It's time to analyze the greatest strengths and weaknesses for the hottest team in the West, the Denver Nuggets.
Denver recently ran off 15-straight victories and has a chance to climb higher than its current No. 3 seed before the playoffs begin.
Then again, with Ty Lawson potentially out for a couple of weeks with his plantar fascia tear in his right heel (via SI.com), Denver could also fall to the fifth spot.
The Nuggets are fun to watch. They fly down the court, jump out of the gym and score 105.6 points per game (third in NBA).
They also give up 101 points per game (22nd), don't defend the perimeter well and don't have a proven superstar.
These are the biggest qualities and deficiencies of the Nuggets heading toward the playoffs.
Denver's greatest asset is its ability to get easy baskets.
This comes from transition basketball. The Nuggets are the best in the NBA at blitzing past opponents with 19.6 fast-break points (per TeamRankings.com).
Denver racks up these points by attacking the rim. According to TeamRankings.com, the Nuggets are first in the NBA in field goals made (40.5), points in the paint (57.8) and offensive rebounds (13.3).
The roster is talented and deep. Players like Lawson and Andre Iguodala can get up the court quickly and finish at the basket. Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari have the athleticism and skill set to throw it down inside or shoot from the outside. Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee play above the rim and get several second-chance points.
Additionally, the Nuggets force 16 turnovers and 9.3 steals per game (second in NBA). In order to have an effective transition game, you can't just rely on defensive rebounding and settling for jumpers on the other end.
Denver's explosive and effective fast break makes the Nuggets one of the toughest teams to contain in the West.
For as much as the Nuggets get to the free-throw line, they are far from efficient.
The roster is nine-deep, but only four players shoot over 70 percent. Furthermore, Andre Miller leads the team in free-throw percentage at 85.4 percent, but only averages 2.2 attempts per game (eighth highest on team per ESPN).
Essentially, Denver gets its main production from the line through Gallinari (82.6 percent on 4.8 attempts) and Lawson (75 percent on 4.2 attempts). Chandler also chips in at 78.9 percent on 2.7 attempts.
Corey Brewer (67.8 percent) had a rough January where he shot only 52.5 percent from the line, but has improved by going 74.7 percent the last two months.
The rest of the team is a concern. Faried, McGee, Iguodala and Kosta Koufos all average between 57 and 62 percent and take 39.8 percent of Denver's attempts from the line.
In a seven-game playoff series, this will catch up with them.
Denver may not have a rebounding machine outside of Faried's 9.2 boards per game, but the entire unit controls the glass with 44.7 rebounds (tied for third in NBA).
Outside of the point guard position, the Nuggets have a significant height advantage on most opponents. At center, Koufos and McGee are 7'0" and combine for 11.5 rebounds in 40.8 minutes.
After that, Gallinari (6'10"), Chandler (6'8") and Iguodala (6'6") all pull down between 4.9 and 5.2 rebounds per game. Chandler is particularly impressive because he gets his average in just 24 minutes playing the shooting guard or small forward position.
The other three NBA teams who are tied or ahead of Denver in rebounding are Indiana, Golden State and the Los Angeles Lakers. The difference between the Nuggets and these teams is that the Pacers have three players who average at least 7.7 boards, the Warriors have David Lee's 11.1 rebounds per game and the Lakers have Dwight Howard leading the NBA in rebounding with 12.7 boards.
Head coach George Karl has done a fantastic job combining strengths. The depth he has in height and length has proven to be resourceful in eliminating second-chance points with defensive rebounding, and has turned that into a quick scoring attack on the offensive end.
If a team with a shorter bench, such as the Lakers or Memphis Grizzlies, match up against the Nuggets in the postseason, Denver should have a solid edge.
Despite the Nuggets having a powerful offense, the perimeter game has been inconsistent.
Among the nine players who get significant playing time, five of them will launch it from deep range, but none connects at least 40 percent of the time. The Nuggets are tied for 25th in three-point efficiency, shooting 34 percent from behind the arc.
Chandler has been the most consistent, but because of his injuries throughout the season his 39.5 percentage has only shown up in 35 games. Gallinari has been pulling the trigger most frequently with 5.1 attempts per game and draining them 37.5 percent of the time.
The remaining long-range shooters are Lawson (36.8 percent), Iguodala (30.9 percent) and Brewer (29.5 percent).
Gallinari has primarily been the guy to provide the biggest spark from three-point range, but he is a streaky shooter. In a five-game stretch from March 11-19, Gallinari was 5-of-24 from three. The next three games he was 8-of-14.
Luckily for the Nuggets, they convert their two-pointers at a high rate. However, the low three-point shooting will prevent them from overcoming a team like San Antonio in the playoffs if the Spurs are making their perimeter shots.
Every night it seems like the Nuggets have a new leading scorer. Just ask Evan Fournier, who stepped up in Lawson's absence with a team-high 19 points in Denver's 109-87 win against Brooklyn on March 29.
In the Nuggets' last eight games, Denver has had seven different leading scorers, none of whom were Iguodala or Faried.
The Nuggets have superb chemistry by dishing out 24.2 assists a game (third in NBA). The transition game also helps a balanced scoring attack when the defense is scrambling.
Also, with a point guard like Lawson who has great speed and a long shooting range, open shots and passing lanes come easier for the other Denver players.
Lawson's health in the postseason will have a large impact on how far the Nuggets can advance.
Even though the Nuggets have a lot of scorers, they don't have a guy for the clutch shot.
Iguodala did make an incredible contested three-pointer with six seconds remaining in the controversial overtime win over Chicago. Then Denver was bailed out when Brewer was fouled against Philadelphia and hit the game-winning free throws.
Although, without Carmelo Anthony, the Nuggets don't have a go-to play or one specific person to take the final shot.
At the end of regulation of the Bulls game on March 18, Lawson attempted to break down Nate Robinson in isolation after Gallinari's ball-screen didn't work, but misfired on the fadeaway. Then in overtime, Miller drove into traffic, began to stumble, but found Iguodala on the outside to make a tough three-point jumper over Joakim Noah.
In Denver's one-point loss to San Antonio on March 27, Gallinari passed the ball to Miller with three seconds left after the pick-and-roll attempt with McGee failed. Miller then drove to the basket and took a contested floater against Tony Parker, but clanked it for the loss.
There are only two weeks left in the regular season. This is something the Nuggets need to address if they want to win the West and have a shot at the NBA Finals.