The Denver Nuggets are starting to show the genetic makeup of a NBA contending team. They can score with any team in the league–their 104 points per game proves that. They rank fourth in the NBA in rebounding, a key ingredient in the championship formula. They take care of the rock–averaging only 14.3 turnovers per game, good enough for sixth in the NBA. They block shots at a 5.8 per game clip; good enough for sixth the NBA. Lastly, rookie coach Brian Shaw is beginning to install the most important ingredient: defense.
Shaw has been able to bring his Pacers mindset over to the Mile High City. Things didn’t start off easy for Denver. In the first 10 games of the year the Nuggets allowed 105.6 points per game! A high scoring game is expected based off the pace that the Nuggets like to play at, but if they want to win consistently at a high level, they have to keep opponents to less than 100 a game. Over their last 11 games they’ve been only allowing 94.8 games per contest. Their record over that stretch–9-2.
Just like the Indiana Pacers, the Denver Nuggets beat you with depth. Denver has six players averaging double digit points per game: Ty Lawson, Nate Robinson, J.J. Hickson, Randy Foye, Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried. They also beat you with big man depth. They have three players that average more than 11.5 rebounds per 36 minutes: Faried, Hickson and Timofey Mozgov. On top of that they have another two players that average more than seven rebounds per 36 minutes: Anthony Randolph and Jordan Hamilton. Many good rebounding and scoring teams are dependent on only a couple of players. The Nuggets work collectively as a team.
The scary part of the Nuggets depth is that they’re not even at full strength. JaVale McGee has played in only five games and Danilo Gallinari hasn’t even stepped on the court. Scary to think isn’t it? When healthy the Nuggets have the deepest rotation in the league.
The final piece of a championship team: a star player. Over the last couple of years, the Pacers had a hard time finding their star player, their go-to guy. Well, Paul George answered during the playoffs and the early part of the regular season. He has been a MVP candidate. The Nuggets themselves have had trouble finding a star since the departure of Carmelo Anthony. Well the Nuggets have finally found a replacement: Ty Lawson. With Andre Iguodala on the team last year, Lawson wasn’t able to fully blossom. Now the backcourt is all to himself. Not only has he established himself as a top five point guard in the league, but the former North Carolina Tar Heel is a borderline MVP candidate. Putting up 19 and eight a night with a PER of 22 will turn some heads. The Nuggets’ long-term success will end up being on his shoulders. Let’s see if he is up to the challenge.