The 2008-2009 Denver Nuggets are a very intriguing team. They began the season after having dealt away one of the best defensive players in the league in Marcus Camby for practically nothing (a potential second round draft pick from the Los Angeles Clippers). Many believed this was the start to a very long, disappointing Nuggets season.
Shortly after losing their third game in the first four tries, Denver made the trade of the season by acquiring Chauncey Billups in exchange for Allen Iverson. Billups immediately changed the outlook of the season, and the Nuggets quickly became one of the top teams in the Western Conference.
Denver won 16 of the first 20 games following Billups’ arrival, and are now 28-15 sitting atop the Northwest Division. The turnaround can almost solely be attributed to Billups as the Nuggets keep winning despite the fact that Carmelo Anthony has been sidelined due to a hand injury since January 7.
Although Denver is currently third in the Western Conference and have been second for much of the season, the Nuggets have not been a consistent team. They have fallen victim to building large leads only to see them diminish and at times, sure victories become heartbreaking losses.
This was evident during a game against the Detroit Pistons on January 9 when the Nuggets saw a 13-point lead disappear and the result was a three-point loss. Against the Dallas Mavericks on January 13, Denver built a 17-point lead and barely won by two.
If the Nuggets begin to play consistently, they could be a top tier team, possibly contending for the title come June.
Nuggets Mid-Season Awards:
MVP: Chauncey Billups
No question here. Billups completely turned Denver’s season around and has led them to the top record in the Northwest. He is second on the team in scoring and leads the team in assist, free throw percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio. Billups is the true leader of the team, and that is his most effective attribute.
Runner Up: Allen Iverson. without him, they would never have gotten Billups!
Defensive MVP: Kenyon Martin
Martin often has the daunting task of guarding the opposing teams best player, regardless of position. He is overlooked as a defensive player, and is never given enough credit. He leads the team in steals, is second in blocks and third in rebounding. There is more to defense than stats, and Martin proves this through his effort, leadership and strong defensive attributes.
Runner Up: Chauncey Billups
Most Consistent: Nené
Nené, who has been plagued by injury since his rookie season, has started and played in all but one game this year. He has very well rounded stats (14.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and leads the league in field goal percentage. Nené never seems to have horrible games; he has good games and he has great games.
Runner Up: Anthony Carter
Sixth Man: Anthony Carter
Carter is my pick here, although the seemingly obvious pick for this would be either JR Smith or Linas Kleiza, both of whom have made great contributions for the Nuggets, especially in Anthony’s absence. He may not put up points like Smith and Kleiza, but he has the ability to manage the game when Billups needs a breather.
Carter can distribute the ball as well as hit the big shot if called upon; he is a leader on the court, regardless of his spot on the depth chart.
Runner Up: JR Smith and Linas Kleiza
Most Decorated: Chris Andersen
Have you seen this guy? Enough said.
Runner Up: No one compares
Biggest Disappointment: Carmelo Anthony
I know he’s been injured on and off, but Anthony was supposed to be a dominant force in the league this year. His shooting percentage and scoring are at their lowest since his second year, and his durability is in question. We came into this season saying it was Anthony’s team; it seems to now belong to Billups.
Runner Up: Antonio McDyess. It was pretty disappointing to see a professional athlete give up on a team like that.