Grading Every Denver Nuggets Player's 1st-Round Performance so Far

Nick JuskewyczContributor IIIApril 29, 2013

Grading Every Denver Nuggets Player's 1st-Round Performance so Far

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    Behind another phenomenal shooting performance from Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors have taken a 3-1 lead on the Denver Nuggets in the first round.

    Therefore, evaluations must be handed out for each Nuggets player on the roster.

    Despite losing David Lee, the Warriors have dominated several phases of the game. They are plus-20 on the boards, shooting 44.1 percent from behind the arc compared to 31.3 from Denver and have limited the Nuggets' fast-break points.

    Essentially, Denver isn't doing what it normally does well or isn't containing what Golden State is good at. The Warriors also held the Nuggets to just 14 assists in Game 4.

    Every player on Golden State is having his way: Curry has gotten loose too many times, Jarrett Jack has penetrated the lane too easily, a healthy Andrew Bogut is playing at a much higher level, Klay Thompson continues to drain it from outside, Harrison Barnes isn't playing like a rookie, Carl Landry has been effective because of the attention needed on Bogut and the list goes on.

    Because of this, the Nuggets are one game away from elimination after having their best regular season in franchise history.

    Some Denver players have more playoff experience than others. Some are overcoming injuries. Some are simply just not fulfilling their roles.

    Ultimately, it doesn't matter. It's the playoffs and each player on the Nuggets should be held accountable for fulfilling his duties to the team.

    Here are the grades through four games in the first round.

Danilo Gallinari

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    Danilo Gallinari's torn ACL will keep him out the entire postseason (per CBSSports.com).

    With the Nuggets down 3-1 in the series, Gallinari's production and presence would help a great deal. Gallo's regular-season averages included 16.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists.

    Denver has one of the deepest teams in the playoffs, but Golden State has done an excellent job neutralizing that despite David Lee's absence. The Warriors are shooting 53 percent in the series and Gallinari's 6'10" frame at the 3 would certainly help reduce that number.

    Grade: Incomplete

Timofey Mozgov

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    With how much the post players have struggled in the series, it's a little surprising Timofey Mozgov didn't get a few minutes in at the end of Game 4. Nevertheless, the chances of him getting in are fairly slim considering the increased minutes of Anthony Randolph.

    Mozgov played in 41 games this season with a double-double in the regular-season finale against Phoenix. If he does get any playing time, his rebounding should help the most at 7'1" with his 2.6 boards in 8.9 minutes.

    Grade: Incomplete

Jordan Hamilton

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    Jordan Hamilton snuck in for the final 1:55 of Game 4. There wasn't much to see with Hamilton missing his one field-goal attempt.

    He's only played double-digit minutes six times since January and is unlikely to see any kind of significant playing time with the Nuggets one loss away from elimination.

    The only way he's getting back out there is if another game is a blowout. For now, he will get a passing grade.

    Grade: Pass

Julyan Stone

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    Julyan Stone got back to the hardwood at the end of Game 4 for the first time since March 23.

    Stone came in when the Nuggets were trailing by 20 with 11:08 remaining in the fourth quarter. Even though Denver was getting crushed, there was plenty of time left and George Karl was getting little help from his bench. Essentially, it was more of a sign of trying to light a spark in his team rather than throwing in the towel.

    If you gave up on the game and went to bed early, Stone was actually the player of the game if you are a believer in plus-minus. He was plus-12, but with just two points and one assist.

    Since Stone has had little playing time this season and his only significant minutes came in the Sacramento game when Lawson was out, it's unlikely we'll see Stone again unless the game is out of reach.

    Grade: Pass

Anthony Randolph

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    It's been the usual limited minutes for Anthony Randolph. Although, other than Game 2 and some meaningless minutes late in Game 4, he hasn't been much of a scoring threat and hasn't helped contain the Warriors on the glass.

    Randolph, who normally provides solid energy off the bench, hasn't been the solution in protecting the paint either. Granted he hasn't played much, but someone needs to slow Andrew Bogut down and George Karl hasn't seen any of his big guys be able to do it for more than just a few possessions.

    Randolph deserves some credit for trying to initiate a comeback in Game 2 when he scored 14 points. However, with his limited range of skills and not having an impact on the series, he gets an average grade.

    Grade: C-

Kosta Koufos

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    Kosta Koufos isn't a scoring machine and doesn't play the most minutes, but his numbers and role have really taken a hit in the first round. Koufos started all 81 contests he played in during the regular season plus the first two playoff games, but he's come off the bench in the last two.

    Koufos, who played 22.4 minutes on average in the regular season, has only played a combined 39 minutes the last three games and scored two points off a pair of free throws. Furthermore, he's only managed six rebounds (had 6.9 average per game in the regular season) and Andrew Bogut is winning every battle on both ends of the floor.

    Denver and Golden State came into the playoffs as the two best rebounding teams in the West at 45 boards per game. Even though the Warriors are without David Lee, Golden State is plus-20 on Denver in the series.

    While Koufos isn't starting so that George Karl can match Golden State's smaller lineup, Koufos must step up when he's on the court.

    Grade: C-

Evan Fournier

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    It's hard to be critical of a rookie who just started playing significant minutes only a month ago, but Evan Fournier's playoff debut hasn't matched his strong regular-season finish.

    He's started all four games in the series and posted 4.8 points, zero rebounds and one assist per game. The three-point shooting is more troubling by going 0-of-8 in the four games combined.

    Fournier averaged 12.3 points the last nine games of the regular season.

    For the most part, Evan has continued to play with the green light and hasn't appeared to be overwhelmed by the playoff stage. The shots simply aren't falling. 

    While Fournier has been given the responsibility of guarding Stephen Curry at times, Fournier has only played 31 minutes the past three games, because Denver has to use its height advantage at the appropriate times. 

    It's hard to predict what George Karl will do with Fournier for Game 5 since he's used two different starting lineups and changed the rotation multiple times in the series. Either way, unless Fournier starts catching fire, it's tough seeing him getting around 20 minutes the rest of the first round.

    Grade: C

JaVale McGee

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    I was a huge proponent of JaVale McGee's play in the regular season, but his production has continued to decline against the Warriors. 

    More importantly, McGee is the guy that should lift everyone around him. He's supposed to make that ridiculous block or freakish dunk to change the momentum of a game for more than a couple minutes.

    Not only is it nowhere to be found, but Bogut threw down the rock just after McGee checked in during the first quarter of Game 4 with McGee missing the slam on the following possession.

    McGee was an efficient 7-of-7 in the first two games of the series, but really hasn't made an impact in the way we are accustomed to seeing. McGee also didn't do a good job on the boards in Oakland by only grabbing four rebounds in the last two games.

    With Koufos' time reduced the last few games, McGee's role off the bench becomes even more important in making his minutes count.

    Now that the series is heading back to Denver, it's crucial that McGee brings the electricity and gets the Pepsi Center rocking on Tuesday night.

    Grade: C

Wilson Chandler

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    After struggling on offense for much of the series, Wilson Chandler had an even tougher time in Game 4 after getting into foul trouble. Chandler is a mere 35.6 percent from the floor and 25 percent from three-point range.

    While it's only based on four games, these numbers are a significant decline from his 46.2 field-goal and 41.3 three-point regular-season percentages.

    The first two matchups he simply couldn't buy a bucket. Game 3 he let Ty Lawson fire with the hot hand. The foul trouble never let him get into a flow for Game 4.

    Part of the problem with the foul trouble was that Chandler guarded Bogut in the beginning of the game. While George Karl continues to search for answers defensively, Chandler is one of his biggest assets offensively and cannot afford to have him only play 23 minutes.

    It's vital that Chandler find his shot in Game 5 and that the rest of the Nuggets team get him involved. Outside of the pure post players, he's one of the best multi-threat scorers on the team and any form of a shooting slump will not allow the Nuggets to rally for three straight wins.

    Grade: B-

Kenneth Faried

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    After missing Game 1 because of his ankle injury (per Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post), Kenneth Faried has continued to play better as the series moves on. However, he doesn't have the explosiveness that he had before the injury and hasn't been nearly as effective.

    Faried came off the bench in Game 2 and only scored only four points with one shot attempt and making two of three free throws. He got his starting spot back in Game 3 and Game 4 and scored 23 points with 19 rebounds.

    With David Lee out of the equation, Faried still hasn't been able to take advantage on a consistent basis. The Manimal is also particularly dangerous on the fast break, but those opportunities have been limited by the Warriors. 

    So far, Faried has done his best work creating passing lanes when Ty Lawson penetrates the middle of the floor and draws the double-team. Going forward, his rebounding must be around his 9.2 regular-season average while earning some second-chance points.

    Faried should be cut a little slack for his slow start after the injury, but he doesn't get a free pass when it's the postseason.

    Grade: B-

Corey Brewer

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    His shot might be off at times, but Corey Brewer has done a solid job as a scorer trying to keep up with this hot shooting from Golden State. 

    With the exception of Andre Miller in Game 1, Brewer has been the best player off the bench. He's scored 14.75 points and been Denver's best (and sometimes only) three-point shooter. 

    Like every player on the squad, Corey needs to do step up defensively. Draymond Green and Carl Landry are starting to find their rhythm offensively and Brewer has only two steals in the series after averaging 1.44 per game in the regular season.

    Nonetheless, Brewer has been a problem for the Warriors on the perimeter and being able to get to the rim. The percentages aren't the greatest, but his diverse attack and the fact he's been to the line 19 times has made the defense keep an extra-close eye on him.

    Grade: B

Andre Miller

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    If it weren't for Andre Miller's inspiring Game 1 performance, there's a good chance the Nuggets wouldn't be playing Tuesday night.

    But that isn't the case and Miller's ability to play like he's still 27 years old at times came through in front of the home crowd.

    Since Miller's Game 1 where he dropped 28 points and the game-winning shot, he's done fine in the scoring department, but has turned the ball over 10 times. It's been from a combination of posting up Jarrett Jack with help defense, deflections or just bad passes.

    The pressure of Golden State has gotten to several players on Denver, especially at Oracle Arena. However, Miller is the veteran and only managed one assist in Game 4. 

    Defensively, when he and Lawson are both in the game taking on Curry and Jack, Andre must do a better job keeping Jack out of the lane. The pick-and-roll defense has been a problem for the Nuggets the entire series, but if Jack's penetration can be contained, it eliminates the constant chasing Lawson has to do on Curry against off-the-ball screens.

    Even so, Miller has been mostly solid overall and that display in Game 1 was remarkable. He can't be docked too heavily.

    Grade: B+

Andre Iguodala

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    I was ready to give Andre Iguodala at least an A- for his efforts on both ends of the floor, but not after the way the second quarter of Game 4 finished.

    After the Nuggets went on a 7-0 run to cut their deficit to a single point, the Warriors closed the half scoring 11 straight. Denver committed five turnovers during that final stretch with the last three coming from Iguodala.

    Understandably, when you are an up-tempo team, you want to push the ball when given the opportunity. However, when the Warriors are converting off your mistakes and they have a chance to set their defense, sometimes it's best to just stop the bleeding. Iguodala finished the game with seven turnovers.

    The other thing not helping Iguodala is his consistency on defense. He makes a play occasionally, but whether he's guarding Curry or Thompson, the sharp-shooters have had too much success off the pass and the dribble.

    On the other hand, Iggy forced two steals, racked up 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting and grabbed eight boards in Game 4. He's had great games offensively in the series, has been fairly efficient and continues to do some of the little things to help his team.

    Grade: B+

Ty Lawson

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    Ty Lawson has the most responsibility in this series. It isn't just because he is the team's leading scorer and the point guard, but also because of Stephen Curry.

    While Denver has tried switching multiple people to guard Curry, Lawson guards him a fair amount of the time and Curry has been near impossible to stop.

    Offensively, however, Lawson has been brilliant. While he was a little slow to start Game 1, Lawson has recorded 23 points and eight assists per game. 

    The Nuggets have been forced to play in the half court a lot due to the Warriors making over half of their field goals. Having said that, Lawson has been the one player able to make things happen when the game has slows down by getting to the rim or making the pass when the defense collapses.

    When the Nuggets have had opportunities in transition, Lawson has done a good job getting the ball up the floor. Although, the Warriors have done equally as good of a job getting back on defense by stripping the ball or deflecting the passes.

    Ty hasn't been perfect, but he's been the best player on Denver through four games.

    Grade: A-