Thursday, January 24, 2008

Denver Nuggets Midseason Player Reviews

(Boulder-CO) This article’s title should be self-explanatory. I’m simply going breakdown every Nuggets’ individual performance in the first 41 games of the season and then wrap things up by evaluating Coach George Karl and the team as a whole. Ready?

Carmelo Anthony- A minor slip in scoring average from last year isn’t enough to stop me from saying this has been ‘Melo’s best season yet. At the mid-way point, ‘Melo is averaging 25.5 ppg (2nd highest on the team and 4th overall in the NBA), a career-high seven rebounds, and 3.4 assists. ‘Melo has led the Nuggets in scoring 17 times this season, but the most exciting aspect of his improvement has been in his defense. And while I still think there is room to improve, his desire to play better defense is visibly noticeable and it has been a key factor in his rebounding progression. Already this season Carmelo has recorded eleven double-doubles including four-consecutive double-doubles from December 20th through the 26th to mark the first time in his career with a double-double in four-straight games. Anthony played in 40 of 41 games in the first half of the season only missing the 41st game against the Atlanta Hawks due to a sprained ankle suffered in the second quarter of the previous game against the Lakers.

His season-highs so far are 37 points and 16 rebounds in the same game against the Houston Rockets. ‘Melo dished out a season-high assists rebounds against the Knicks and recorded a season-high of four steals in a game against the Lakers.

On The Nugg Doctor scale of 1-10, I give Carmelo, now a two-time All-Star, a 9.

Chucky Atkins- Oh Chucky, what is there to say? I think I speak for the entire Nuggets Nation when I say you are a disappointment. Not necessarily in your play, but rather in your inability to do so. A preseason groin strain has snowballed into a full-blown sports hernia and your return is not expected until the early part of March; when you might not even be needed. And since all your injury problems have occurred your presumed starting spot has been nicely occupied by the more defensive minded Anthony Carter.

On the Nugg Doctor scale of 1-10, I give Chucky an “INC” for incomplete. There just hasn’t been enough Chucky Atkins footage to evaluate for me to actually assign him a numerical value. It’s a shame too, because I did really think that Atkins’ abilities could have been a big asset to this team.

Marcus Camby- Ah, “The Captain”. Marcus Camby may or may not be named an All-Star this season (even though his efforts and numbers warrant it), but the Camby-man has had his best mini-season of his long career in these first 41 games. Marcus is averaging career-highs in both rebounding (14.5 per game and second in the NBA) and blocked shots (3.9 per game and tops in the NBA) while flirting with a double-digit scoring average of 9.5 points. But what is more than the numbers might indicate is how much Camby’s presence dictates the Nuggets overall effort of the defensive end. When Marcus is in the game, the Nuggets are a completely different team in comparison to when he sits on the bench. He single handedly wills a team that would probably be content with just trying to outscore their opponent every night to play with the same kind of inspiration on the defensive end of the floor.

Marcus Camby’s season-high of 20 points came in his seventh career 20/20 game (first this season, fifth as a Nugget) with 23 rebounds at Charlotte on November 14th, 2007. He grabbed a career-high tying 24 boards and swatted a career-high tying eleven shots against the against the Jazz, and dished out another career-high nine assists against the Trailblazers. “The Captain” also registered his third career triple-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds, 10 blocked shots and five assists in 30 minutes vs. Milwaukee on the day after Christmas.

Other things you should know about Marcus Camby are he has grabbed 10 or more rebounds 34 times while also grabbing 20 or more rebounds nine times. He’s also recorded ten double-doubles, the aforementioned triple-double, and has swatted more than 10 shots on two different occasions.

On The Nugg Doctor scale of 1-10, I give Marcus Camby an 8.5, but if he can somehow find a way to finish the rest of the season averaging a double-double that score could eventually rise. Plus, at this rate, he is easily going to run away with his second Defensive Player of the Year award!

Anthony Carter- What a pleasant surprise this veteran point guard has been! With the debilitating injury to Chucky Atins, AC has proven that he can shoulder quite a load as the Nuggets starting point guard. A starter in the last 26 straight games, Anthony Carter is averaging career-highs in this long list of statistical categories: Minutes played (29.7), points (7.7), assists (6.4), rebounds (3.0), and steals (1.4). And along with Marcus Camby, he has been having a career year and is doing so by recording this lengthy list of career-high tying performances: He scored 21 points against the Magic, dished out 15 dimes against the Sixers, and grabbed eight rebounds against the Pacers on November 27th (sorry about there not being a link for this game due to my first encounter with cluster headaches).

All in all, for a guy who is only making $770,610 for his services this season I think it is safe to say that AC is a lifesaver. Without him where would the Nuggets be?

On The Nugg Doctor scale of 1-10, I give Anthony Carter a 6.5. There is still a lot of room to improve for Anthony Carter, but I have liked almost everything he has shown the Nuggets Nation so far!

Yakhouba Diawara- After starting a handful of games early in the season, the Yak has been somewhere in between lost and found. Sometimes George Karl finds him for specific assignments while others he’s lost at the end of the bench somewhere with Von Wafer and Steven Hunter. ‘Khouba has been a starter in 14 games while seeing action in 30 of the first 41. He is averaging three points, 1.2 rebounds, and less than one assist, but if there is a bright side to Diawara’s game it has been in his improved three-point shooting. The Yak was only making 28% of his long range attempts in the 2006-07 campaign, but has upped his average to 35% this season.

On The Nugg Doctor scale of 1-10, I give Yakhouba Diawara a 5. Not bad, not great. Just a Yakhouba in the world trying to earn some burn. What else can we expect?

Steven Hunter- Where ya been, Steve-O? This Nuggets team has had more injuries than an all-night emergency room, but yet your presence has only been seen in a team-low five games. Granted, you missed 25 straight games with knee surgery and the recovery has been tough I’m sure. But, George Karl has still had you available lately and the only thing that gets written in your box score is DNP-CD. Steven Hunter is averaging .6 of a point, grabbing 1.2 rebounds, and 1/5th of a blocked shot.

On The Nugg Doctor scale of 1-10, I give Steven Hunter a 1. What do you want from me? He gets a one for being on the team.

Allen Iverson- The Answer, quite simply, is having a MVP season. A lot of big names out there aren’t really talking about AI as one, but trust me, he is and his numbers will prove it. “Bubba Chuck” Ranks third in the NBA in scoring (27.0), first in minutes (41.7), 11th in assists (6.9) and sixth in steals (2.07). He exploded for a season-high 51 points against the Lakers, but hasn’t beaten his season-highs of 14 assists and seven steals since opening night against the Sonics.

Furthermore, The Nuggets are 18-1 all-time when he posts a double-double, with the lone loss coming in his first game as a Nugget (having won 18-straight since) and he has moved into 21st on the NBA All-Time scoring list past both Larry Bird and Gary Payton at Atlanta on January 15th with a grand total as of right now of 21,932 career points.

Are you starting to believe?

In case you’re not, there’s more…

AI was named Western Conference Player of the Week for games played from 11/12-11/18 for averaging 26.7 ppg on .558 (29-52) shooting from the field to go along with 6.3 apg, 2.0 rpg and 1.00 spg while leading the Nuggets to a 3-0 record. Iverson then played a career-high 57 minutes vs. Houston on 12/20 which was also the most minutes played by any Nuggets player since the franchise joined the NBA in 1976. Amazingly, in the first 41 games, he was once again named Western Conference Player of the Week for 22nd time in his career and second as a Nugget for games played from 12/31-1/6 averaging 33.3 ppg on .531 (34-64) FG shooting in an exhausting 43.6 mpg while leading the Nuggets to a 3-0 record. He even rallied his way to a starting nod for the Western Conference in this year‘s All-Star Game.

Now if that isn’t a first 41 games of a season worth of a MVP candidate, then evidently, I don‘t know what one is!

On The Nugg Doctor scale of 1-10, I give Allen Iverson a 9.5. Bravo!

Linas Kleiza- The “L Train” has had quite the breakout in these first 41, indeed. We should start by acknowledging the fact that he made the game-winning 22-foot turnaround jumper as time expired at Sacramento on 12/23 in what has been a magical little run since Christmas. LK continued to show that he was a consistent contributor throughout the start of the new year before he poured in a career-high 41 points to go along with a season-high-tying nine rebounds (3rd time) in a career-high 42 minutes vs. Utah in front of a home crowd on 1/17.

Now Kleiza is averaging 11.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.3 assists and is consistently being the first man off the bench for George Karl.

On The Nugg Doctor scale of 1-10, I give Linas Kleiza a 7.25. He’s shown us just how talented his is. The only question now is how consistent his game gets.

Kenyon Martin- So far, K-Mart has proven to me that he is a warrior. For a guy to still be able to do what he does after double microfracture surgery is utterly amazing. He most recently just notched his third double-double of the season (second-straight, 31st as a Nugget, 95th of his career) with a season-high-tying 20 points (3rd time), 10 rebounds and two blocks in a season high-tying 38 minutes (3rd time) vs. Atlanta on 1/23. Martin is averaging 10.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.35 steals, and 1.45 blocks per game, and has played, and started, 31 games so far.

And the scariest thing for the opposition in the second half of the season is I have a blue-light special feeling about Kenyon’s progression down the stretch.

On The Nugg Doctor scale of 1-10, I give Kenyon Martin a 7.

Eduardo Najera- “The Grout” is having another grout-like season. Eduardo Najera may not always be in the box score with impressive efforts, but he is always giving one. Najera plays hurt, does the little things like take charges and dives on floors, and always manages to give the Nuggets a spark. Eduardo is averaging 5.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.1 assists, but his energy and professionalism are invaluable.

On The Nugg Doctor scale of 1-10, I give Eduardo Najera a 6.5.

Nene- The only thing Nene needs to concentrate on is his health. Early this season he injured tendons in his thumb that required surgery and put him on the IR for six weeks. And most recently a testicular tumor was removed and gave the Nuggets Nation quite a scare. Nene was averaging 5.9 points and 6.2 rebounds. He is now on an indefinite leave from the team while he recovers.

On The Nugg Doctor scale of 1-10, I give Nene an “INC”. Get well, Big Brazil.

J.R. Smith- Did you know that J.R. Smith’s nickname is “The Prodigy”? A fitting name for a young player with upside the size of Mt. Rushmore and a lot to learn. Smith is averaging 9.7 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 1.7 assists, but still manages to leave the crowd oohing and ahhhing at least once a game. He also still manages to give George Karl fits sometimes, but I think both men are moving forward in a positive direction.

On The Nugg Doctor scale of 1-10, I give J.R. Smith a 7.25.

Von Wafer- Where you been, buddy? I hyped ‘Nilla pretty hard and kind of feel foolish now for over-estimating his impact this year. Von has only played in 18 games so far this season and is averaging 1.2 points and not much else.

On The Nugg Doctor scale of 1-10, I give Von Wafer a 2. Better than Steven Hunter, but not by much.

Coach George Karl- I had my issues with the way George Karl was running this team early in the season, but all things considered, he is doing a fine job. All the injuries have made his life tough, and it’s not like he doesn’t have some gigantic egos to manage on a day-to-day basis. Furthermore, when you consider all this team has gone through already, George has the boys in first place in the division at 25-16 and only getting stronger.

On The Nugg Doctor scale of 1-10, I give George a 7.75. He hasn’t micromanaged this team to death, but has also kept a pretty tight ship for the most part.

Overall, on The Nugg Doctor scale of 1-10, I give the Nuggets (like their coach) a 7.75. What, you’re expecting a long, drawn-out, link filled analysis of this whole team as a whole? I think I just did that, now didn’t I?

Go Nuggets!


Haig said...

Lots of positivity in this review. If I didn't know better, it makes it sound like this team was on top of the conference.

Melo does indeed shine in several statistical categories but you are giving a bit too much credit for his defense. Yes, he's improved his rebounding but he consistently misses his rotations on D. He does not exert the same energy as many of his teammates do. Even JR is trying harder than Melo on his assignments lately.

Watch how the team plays D while Melo is out with his ankle injury and compare it to how it plays with him. The upcoming games against New Jersey and Dallas should be a good test of this (if Melo stays out).

While LK may not be close to Melo's talent, his hustle almost makes him a better fit as a starter on this team than Melo.

And yes AI has shown incredible heart but he is still prown to ball-hogging. When the Nugs are down in a game, he tries to put the team on his back and shoot them back in it. This works sometimes but often it just creates team stagnation as the rest of the boys watch AI be AI. That's not a sustainable way to get back in a game. His defense is effective in short spurts (translating into steals) but he has a hard time staying with bigger guards who hit perimeter shots as evidenced by the Lakers and Suns regular domination of us.

I hate to say it but Melo and AI are collectively too much of a defensive liability when they're on the floor at the same time, particularly against the elite teams. I hate to advocate trading an all-star but our team defense has not emerged consistently to warrant keeping them both. When we get knocked out of the playoffs in the first or second round this year, I won't be surprised to see a major trade in the off-season.

When you look back at how few games we've won against the elite teams this year (I watched every game over the last several years), I think most people would agree we ain't got the right collection of pieces to contend with the big boys, particularly over 7 games.

Nugg Doctor said...

Lots of good points, haig, but I have to disagree with one fundamental aspect. You say, "If I didn't know better, it makes it sound like this team was on top of the conference."

The reason for my optimism is because the Nuggs are atop their division and with all things considered that is pretty damn good.

Wouldn't you agree?

Furthermore, you say, "I hate to say it but Melo and AI are collectively too much of a defensive liability when they're on the floor at the same time, particularly against the elite teams," and that may be true to an extent, but if Denver isn't going to play their top two players at the same time, how do you think the Nuggets are going to win ANY games?

Thanks for reading,

The Nugg Doctor

Amerikkka's Most Wanted said...

How can you give Carter less than a 10? This guy came out of nowhere, and is the sparkplug for the team. He's put the team on his back at the end of the games and won all of them for us. I understand that he's less vital than, say, Carmelo, but for what he was supposed to do, he's been incredible.

Dennis Köhler said...

Great article, I agree with all you said.

Little mistake there:

"‘Melo dished out a season-high nine rebounds against the Knicks"

I think it should be ASSISTS instead of rebounds ;)


Nugg Doctor said...

Thanks a lot, Dennis. It figures after as long as it took me to write that and code it all that there would be a typo in the first player's review.

I appreciate your appreciation.

Thanks for reading,

The Nugg Doctor

Bobby Jones 2.0 said...

Nugg MD,

Not a nuggets fan, but I do read and enjoy your blog...

This feels much more like a ranking of your teams players from best to worst, not a report card based on actual results when matched against expectations. In that light, Najera and Carter have shined, while Karl, Iverson, Camby and Anthony haven't quite. How can you give Anthony a 9 when many of his stats are down this year (not TO's though...)? Based on talent alone, this team could be a contender, but is currently 1/2 game out of 8th. And this with 5 more home games than road games.

Nugg Doctor said...

bobby jones 2.0,

I think anytime you rank or evaluate anything there is always certain parts that rank higher than others. Now, are you telling me that just because so little was expected out of a guy like Anthony Carter (who, let me say, has greatly over-delivered)and he has played so well that I should give him a higher ranking than a guy like Carmelo just because 'Melo is not averaging the same amount of points as last year?

If, so... I still could not even do that with sound mind.

Najera has done what a guy like Najera does. Hustle, clean up garbage plays, and make extra efforts. Same with Carter, with the exception of the few times his contributions late have made the difference in games.

They both have played great basketball, but who are we trying to kid? Anthony, Camby, and Iverson are our best players night-in and night-out. They garner the highest evaluations because of it.

As far as the Nuggets being a half game out of eigth... That is why I only gave them a 7.75. They have a long way to go and a lot to improve on. Injuries are part of the problem, but I'm done playing that violin.

Thanks for reading,

The Nugg Doctor

Amerikkka's Most Wanted said...

that's exactly what I'm saying. People come to the team with expectations of what they're going to do. You can't grade anthony carter on AI's scale, it's silly. How well a person does is relative to what they were brought here to do. That's why the Blazers would get a 10 from any of their fans on the season, and the nuggets get a 7.75. It's all about how good you are in regards to what you're expected to do.

Ky D said...

Great work doc!

I do think that AC deserves better though. Nobody expected him to get off of the bench, let alone be hitting game winners. He deserves a solid 9 just for exceeding expectations.