Roundball Roundtable: Reflections from June 2014

The Denver Nuggets have played two games. Neither has been pretty. And though there’s still 80 more games to be played, the first two outings have gotten our writers to thinking: Just where exactly will the Nuggets be eight months from now? In our latest Roundball Roundtable five of our writers have attempted to answer that very question. These are the answers they’ve presented…

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End of an era: One fan’s struggle to embrace a Hall of Fame coach

I can’t lie. I’ve thought about writing this article for years. Years. After each futile, heartless, disappointing exit in the first round of the playoffs, I was so ready to write this article that I couldn’t sleep. This year was no different. This year I wanted it just as bad as I have for the last several years. And yet, here it is, less than a week since Karl was let go, and I’m not sure I even want to write it anymore.

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Rapid Reaction: Golden State Warriors 110, Denver Nuggets 108

Denver Nuggets 108 Final

Recap | Box Score

110 Golden State Warriors
Kenneth Faried, SF 30 MIN | 6-7 FG | 3-3 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 15 PTS | +2

Faried’s numbers are better than he actually played. But considering this was only his second game, and first start, since coming back from an injury, it could have been worse. Faried just can’t keep up with the defensive schemes the Nuggets need to run in order to stifle the Warriors on offense. He played valiantly, had some nice dunks and a few strong rebounds, but he’ll need to play out of his mind on defense in order to win more games this series.

Ty Lawson, PG 38 MIN | 11-22 FG | 12-12 FT | 3 REB | 10 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 35 PTS | -2

Lawson had his best game ever in the postseason. His 35 points were a career playoff high and only two short of tying his regular season high. He had about three or four unbelievable plays this game — the type that make you drop your jaw in amazement. That said, he missed some crucial shots down the stretch and turned the ball over when the Nuggets had a chance to win the game. Had he made just one more shot late in the game he likely would have gone down in Nuggets postseason lore.

Wilson Chandler, SG 37 MIN | 4-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | -6

Chandler did his best playing center. It’s only the second time in his career he’s started at center and neither performances were ones to remember. He gave solid effort on defense for most of the night and hit some big shots, but he hasn’t been the type of scoring machine he was after Gallo went down in the regular season. If the Nuggets want to win this thing, he’s gonna need to step up offensively — which would likely be much easier if he were playing his natural position.

Andre Iguodala, SG 42 MIN | 6-15 FG | 0-1 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | +5

Iguodala had a typical Iguodala game: He started off incredibly hot, then pretty much disappeared offensively for the rest of the night. His defense was excellent through the first half, but once the third quarter rolled around his performance slipped along with every one of his teammates’ sans Ty Lawson. He also made a crucial turnover when the Nuggets had a chance to win the game late.

Evan Fournier, SG 13 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -8

Fournier saw minutes early on and played well, but was inexplicable taken out for almost the entire game after that.

Anthony Randolph, PF 4 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-1 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -2

Randolph had one of the worst goaltending violations I’ve ever seen. That was about all I could recount from his brief, four-minute stint.

Corey Brewer, SF 24 MIN | 6-12 FG | 3-3 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 16 PTS | +11

Brewer was probably the second best player on the team this game. He provided a great spark off the bench that led to the Nuggets grabbing their biggest lead of the game in the second quarter and shot the ball well all night. Late in the game he got a little dramatic with his flopping which led to some bad turnovers, but overall he did a great job of giving the Nuggets a spark off the bench.

Kosta Koufos, C 11 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | 0

I’m baffled at what’s come of Koufos lately. He’s had a steady decline the last month but he’s been virtually worthless in the playoffs. I hate saying that because he’s been so solid all year, but at this point I can’t see anything positive he’s bringing to the roster. He refuses to score, he’s slow on defense and doesn’t play with a chip on his shoulder anymore. At one point in the year Koufos was the toughest guy on the team. Now he looks as if he just wants to run and hide somewhere safe.

JaVale McGee, C 14 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -1

McGee was mostly a train wreck. Not full-on train wreck, but close. His defense is just unbelievably bad this series. He’s a guy who needs to stay in the paint and contest shots, yet the Warriors are forcing him to come out of his comfort zone and into the perimeter which is confusing the hell out of him. Like Koufos, he’s slow to react to everything thrown his way. Once the Warriors get him off balance, it takes just a few extra passes to penetrate and get an easy bucket at the rim, or an open shot from downtown. Thankfully his offense is still functioning… somewhat.

Andre Miller, PG 27 MIN | 2-13 FG | 2-3 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 7 PTS | -9

I don’t even want to talk about it. I don’t even want to. This guy is driving me nuts. He’s making me lose my mind when I watch this team. His defense is nothing short of embarrassing. It’s insulting to anyone who’s ever tried to prevent someone doing something in the history of the world. His defensive effort is nonexistent; it’s grotesque at the same time. I just, for the life of me, will never understand what it is George Karl sees in him. I promise, as bad as J.R. Smith was at times, I don’t think I ever remember him underhandedly sabotaging the Nuggets like this. Now, obviously Andre Miller isn’t purposely trying to lose this series for the Nuggets, but if he were he wouldn’t be playing a whole lot differently!!!

Usually his offense bails him out, but his game it only exacerbated his issues. His selfish, “Hero Ball” mentality cost the Nuggets at least eight possessions, which could have been used to actually try something intelligent when it came to scoring the basketball. If he sits out the rest of the series I’ll have no problem with it. In fact, that’s probably the Nuggets’ best shot of winning, as his perimeter defense seems to be the genesis of the Nuggets most costly problem against Golden State.

George Karl

I really want to give Karl an F. I’ll just say that. But he did manage to keep this game close and he did suite up and he did show up and draw up plays and form sentences that made syntactic sense — so because of that I can’t give him an F. But judging his coaching alone, I think an F might be warranted.

He started Chandler at center, which just makes no logical sense whatsoever. He also had wacky lineups all game long, none of which seemed to have any positive effect after the first half concluded. Mark Jackson continued to win timeouts. The “plays” the Nuggets did run didn’t work at all — especially Lawson’s isolation at the end of the game. And overall the Warriors played much better, more focused defense than the Nuggets did, which likely won them the game.

But Karl’s biggest mistake was his insistence to ride Miller until he dragged the Nuggets down to the lowest depths of humiliation that could possibly be felt by someone who refuses to take any sort of defensive pride whatsoever in their game. (Note: Hyperbole likely present in previous sentence.) How fitting it was that Jackson, a first-time playoff coach decided to stick with his young rookies like Barnes and Green, whereas Karl went down gunz-a-blazin’ with Dre Miller and both took the entire team with them. At this point Karl is getting out-coached while his lineups and obsession with going smaller than his opponent just seem like futile, nervous farces that a coach of his experience should not be making.

Rapid Reaction: Nuggets 117 vs Knicks 94

The Nuggets spoiled Carmelo Anthony’s return to Denver with a blowout win.  ‘Melo left the game with a sore knee and spent some time in the locker room, inspiring chants of “where is Melo” from the crowd.

New York Knicks 94 Final

Recap | Box Score

117 Denver Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari, SF 25 MIN | 4-13 FG | 7-7 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | +17

Gallinari looked really good when he went to the rim or got to the line, and really awful shooting jumpers. He played great defense on Carmelo Anthony for part of the first quarter, and later forced two turnovers by drawing offensive fouls away from the ball.

Kenneth Faried, SF 25 MIN | 4-10 FG | 3-6 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +28

Faried started out the game taking several jump shots. He eventually settled down and started taking shots closer to the rim, but missed several tip tries. He outhustled the Knicks for several offensive rebounds, particularly after Tyson Chandler left the game.

Kosta Koufos, C 18 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-1 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +13

It seems like every game I grade, I end up writing something like “Koufos was quietly effective”. He continues to play fundamental basketball with good positioning, and make the most of his opportunities.

Ty Lawson, PG 26 MIN | 4-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | +11

Ty was aggressive getting into the paint all night, but had a bit of trouble finishing over Tyson Chandler. His shot was falling from the outside and his passing was crisp. He would likely have finished with a double double if Gallinari’s shot had been falling.

Andre Iguodala, SG 33 MIN | 5-7 FG | 2-6 FT | 6 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 14 PTS | +32

Igoudala has emerged as a solid secondary playmaker for the Nuggets, setting up a ton of easy scores. Tonight he tried to do a little too much and forced several passes into traffic. He was hitting his own shots from everywhere except the free throw line. He had a few spectacular defensive sequences in the second half.

Anthony Randolph, PF 3 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -1

Inconclusive.

Jordan Hamilton, SF 12 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -5

On one late sequence, Hamilton missed a jumper that led to a Knicks fast break off the long rebound, and then got downcourt in time to swat James White’s layup attempt into the stands. His shot wasn’t falling, but he was making good contributions in other parts of the game.

Corey Brewer, SF 21 MIN | 3-9 FG | 3-3 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +6

Brewer usually provides the Nuggets with great energy, but tonight the starters had all the energy they needed, and he seemed a step slow by comparison. He did a little bit of everything, but nothing particularly well.

Timofey Mozgov, C 9 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 2 PTS | -2

Mozgov was involved in two highlights tonight: a nice two handed dunk, and a Prigioni pass between his legs that led to a Knicks layup.

JaVale McGee, C 12 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -5

In a game where the Nuggets were completely dominant in the paint, and the Knicks’ only center left with an injury, the athletic seven footer decided to take a 16 foot jumper that missed everything. He also had one nice block and a layup from freakishly far away from the basket. It was a very inconsistent game overall.

Andre Miller, PG 25 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +13

Andre Miller surprised me by playing fantastic defense for most of his first half minutes. He was also on target with his passing.

Evan Fournier, SG 7 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | -2

Fournier looks completely lost on the defensive end of the court, and too often gets caught needing to foul. He stepped up offensively when tacos seemed to be in doubt, setting up Chandler for a three point play and scoring five of his own to push the Nuggets over the 110 point mark.

Wilson Chandler, SG 25 MIN | 9-12 FG | 5-8 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 24 PTS | +10

Wilson Chandler spent most of the night taking advantage of the Knicks’ lack of shot blocking. On two occasions he grabbed a rebound, dribbled fullcourt, and got a lightly contested layup.

George Karl

The Nuggets came out ready to play, and they didn’t let up until the game was out of reach. His small lineups worked well against the Knicks’ small lineups.

Two Things We Saw

  1. That was anticlimactic: In Carmelo’s first game in Denver since the trade, the game was over before halftime, and he left for good less than three minutes into the second half.
  2. That was oddly familiar: Four former Nuggets played at least 20 minutes for the Knicks, and many of the Nuggets’ old habits were on display, both good and bad. There were times the Knicks seemed content to settle for long jumpers off of little ball movement, and times when J.R. Smith looked completely unguardable. This game definitely highlighted the change between the Carmelo era and the new Nuggets team era.

ASW: Faried a “Rising Star”; Nuggets in the dunk contest?

For the second consecutive season, the Denver Nuggets will not be represented in the NBA All-Star Game. While there is a strong case to be made that their two leading scorers Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson have been playing at an All-Star caliber level in 2013, dreadfully slow season starts and a talent-rich Western Conference left them far outside the bubble of serious consideration.

This does not mean, however, that Nuggets players will be completely absent from All-Star Weekend. (more…)

2012-13 Game 21: Denver Nuggets 106 – New York Knickerbockers 112

The Denver Nuggets faced old friend Carmelo Anthony tonight in New York and Carmelo proved to be too much as Denver’s bid to be the first team to deliver the Knicks with their first home loss of the 2012-13 season ended in another disappointment.

It has been a while since I wrote up an old school game recap so tonight is as good a time as any, although I am not planning on staying up until 4:00 AM to bang out 3,000 words as I used to when I was a younger man.

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Reaction: Golden State Warriors 106, Denver Nuggets 105

The Rapid Reaction recap generator is giving me problems… again; therefore, we’re just gonna have to do this one old-fashioned style.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 93 Miami Heat 98

Miami Heat 98 FinalRecap | Box Score 93 Denver Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari, SF 31 MIN | 5-12 FG | 2-4 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | -9
Here’s a fun fact: Gallo’s only shot attempt in the fourth was a J.R. Smith-esque airball from three with the Nuggets down by one and only 1:05 left on the clock. It was a momentum-killing mistake that resulted in a dagger three at the other end. Gallo was the highest scoring starter and had one of his more efficient games thus far, but he was tentative the entire second half and essentially chucked away Denver’s best chance at a lead without playing much of a part in the comeback. It’s too tough to give him a pass.
Kenneth Faried, SF 36 MIN | 5-16 FG | 6-10 FT | 20 REB | 0 AST | 16 PTS | -8
Another beastly night from the Manimal, who notched a career high 20 boards despite a rough night shooting the ball. Faried was everywhere and looked like the only fresh player the Nuggets had in a totally flat first half performance. Faried seems to be graduating towards heavy starters minutes with the all-out effort he’s giving each night.
Kosta Koufos, C 14 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -10
Koufos turned in a so-so performance in the “14-minute starter” role Mozgov occupied last season. He did have a nice block on LeBron and seems to improving his defense around the rim, but Koufos wasn’t on the floor when this game was competitive.
Ty Lawson, PG 36 MIN | 0-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 8 AST | 0 PTS | -11
This isn’t fun for anyone, but I haven’t seen a worse game out of Lawson or any decent starting PG in recent memory for that matter. While he did have 8 assists to just 2 turnovers, Lawson went scoreless in 36 minutes which just shouldn’t ever happen to a capable starter in Denver’s system. The Nuggets did the right thing and stuck by Lawson to the bitter end, but this was nothing short of embarrassing. The Heat owned Lawson and he just wasn’t able to adjust or respond in time
Andre Iguodala, SG 36 MIN | 4-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 10 PTS | -11
He’s been playing well lately and just didn’t seem to have another big offensive night in him. Shot selection was good but Denver just looked slow and out-of-sync to start this game. I have to admit it’s a little upsetting Iguodala’s defense didn’t get a chance to be more of a factor after the Nuggets made one too many costly mistakes in the final minute
Jordan Hamilton, SF 21 MIN | 4-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | -2
A really solid performance from Hamilton, who was one of the Nuggets hardest workers in the offseason and has yet to see a real shot at keeping a role in the rotation. Once again, he gets out of control off the dribble a lot and gets a little too loose with his shooting, but he’s the best floor-spacer on the team and is almost guaranteed to put up points with more minutes. That’s something Denver’s having a lot of trouble finding consistently.
Corey Brewer, SF 19 MIN | 1-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | +6
A sub-par game, but one of the few Brewer’s had all season. While Brewer is not often going to hurt you in 19 minutes of play, you have to wonder if he’s being miscast as a sixth man scorer he’s really not. We saw some of the old Corey tonight – turnovers, ugly shooting, and overzealous defense galore.
JaVale McGee, C 21 MIN | 9-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 18 PTS | +14
You can’t expect a bench player to do much better in 21 minutes of action. McGee has had his struggles in training camp and early season games, but the Nuggets are playing a dangerous game by keeping a tight leash intact even after JaVale has started to settle down and improve. Bottom line, the Nuggets are sending the wrong message by sitting the hot hand down while the wholly ineffective Gallo and Lawson played the closing stretch.
Andre Miller, PG 26 MIN | 7-9 FG | 3-3 FT | 5 REB | 7 AST | 19 PTS | +6
He can be tough to watch, like the first half where Miller’s patented spin move to turnover made another early appearance. Then again, Miller has a way of delivering unbelievable efforts like this where he’ll basically spearhead a Nuggets run by himself. Miller played a lot in the second half where at times he looked like the best player on the floor at 36 years of age. The Nuggets made a lot of their comeback with LeBron James on the bench but Andre Miller was phenomenal regardless.

Big men equal big contracts

One of the more delightful aspects of being a Nuggets fan these days is knowing how competent the team’s front office is. Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke have proven to be a dynamic duo that isn’t afraid to make a bold move when necessary. Through his first year and a half as the Nuggets Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, it was as if everything Ujiri touched turned to gold. But in his most recent transaction, sending long-tenured veteran Nene to Washington in exchange for the young, enigmatic JaVale McGee, he might very well have put the first blemish on his otherwise near-perfect track record.

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3-on-3: Remaining season outlook

In Roundball Mining Company’s latest edition of our 3-on-3 series, we examine what lies ahead for the Denver Nuggets in the near future. There are 13 games remaining on the schedule: seven on the road and seven against teams currently at or below the .500 mark. Right now the Nuggets sit in seventh place in the Western Conference standings and would face the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the Playoffs. Is this the same position the team will find itself in roughly three weeks from now? If so, would it be able to handle a well-coached Spurs team in a seven-game series? These questions and more are detailed inside.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 104 Orlando Magic 101

Denver Nuggets 104 Final
Recap | Box Score
101 Orlando Magic
Corey Brewer, SF 32 MIN | 3-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 8 PTS | 0

I find Brewer’s night tough to evaluate, but he did follow up one of his best games of the season with another solid effort. Starting for the injured Wilson Chandler, Brewer played within himself and provided all the little things he’s known for, namely energetic defense and nonstop hustle. Brewer contributed three steals while defending without fouling, no small feat considering he was asked to guard everyone from Jameer Nelson to Hedo Turkoglu.

Kenneth Faried, F 27 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +1

Throughout three quarters, Faried was struggling through one of his worst games in recent memory. He could not get anything going offensively and the 50/50 balls he usually gobbles up kept bouncing the Magic’s way. It must have been frustrating to say the least. Thankfully George Karl stuck it out with Faried, who spearheaded the crucial game-winning run down the stretch. It wasn’t pretty, but Faried delivered in a huge way when it mattered the most.

JaVale McGee, C 11 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-2 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -19

Oh dear. I’m not even sure where to start. This was the most comical performance I’ve seen out of a Nuggets player in years, and that includes JR Smith’s lengthy Nuggets career, Strangely, JaVale was not particularly awful on offense or defense as much as he was just totally clueless. It was boneheaded play after boneheaded play with a cherry of frustration on top. McGee was a whopping -19 in a game where the Magic’s biggest lead was 4 points. He played only 11 minutes.

Arron Afflalo, SG 40 MIN | 8-14 FG | 3-3 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 22 PTS | +12

Really fantastic. Afflalo has approached every game on the trip with a sense of urgency that’s often missing from the rest of his teammates. He is now producing with the type of consistency no Nuggets player has shown since Al Harrington’s fantastic early season run. There’s not much to say about Afflalo other than he’s been the normal, outstanding Arron of the past month or so.

Ty Lawson, PG 37 MIN | 10-16 FG | 3-3 FT | 5 REB | 9 AST | 25 PTS | -4

Looking at Lawson’s shot chart gives you a sense of how thoroughly he dominated the game. Ty scored from anywhere and everywhere, while also tallying nine assists and only one turnover. The entire Magic team managed 15 assists. This was, quite simply, one of those superstar type efforts Lawson has shown he’s capable of producing on any given night.

Al Harrington, PF 32 MIN | 7-14 FG | 2-3 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 18 PTS | +2

Harrington was the Nuggets’ main post-up option, coming in early and often for the woeful JaVale McGee. His offense was a potent mix of inside and outside scoring, but he recorded five fouls and struggled to rebound against an incredibly undersized Magic front court.

Andre Miller, PG 28 MIN | 4-7 FG | 7-8 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 15 PTS | +2

It may have taken him fifty-plus games, but Miller finally seems to be buying into his role and approaching each game with a more professional attitude. I’ve noticed a distinct change in the way he carries himself and it’s evident in everything he does, from fighting around screens and actually hustling back up on the floor on defense. Miller still takes his fair share of bad shots and suffers frequent defensive lapses, but the intangibles he’s known for are finally producing results.

Kosta Koufos, C 25 MIN | 3-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | +19

Koufos was really much better than his modest numbers indicate. He picked up two early fouls and initially struggled to contain Hedo Turkoglu in the Magic’s pick and roll sets. On a night McGee basically didn’t contribute anything, the Nuggets had to rely on Koufos’ defense and he pushed through a rough start to see them through. I’d like to see a better rebounding performance against a small Magic team, but Koufos was easily one of the most important guys in terms of securing the win.

Jordan Hamilton, G 7 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +2

Hamilton was encouraging in the extremely limited time he saw. I believe both his field goals were assisted and he helped the Nuggets get out in transition against the slow-down style of the Orlando Magic. It’s tough to draw any conclusions from Hamilton’s short stint on the floor, but I believe he showed he’s capable of providing a spark off the bench when called upon.

Denver Nuggets midterm report card: rookies

In the last installment of Roundball Mining Company’s Denver Nuggets midterm report card series, we’ll be examining the rookies. Since this group of players hasn’t received the type of playing time most of their teammates have, we decided to evaluate them separately. Since the All-Star break, Kenneth Faried has managed to claw his way into the rotation, while Julyan Stone and Jordan Hamilton still remain isolated on the furthest regions of Karl’s bench. This extra boost in minutes has allowed us to get a better understanding of who Faried is, yet Hamilton and Stone are still relatively unknown commodities, therefore their grades should be taken with a grain of salt.

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Nuggets News: Rumors and rants edition

[Note: The first two stories are the previous entrees about Chris Andersen and Wilson Chandler; the next few, however, are stories that have come to light since this post was originally created.]

ESPN.com is reporting (Insider only) that Nuggets center, Chris “Birdman” Andersen is on the trading block with Koufos having been recently re-signed and playing solid basketball. There have reportedly not been any immediate suitors for Andersen, although as the trade deadline approaches this could change quickly. Although Birdman is 33 and still has two years at just below $10 million left on his contract, he might be an enticing option for a title contender who needs defensive help in the front court.

In other news, ESPN.com is reporting Wilson Chandler could return to the U.S. sooner than expected. According to Marc Stein, Chandler’s Chinese Basketball Association team, the Zhejiang Lions, made a deal with the former Nugget that as long as he managed to get the Lions to the Playoffs he could then come back to his home country earlier than expected. However, even though Lions management is willing to part with him, Chandler still must receive his FIBA letter of clearance in order to play in the NBA and it is unknown whether Chinese officials would be willing to bend on their harsh stance in regards to this issue. There is some speculation that if Chandler attends Sunday’s CBA All Star game officials would be more open to lending him his clearance letters at an earlier date.

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Rapid Reaction: Dallas Mavericks 102, Denver Nuggets 84 [Updated]

Denver Nuggets 84 FinalRecap | Box Score 102 Dallas Mavericks
Corey Brewer, SF 35 MIN | 3-15 FG | 3-6 FT | 7 REB | 4 AST | 9 PTS | -4
Brewer certainly wasn’t as effective as he has been coming off the bench, and he continues to struggle with his shot, but seven boards, four assists and five steals are smart, hustle numbers no matter how you look at it.
Kenneth Faried, F 21 MIN | 4-7 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | +1
Faried once again played solid, although his three rebounds in 21 minutes are tough to swallow. It’s odd; the last few games Faried has actually played much better on the offensive side of the ball than on defense — his specialty in college. It’s nice seeing the “Manimal” show the ability to score, although at this juncture his rebounding and defense are needed more.
Kosta Koufos, C 26 MIN | 6-7 FG | 0-2 FT | 14 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | -14
Koufos continues to impress. In only 26 minutes he set a new career high in rebounds, at 14, and was one of the few Nuggets who actually came to play. His toughness, passion and defense are more than admirable, while his gradual improvement only corroborates his case for being a steady rotational player. At this point, you could argue Koufos is the best big outside of Nene on the Nuggets roster.
Arron Afflalo, SG 25 MIN | 0-6 FG | 3-6 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | -33
After scoring 20 points in three straight games Afflalo reverted back to the player he has been most of the year and laid an egg; however, being that most of the entire team did so as well, this performance can be somewhat forgiven. It’s going to be interesting seeing how Afflalo bounces back from this outing. Does he kick into overdrive and score in the upper teens like he’s capable of doing, or does he turn in another stinker? Stay tuned.
Ty Lawson, PG 28 MIN | 1-8 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 3 PTS | -15
All in all, this was probably one of Ty’s more disappointing efforts of the year. Before you chastise him too much though, keep in mind he was coming off 17 and 27-point performances the two games prior (which were both wins), and was met by a furious Mavericks’ interior defense every time he attempted to drive. Dallas really did a fine job of taking away the Nuggets penetration offense, which is essentially — Ty Lawson.
Al Harrington, PF 25 MIN | 4-12 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | -23
Harrington’s struggles continue. After leading the league in two-point shooting percentage through the early part of the year, Harrington has now shot over .500 percent in just one game this month. His overall field goal percentage has dipped nearly 10 percent in that time. All that said, Big Al has embraced the leadership role of a young Nuggets squad and is one of the few members of the roster who actually plays with a sense of pride on a nightly basis.
Andre Miller, PG 21 MIN | 0-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | -9
Twenty one minutes, zero points and two steals — what more can you say? About the only signs of life Miller showed against the Mavericks was when he angrily tossed the ball to a ref after not receiving a foul call while attempting to drive to the basket. Though his minutes did come in garbage time, it’s at least worth noting that Stone looked worlds better than Miller, especially on defense.
Chris Andersen, C 22 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-4 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -4
Birdman didn’t crack the rotation till later in the game but once he did, he gave his full effort on both ends of the floor. His turnovers were down and his boards were up, but most importantly, he followed up one great performance with another solid outing. Right now, consistency should be Andersen’s biggest goal.
Rudy Fernandez, SG 20 MIN | 5-9 FG | 2-4 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | -11
Fernandez looked as if he wanted to prove something to his former team near the start of the game, and succeeded in doing so. He hit multiple 3-pointers and even a few tough jump-shots, but the luster slowly faded and eventually Fernandez was rendered just as useless as most every other Nugget.
Julyan Stone, G 7 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 4 AST | 2 PTS | +10
Stone deserves a good grade because he truly made the most out of the time he was given and played the best defense of anybody on the Nuggets roster. George Karl should consider sitting down his entire team and forcing them to watch Stone’s lateral defensive movement as it’s quite remarkable and hands down better than anyone on the team. Furthermore, Stone’s penetration followed by his pinpoint passes is exactly the type of offense Karl urges his team to implement, which shows Stone is listening. Should Andre Miller find himself either traded or injured, Nuggets fans can rest assured knowing Stone would be able to fill in just fine… if not better.
Jordan Hamilton, G 9 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | +12
In some truly extended minutes Hamilton finally gave Nuggets fans their first glimpse into the type of player he can be, which is an offensive scoring machine (note: “machine” used lightly in this instance). In nine minutes “J-Ham” took eight shots and made four them. His drives to the basket were a bit ill-advised and his defense was inconsistent, but there was no denying the skill Hamilton possess on the offensive side of the ball. It would be extremely interesting seeing how he fares in the heat of a close game.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 109, Phoenix Suns 92

Phoenix Suns 92 FinalRecap | Box Score 109 Denver Nuggets
Corey Brewer, SF 33 MIN | 3-8 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 9 PTS | +3
As usual, Brewer was energetic early on and set the tone from the get-go. Though not his finest statistical performance, he was still decent, all things considered.
Kenneth Faried, F 24 MIN | 4-9 FG | 5-6 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 13 PTS | -7
This was the first time Nuggets fans got an in-depth look at the “Manimal” and it was quite telling. Faried put up a solid stat line in 24 minutes and scored better than most probably imagined, however it wasn’t error free. Faried still needs to work on his positioning down low and must set better screens if he wants to ensure more playing time comes his way in the future.
Kosta Koufos, C 26 MIN | 4-10 FG | 1-2 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 9 PTS | 0
Koufos is quietly playing some outstanding defense at the moment. The near double-double is to be expected, but swatting three shots and snagging a career-high five steals is some damn good icing on the cake. The Koufos vs. Mozgov debate will rage on, however after performances like these Koufos certainly adds fuel to the fire.
Arron Afflalo, SG 30 MIN | 7-11 FG | 4-7 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 20 PTS | +16
This is now the third straight game that Afflalo has scored 20 or more points after not doing so the entire season. Before this mini-hot streak Afflalo looked lethargic, confused and out of place, yet suddenly he’s hit a switch that turned him into the player we all though he’d be coming into the season. Afflalo has looked great the last three games; let’s hope he keeps it up.
Ty Lawson, PG 26 MIN | 6-7 FG | 5-6 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 17 PTS | +11
I though this was one of Lawson’s better performances of the year in a few ways. First, he shot extremely well from the field, only missing one attempt all night. Second, he really pushed the pace like George Karl often implores his team to do. This is a tougher task than it may appear on the surface, as it requires a lot of energy and hustle which only a few players really possess. Moving forward, Ty needs to make it his job to get the rest of the team playing at a frantic pace.
Al Harrington, PF 24 MIN | 5-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 12 PTS | +24
Big Al has cooled drastically since starting off the season sizzling hot. His field goal percentage has dropped every month since the start of the season and in February he’s shooting a very poor .384 percent from the field as well as .257 from beyond the arc. Harrington should get back on track soon but it’s fair to question how much of a role fatigue may be playing at the moment.
Andre Miller, PG 22 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 7 AST | 2 PTS | +17
Miller had a few nice passes but turned the ball over a team-high six times which virtually nullified any positive impact he made on the game. Though his assists remain relatively steady, most all other aspects of his game are extremely inconsistent — including his effort on defense.
Chris Andersen, C 22 MIN | 6-9 FG | 4-6 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 16 PTS | +17
This was Birdman’s best game of the year and probably one of the better of his career. He single-handedly sparked the turnaround that altered the game into a run-away rather than a barn-burner which is where it was heading. His six blocks were two shy of a career high as was his 16 points. This was a breakout performance in which he passed Antonio McDyess on the Nuggets all time blocks list and in the process might have secured more playing time down the road.

Rudy Fernandez, SG
20 MIN | 4-8 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 11 PTS | +12
Fernandez had a solid outing by all accounts. He finally got his feet squared on his jump shot, which payed off in the form of some much-needed 3-pointers. He also had a few steals and played the way he should when coming off the bench (i.e., effectively and with lots of energy).

Julyan Stone, G
6 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -3
In six minutes all Stone had was one block and two turnovers. Nice to see him playing defense, but really, six minutes isn’t enough time to analyze much.
Jordan Hamilton, G 6 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -5
Hamilton falls in the same boat as Stone: not enough time. He turned the ball over more than he should have and missed both shots he took, but again, what can you expect in six minutes?

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