Pleasant surprises and startling slumps from players help the define this twisting and turning Denver Nuggets' season so far. With more than half of the season already gone, the Nuggets seem to be pulling it all together after a slow start in the beginning.
So what did we learn from the 2012-13 Nuggets so far? This slideshow will break down a few surprisingly productive or ineffective players, and aspects of the team that we've come to realize after 43 games through the season.
Although I never believed that Andre Iguodala could be the cornerstone for a franchise, even during his days as a Philadelphia 76er, there have been discussions about whether or not he is a superstar caliber player, especially after his Olympic stint with Team USA.
Well, this half a season has proved that Iguodala is nothing more than a great team-first player with good all-around abilities.
He's currently registering a modest stat line of 13.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG and 4.5 APG while shooting the lowest field goal percentage of his career (43.2 percent) and posting his second-lowest PER at 13.9 (per Basketball Reference).
The Nuggets have been doing well as of late—going 7-2 in their last nine games—but Iguodala has shot an awe-inspiring 37.5 percent from the field and scored less than 13 points in six of those nine games. So it's difficult to say that he's the anchor to their current success.
While his stellar perimeter defense is nothing to scoff at, Iguodala simply did not live up to his expectations when he landed in the mile-high city.
He was supposed to be the final piece to push this Nuggets team into championship contention, but now it looks like he's nothing more than a role player trying to fit into a good system.
Kenneth Faried left a positive impression last season as a rookie with his high energy and hustle, but now he's evolving into one of the Nuggets' most important players.
"The Manimal" is playing more minutes this year, but that hasn't really affected the limitless amount of energy in his young body. At just under 30 minutes a game, he is basically averaging a double-double (12.3 PPG, 9.9 RPG) while playing the role of an undersized power forward or center.
Faried has already proved in the past that a player can dominate a game through sheer energy and hustle plays. His athleticism and rebounding ability is off the charts, and those aspects alone make him the type of player every coach loves.
Among the Nuggets' handful of young players, Faried is certainly a valuable piece for the team's future and he will only get better as he develops an effective post game.
According to NBA.com, Gallinari has a net rating (offensive rating - defensive rating) of 12.3 in clutch situations. He's also shooting an incredible true shooting percentage of 65 percent, and turning the ball over just 3.9 percent of the time in the last five minutes of the game. It's clear that he has become the unquestionable go-to guy in the clutch.
On top of that, he's the Nuggets' most prominent scorer and probably the only pure scorer that the team has. When the team needs a bucket, Gallinari can create his own shot or draw a foul better than any other Nugget.
He has a smooth spot-up jumper, and his dribbling and playmaking skills have improved since he came into the league. When opposing defenses are fast and halt the Nuggets' pace, Gallinari can be counted on to make a play since he is their best half-court option as well.
It's hardly ever necessary to call a player who's averaging 14.4 PPG and 6.8 APG as being in a "contract year slump". However, Lawson was expected to break out this year and solidify his name as one of the NBA's best point guards.
But his play mysteriously seems to have regressed from last season.
Lawson is known for his quickness and shooting ability, but he's shooting at a surprising six percent (42.3) below his career field goal percentage. On top of that, he's posting the worst PER and turnover rate this season than any other season in his four-year career (per Basketball Reference).
His recent play is commendable, but he's been very inconsistent throughout the season. He scored less than 10 points in nine different games, and scored zero in two of them.
Maybe it has something to do with his high expectations after signing a large, but reasonable $48 million contract right before the season started. Is he feeling pressured to perform well, or is he just not as great a point guard as everyone thought he was?
When Chandler signed his five-year deal last season, the organization has made it clear that he, along with Gallinari, Lawson and Javale McGee will be important pieces to the franchise's future.
Chandler is a versatile, two-way forward who can play three positions and run the floor as well as anyone when he's healthy.
However, he suffered a hip injury last season and underwent surgery shortly after, but nine months later he's still having problems with an injury that wasn't made to be a big deal when it happened.
A labral tear in the hip is no joke, and fans must be patient with a serious injury of this stature. According to Physio Advisor, the after-surgery treatment of a labral tear includes a lot of physiotherapy and slow exercises for months, and the hip tissue may not recover if it isn't treated properly.
Everything else aside, I'm definitely pulling for Chandler to make a healthy return back to the court. At 25 years old, he should take his time recovering from his injury, instead of potentially risking his whole career because of it.
With a full training camp under George Karl this season, McGee should've vastly improved and have the best year of his young career.
Surprisingly, he cannot even break into the starting lineup and registers only 19 minutes per game as a backup behind the more consistent Kosta Koufos.
Karl even went on to fire a comment that "lazy and crazy" won't work in the NBA, which was a bash towards McGee's inconsistent play on the court.
Make no mistake, his supreme athleticism and length as a 7'0" center is unmatched by anyone else in the league. He has shown flashes of brilliance in the past, specifically in last season's first round playoff matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers which earned him his new contract.
Once McGee improves his individual defense and decision making, he'll be a force to be reckoned with on a nightly basis. He also wouldn't have many plays like this one anymore.