Can Kenneth Faried and the Denver Nuggets reach the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history? (Photo by Howard Cheng/Creative Commons)
The Denver Nuggets are a young squad on a serious quest to win the NBA championship. Veterans such as Andre Iguodala and Andre Miller complement their squad consisting of Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Ty Lawson. Currently, this squad stands fifth in the Western Conference with a record of 40-22 and they trail the Oklahoma City Thunder by five games in the Northwest Division. Their current seeding likely puts them at a second round matchup against the No. 1 seed San Antonio Spurs and a possible conference matchup with either the No. 2 seed Thunder and No.3 seed Los Angeles Clippers.
Nuggets coach George Karl has done a great job supporting and coaching this team into major contenders for the championship. Karl and his staff are molding this crop of young players into a formidable squad. Nugget fans and the entire NBA should be pondering one question.
Can the Denver Nuggets win the Western Conference?
The task appears more difficult on paper. Oklahoma City is still a strong test with Kevin Durant providing an MVP-caliber season, and the Nuggets would also need to get past the Spurs and/or the Clippers. Can they get past their rivals in the Northwest?
The Nuggets have shown they can beat these teams.
In fact, the Nuggets are 2-1 against the Thunder and 1-1 against both the Spurs and Clippers.
Denver has one more meeting with each of the West’s big three–the Nuggets host the Clippers on Thursday, March 7, go to Oklahoma City on March 19 and have the Spurs coming to the Pepsi Center on April 10.
Denver’s offense is among the best in the NBA–the Nuggets are third in the league at 105.7 points per game and rank fifth in total offense.
Their biggest problem lies with defense. They give up 101.8 points per game, 25th in the NBA and are ranked 14th in total defense. That’s not promising for a team that needs to get past the Western Conference elite in the playoffs.
However, their players show promise.
Danilo Gallinari of the Denver Nuggets needs to help lead the Nuggets into the playoffs. (Photo by Matthew D. Britt/Flickr.com)
Faried is averaging nearly a double-double in his second NBA season with 12 points and 9.6 rebounds a game. Iguodala has been declining but is still a contributing asset for the Nuggets, averaging 13.1 points and 5.3 assists per game. Gallinari and Lawson lead the team in scoring with 16.7 points a game, and Lawson leads the Nuggets in assists with 7.1 a game.
Miller and JaVale McGee are useful bench players; Miller averages 9.1 points a game while backing up Lawson at the point and McGee chips in 9.7 points a night as the backup to center Kosta Koufos. They also provide experience, as well as a craving for their first NBA title.
The Nuggets have the tools to win the Western Conference. They can beat the top teams in the West, but on the other hand, they don’t have the talent and experience to overcome the odds.
The Spurs are overloaded with experience and have the right mixture of youth. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker are the vets but are backed up admirably by Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. In fact, Green is currently starting over Ginobli.
The Thunder has few experienced players that appeared in more than one Finals matchup in Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher. But they are also fresh from their run last year. The team led by Durant and Russell Westbrook should provide headaches for every opponent they’ll face in the playoffs.
Though the odds do not favor Denver Nuggets despite all that talent they still have a puncher’s chance to win the Western Conference.