games, Chandler has scored in double-figures every time, averaging 17.0 points per game, 5.6 rebounds, almost averaging a steal per game. Over the past 10 games, Chandler has been extremely productive, averaging 16.1 points per game, 5.4 rebounds, averaging 2 three-pointers per game. He has given the Nuggets a boost both from the offensive and defensive end.
1: Ty Lawson
Ty Lawson was performing at an all-star level in the first two months of the season. In the month of November, the guard would average 21 points per game, 8.4 assists, and 3.8 rebounds. He has struggled ever since the hamstring injury he suffered on the Eastern Conference road-trip where the team went 4-2. Lawson has averaged just 13.2 points per game in the month of December, recording 7.4 assists almost turning the ball over 4 times. He November only, he turned the ball over just 2.6 times a game. Consistency has been a problem with Lawson as he can’t put together a streak of productive games. There’s no doubt he creates shots for other players, but his lack of aggressiveness and inconsistent jump shot has been a cause for concern of late.