Monday, December 4, 2006

New ESPN Power Rankings

(Boulder-CO) The new NBA power rankings are in and ESPN has the Nuggets listed as the ninth most powerful team. Marc Stein writes, “Nuggets can't get too broken up about a home loss to Grizz when 'Melo's an All-Star lock already, J.R. might be Steal of the Summer and they're even outscoring Phoenix.”

Maybe it was just the limitations on the information space, but I think there are some other key points that are attributing to the Nuggets success. The obvious notes are that the Nuggets have five players scoring in double digits, a double digit rebounder, and Andre Miller averaging 9.3 assists. But what isn’t so obvious is the way the Nuggets management has put together a cast of characters that come into their job and work without much press or recognition.

The big three that aren’t getting a lot of attention are Eduardo Najera, Reggie Evans, and surprise, Yakhouba Diawara! Najera is scoring at a clip of 7.9 points and grabbing 4.5 rebounds a game. Not astronomical numbers by any means, but it is the energy that Najera gives that is immeasurable. He is always taking charges, banging his man out of the way on the glass regardless of whether or not he snares the board, and displaying great passing ability. The long story short is that Najera is the perfect compliment on the front line of Camby and Carmelo because he doesn’t need any limelight to be an effective starter.

Who could have foreseen that the Yak was going to be such a pleasant surprise? He plays tremendous defense and is a constant thorn in opposing team’s side. When I watch Diawara off the ball, his pass denial is superb and there isn’t a cutter that he doesn’t put a body on as price of admission for traveling the lane. And you know what else? Yakhouba is a not-so-shabby 30% from downtown, despite starting off shooting the ball dreadfully. The thing that I like about Yakhouba is when he is ready to pull the trigger it is always within the frame of the offense. He doesn’t try to force his scoring against the grain of the game and when it is his time to shoot, he has no hesitation. Major kudos for the Yak!

And my favorite, feverous, rebounder is Reggie Evans. The Joker, as Nuggets play-by-play announcer Chris Marlowe refers to him as, is a tireless rebounder and all-around tough guy. He took one on the temple against the Warriors and even with a concussion still tried to come back into the game! Evans is grabbing 8.9 boards a night and is a great second option when Camby needs a blow. There is no question in my mind that by the end of the season, or hell even the All-Star break for that matter, that Reggie could be averaging a double-double. He currently is scoring 6.8 points a game and gets my nod for unsung hero after a month of games for the Nuggets.

So, the Nuggets are regarded as one of the top ten strongest teams in the league. Not too bad in my assessment, but there is still a lot of games on the schedule. The Western Conference is no joke this year, which is evident by the top ten being dominated by eight left coast teams. Nice to see the Nuggets getting some respect in the mix, but respect isn’t what this season is all about. Next on the block is Atlanta at home. Come on Nuggets; put another one in the W column.


Stumbleweed said...

They're also #6 in the Yahoo Power Rankings (right above the Suns and below the Magic) -- Kerr apparently likes Najera, as he's the only guy that got a shoutout. Good for Eddie -- he's been playing great minutes this whole season.

It looks like the Nugs are finally starting to get the recognition they deserve in the national media. Now they just have to keep up the winning ways, and we'll be talking about the second round of the playoffs instead of plans for next year.

Nugg Doctor said...

Hi Stumbleweed,

Nice find on the Yahoo rankings. I hadn't seen those yet, and I appreciate the info.

I agree that Najera is playing some of his best hoop right now and that the Nuggets are strong enough to make it out the first round. Only time will tell, but it sure is going to be a fun ride!

Thanks for reading,

The Nugg Doctor