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Sunday, May 5, 2013

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for January and and February: 7. Denver Nuggets

Overall Win/Loss Record (as of February 28th):  37-22 (second place, Northwest Division)  

This Month:

Team Statistics and League Rank (as of February 28th)
  • Points Scored: 105.5 (3rd)
  • Points Allowed: 101.8 (26th)
  • Team FG%: .475 (4th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .446 (13th)
  • Team FT%: .689 (29th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .339 (27th)
  • Rebounds per game: 45.1 (2nd)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 41.6 (11th)
  • Turnovers per game: 15.2 (25th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 15.6 (6th)

Individual Statistical Leaders (as of February 28th)
Worst Player of the Month:  Andre Igoudala 

After starting the season posting some of the best numbers in the past few years, it looked as if Andre Igoudala would finally shed the label of being an overhyped, overrated, and overpaid player; however, as the season wore on, his scoring dropped for a rather respectable 15.9 points per game to just under 12 per game by the end of February.  His steep drop in production shows once again that Andre is once again undeserving of all the attention and accliam that he has received throughout his career.  At best he is a mediocre offensive player, average rebounder and decent defender which is fine; however, considering the fact that he is receiving an All Star caliber salary of close to 15$ million with another 15$ million heading his way next season, a performance like that simply does not cut it.  The Philly 76ers certainly saw that and upon seeing that Iggy would provide them with nothing much else, they found the best opportunity to finally part ways with that chronic underachiever.  Now it's up to Denver to again shoulder the burden of carrying this burden of his erroneous contract for the next couple of seasons  
First Player of the Month:  Kenneth Faried

Among the heap of Denver Nuggets players who have nothing really to set each other apart, there is one who has set himself above the rest and that is the team burly forward Kenneth Faried. His offensive numbers may not stand out and his rebounding may be considered as not living up to expectations, his efficiency while on the floor cannot be questioned.  In January, Faried was simply near perfect from the field as connected on more than .600 of his field goal attempts while posting double double in points and rebounds in seven of fifteen games.  February was simply splendid for Faried as he posted his best numbers averaging a season's best 12.6 points per game while shooting .577 from the field and posting double doubles in six of twelve games.  Such exceptional play makes Kenneth Faried the obvious choice for the team's unsung hero.

At the end of 2012, the Denver Nuggets was just another middle of the pack team simply trying to survive in the wild Western Conference; however by the end of February Denver went from average from becoming one of top teams in the league with one of the best records in the league as well.  At the end of December, the Nuggets were barely hanging on with a less than spectacular 17-15 record and many simply gave up on Denver ever being a true contender; however once 2013 arrived, it was as if a sleeping dragon had finally awaken and went forth to scorch the entire league.  The Nuggets simply roasted their opponents in winning every game except three--a four point disappointment against the struggling Minnesota Timberwolves (1/3/2012), a blowout against the division leading Oklahoma City Thunder (1/16/2013) and a shocking upset against the lowly Washington Wizards (1/18/2013).  Regardless, January simply belonged to the Nuggets as they won all the 50/50 plays and managed to come through in the clutch winning six of their twelve games by ten points or less.  As for the other six, Denver were simply dominant winning by an average margin of  18 points.

The winning continued into February as the Nuggets would start the month winning four straight in a rather dominant fashion crushing their opponents by an average margin of 15.8 points--the most notable being a 32 point drubbing of the Chicago Bulls (2/7/2013).  Unfortunately, after riding a nine game winning streak that last since mid January, the Nuggets hit a short speed bump in the ways as they lost three straight one the road.  It started with on overtime loss in Boston against the Celtics (2/10/2013) followed by a one point heart breaker against the Toronto Raptors when they visited the Air Canada Center two days later (2/12/2012) and finally an eleven point loss against the Brooklyn Nets where the Nuggets allowed the Nets to score a whopping 119 points (2/13/2013).  The Nuggets did manage to stop the bleeding avenging their loss against the Celtics beating them on their home court (2/19/2013); however they were surprised yet again losing to the Wizards, this time on the road (2/22/2013).  Regardless, Denver still managed to salvage February by winning their last three games to finish the month thus giving the Nuggets 37-22--good enough for third place in the Western Conference.

What makes this sudden resurgence of the Denver Nuggets special is that unlike the other top teams in the league, Denver neither has a real marquee name or even a player selected on the All Star team.  Some may consider Andre Igoudala as a marquee name; however that more has to do with over-inflated hype rather than his actual ability to take over a game.  Looking upon all the teams with the best records in league, each of them unlike the Nuggets had at least one player selected on the All Star team--the Miami Heat have the three headed monster of Lebron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, while the Oklahoma City Thunder has the dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook representing them as well.  The San Antonio Spurs, who currently boasts the league's best record, has the long standing tandem of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker as the faces of the franchise while the New York Knicks, the second best team in the Eastern Conference, have Carmelo Anthony as the team's poster boy.  However, in the case of Denver, even the most devoted of Nuggets fans can really single out one player who is the begin and end all of the franchise.  The players are in fact such well kept secrets that no one could ever even pick them out of a police lineup let alone choose which player is the cornerstone of the franchise and that what makes this team so appealing as well.

There is no one player on the Nuggets that can be singled out and that is because it has been a full team effort from the starting five players to the last man on the bench.  From the beginning to the end  of the 24 second shot clock, it is not about who will be taking the shot, but who has the best opportunity to take the best shot.  Thus far the Nuggets have proven to be the most unselfish teams in the league as they ranked among the top five in assists a game along with boasting a whopping six players who average  double figures in scoring.  Even more amazing is the fact that the team's rotation goes almost nine players deep and they all average at least eight points per game thus far in the season.  Credit the head coach George Karl for taking a team that has no real established star and turning a roster of virtual nobodies into one of the most potent and efficient offensive forces in the league as the Nuggets look to raise some eyebrows as the regular season winds  down to a close.

In what can be seen as Denver's best performance in the post-Carmelo Anthony era, the Nuggets will certain look to carry this momentum not only until the end of the regular season, but also in the post season as well. They have certainly shown enough swagger and firepower to give any team in the league a bit of anxiety upon facing them.  One thing that is for certain, however; and that is the fact this is not the same Nugget team that allowed their opponents to shoot over .460 from the field as much of the team's success has to do with an improved devotion to defense.  Hopefully this will be the beginning of a new Golden era in Nuggets basketball as they look to step ahead of the pack and make the jump from first round playoff fodder to a true championship contender.  It still remains to be seen whether or not the Nuggets, despite their recent hot streak, have the goods to take on the West's top dog or even be able to break the team's first round curse; however, it will certainly be more interesting to watch as the spotlight currently shines brightly on this resurgent Denver Nuggets team.