After nine consecutive wins and fifteen in their last seventeen games, maybe it’s time to take the Denver Nuggets seriously. But probably not. Not when their history shows that under George Karl, except for one time, the first round in the playoffs is too much for them.
Maybe when they’ll actually have home advantage in a series, we’ll see something more from a team that loves to run and has lost only three times at home this season. After all, most of their recent streak has been thanks to a long home stand, beating Chicago, Milwaukee, New Orleans, the Rockets (twice), Oklahoma City, Indiana and Sacramento, with only one of those wins coming in an away game. Even after beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 111-103, they’re only 11-15 on the road.
We’re going to try and shock the world and become the first team to win a championship without an All-Star. There are only about 10 true superstars in the NBA, I think, but I believe Andre Iguodala, Ty Lawson, Andre Miller, and Kenneth Faried are in the next 40 players.
All-Star caliber players? The Nuggets don’t have a real go-to-guy, which kind of hurts bid from their better players. Ty Lawson (11 points and 5 assists) is in the best form of his life, averaging 19.1 points and 7.6 assists over the last 10 games. Those numbers have been actually hurt because the wins against the Bulls and the Bucks came way too easily. Andre Iguodala, who has been tamed over the last few years, turned from a highlight film monster into a defensive stopper and more importantly, a team player.
Danilo Galinari is the joker, and probably the most talented offensive player on this team. It’s no wonder that his ability over the last six weeks goes hand in hand with the Nuggets being one of the toughest teams to beat in the league. After averaging less than 16 points per game through the first couple of months, 2013 has been a real turn for the team’s leading scorer (19 points, 9 rebounds against the Cavs). He is averaging 19 points per game since January, shooting over 46% from the field.
And while it’s hard to think of NBA teams that win titles without a superstar, not to mention an All-Star, the Nuggets have the kind of depth and an improved defense and toughness, mostly thanks to Iguodala and Kenneth Faried, that make them more than your typical run & gun team, that usually falls prey to more serious teams in the early postseason rounds. Maybe this year, with Karl’s project in the rebuild after so many years of relying on Carmelo Anthony, has finally found the right balance between a team that’s more than just entertainment.
It’s no wonder that the Nuggets are third in the NBA in scoring and second in assists. The important number is the rebounding, especially on the offensive glass. Kenneth Faried is the big man that is usually on the floor, while Kostas Koufos and JaVale McGee trade time at the center position. I do think that Karl will have to make a decision regarding who he trusts more, and McGee should be the answer, but there’s no doubt they’re not too far from finding the right formula to win more than just in the regular season, without the kind of player everyone says you need to have.