The light that is shining the brightest right now is the play of Nene. In his last three games Big Brazil has been averaging better than 15 points per with an average of 30 minutes a night. Nene looked particularly good against Brad Miller whom he abused in the post on a couple of different occasions, including a nice little lefty hook in the third quarter. He has been showing explosiveness at the rim, is blocking a few shots, and corralling a rebound here and there too in his last two games as a starter. I truly feel that with Nene in the starting line-up the Nuggets gain toughness, a true scorer in the low post, and a soft-handed big man who has the size to practically match-up with any power forward in the league. And because of his emergence as of late I feel that the starting five of AI, J.R., Anthony, Nene, and Camby is the best bet for the Nuggets in the future. We all saw how Reggie Evans’s numbers dropped when given the starting nod, and I just don’t feel that Najera give this team a low post option on offense. Eddie is glue man for this team, but not the best starter.
Another really bright spot has been the adjustment that J.R. has made going from starter to coming off the bench. His numbers are still right on par with where they were before the suspension and pre-Iverson trade despite his minutes being cut slightly. Another really nice thing about Smith is that he is shooting the three ball exceptionally well. At 38% from downtown he makes teams respect the arch because he can get so hot so quick that before you know it he could make three or four bombs. The only thing that I would prescribe for Smith to do differently on offense is this: After you drop a three and your man presses up on you. Use your athletic ability and a pump fake to get the defender out of position before taking the ball right to the rim. J.R. is a great free-throw shooter and nine times out of ten he is going to either finish the play with a dunk or get fouled and go to the line. Then the next time he gets the ball he will already have his defender worried about getting taken off the dribble which will lead to more room to let the three ball fly. Other than that, J.R.’s efforts on he defensive end are visible and hopefully with some continued dedication he can raise his level of play on both ends of the floor.
The last few rays of hope that the Nuggets Nation needs to keep on shining are from the big three of Carmelo, Camby, and AI. When Allen Iverson returns from his twisted ankle and the continuation process of playing with another player of his caliber takes place. I still think that this Nuggets team is capable of something special. Only once in the history of the NBA have two players of such scoring capability played on the same team (West and Baylor), and although Camby is no Chamberlain, he is a damn good rebounder and shot blocker regardless.
Carmelo is a self-motivated player, and to be quite frank with you, was probably done a favor by the coaches of the Western Conference when they down right snubbed him. He will internalize what it means for him to be left off the All-Star team and in a similar fashion to how Gilbert Arenas has internalized being cut from Team USA he will raise his game to an even higher level. He likes to challenge himself and hates to fail. Which is a deadly combination for those who oppose Carmelo.
As of this article's posting, the Nuggets are 23-22 and currently hold the seventh seed in the west. If Coach Karl will give the five of AI, Smith, Carmelo, Nene, and Camby and chance to gel I think he will like what he sees. The cream has begun to rise to the top and it is time for them to start for the Nuggets. I say shuffle the rest of the bench in as needed, but the Nuggets Nation will never know how good this team can be until the best team is played together.