Denver Nuggets: Winners and Losers from the Team's First 15 Games
After an underwhelming 0-3 start to the 2012-13 regular season, the Denver Nuggets have stormed back to 8-7 (8-4 since that sluggish opening to the season) and almost won their ninth game in 12 contests Monday night in Utah, losing by just a few points.
Now that the season is 15 games old, we are able to tell who has been a winner so far this year for the Nuggets and who hasn't.
Here are the Denver Nuggets' winners and losers from the early portion of the season.
Winner: Andre Iguodala
Much like the team as a whole, Andre Iguodala had a shaky start to the regular season.
He was having troubles shooting the ball and helping the team on the offensive end.
Since then, however, Iguodala has upped his field goal percentage to nearly 47 percent and is now the team leader in scoring, averaging 15.3 points per game.
He's also been solid on defense, which is what the Nuggets were really looking for when they acquired the 28-year-old Springfield, Illinois native.
Loser: JaVale McGee
After signing a four-year, $44 million contract this past offseason with the Nuggets, it seemed fairly obvious to analysts and fans alike that JaVale McGee would be the Nuggets' starting center for the foreseeable future.
Such has not been the case.
In fact, McGee has been relegated to the Nuggets bench and is playing less than 20 minutes per game.
While his 1.8 blocks per game in limited time are impressive, they have also been an Achilles heel for McGee.
See, McGee still hasn't conquered his natural instinct to abandon his position in the post in order to try and block just about every ball that's shot within five feet of him. This leave him, and the team, vulnerable to offensive rebounds from Denver's opponents.
If McGee is to work his way back into the starting lineup and out of head coach George Karl's dog house, he's going to have to show discipline in the paint and an ability to contribute on offense.
Winner: Kenneth Faried
With JaVale McGee struggling to earn minutes from head coach George Karl and Kosta Koufos not being as productive as the Nuggets had hoped (though he's been much more reliable in the paint defensively), young gun Kenneth Faried has really stepped up for Denver.
Despite being undersized for his position (he stands just 6'8" and starts every game as a power forward), Faried has been a force down low for Denver.
He's shooting nearly 57 percent from the field and averages a double-double each game, with 13.5 points and 11.3 rebounds per contest.
Even more impressive is Faried's 5.0 offensive rebounds per game.
With his hustle and energy, Faried has quickly become one of Denver's most indispensable players in just his second season out of Morehead State.
Loser: Ty Lawson
The other youngster the Nuggets locked up this offseason was their emerging point guard, Ty Lawson.
Expectations in Denver were high for the run-and-gun point man after he inked a four-year, $48 million deal.
So far, however, Lawson hasn't been very good.
While his 7.5 assists per game is a decent number, his 13.3 points per game isn't.
He's just fourth on the team in scoring. What's even more worrisome is that Lawson is shooting just 41.3 percent from the field, an abysmal 24.3 percent from beyond the arc, and a shocking 58.8 percent from the free-throw line.
That last number tells me that perhaps the pressure is getting to Lawson.
He's never shot less than 76 percent from the stripe and last season he sank over 82 percent of his free-throws.
Hopefully Lawson can turn his game around and be the leader this team needs him to be offensively.
Winner: George Karl
A tip-of-the-hat to George Karl and his coaching staff.
It can't be easy playing away from home for 10 of your first 15 games.
It also can't be easy losing three straight to start the season.
Handling one of the youngest squads in the NBA? You guessed it, not an easy task either.
Yet lo and behold, here are the Nuggets, on an impressive 8-4 run in the past 12 games.
Major props to the coaches who have found a way to keep accumulating wins for the Nuggets, despite the struggles of some of the team's best players.
Starting Kosta Koufos over JaVale McGee all season, despite McGee signing a massive deal and being a force in a few of the playoff games last season? Good by him.
Some fans may not like the decision, but McGee has not earned the starting role. His deficiencies do not warrant starter's minutes. Coach Karl has absolutely made the right decision to keep the youngster on the bench and keep his ego in check.
Loser: The Fans
Now hold on.
I'm not saying this because the product on the court has been bad.
I'm coming strictly from an entertainment standpoint.
Sure, watching the team on TV can be exciting, but nothing compares to going to a game live and feeling the intense vibe in person. Especially in those close matchups.
Thanks to NBA schedulers, however, the Nuggets have only played a third of their games at home (remember we're talking about only the first 15 games here), leaving very few choices for people to head to the Pepsi Center to catch their team.
Keep in mind, as well, that one of those matchups was a Thursday night showcase against the Miami Heat, which didn't begin until 8:40 PM local time. Not ideal for families or those who have to work early the next day.
No, the first 15 games haven't been kind to Nuggets fans.
Here's to looking forward to the rest of the season.