Denver Nuggets Power Rankings: Rating Every Player After First 6 Weeks

Nick JuskewyczContributor IIIDecember 6, 2013

Denver Nuggets Power Rankings: Rating Every Player After First 6 Weeks

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    What a turnaround for the Denver Nuggets. After a sluggish 1-4 start, they've put together a 10-3 run behind a deep bench and energetic attack.

    While it's early in the season, improvement is coming rather quickly for first-year head coach Brian Shaw, even if the Dallas Mavericks are the only team the Nuggets have beaten with a winning record (defeated twice). Shaw's team is getting better each game, and he's doing it without Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee.

    Who is most responsible for the Nuggets' hot streak? Is Ty Lawson going to find the top spot of the power rankings? Where will rising players Nate Robinson, Timofey Mozgov and Jordan Hamilton be placed against the starters?

    The power-ranking criteria will involve a player's overall production, how well the player fulfills his role and how diverse the player is. 

    Here we go.

15. Danilo Gallinari, 14. Quincy Miller, 13. JaVale McGee

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    15. Danilo Gallinari

    2012-13 statistics: 32.5 MIN, 16.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.5 APG

    Before training camp started, Danilo Gallinari told Sportando that doctors said he should be ready to return to action by the end of November. However, when that time came around, according to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post, Gallo wouldn't give a specific return date, and he's still at least weeks away.

    Luckily for the Nuggets, they are playing well in his absence. Still, they obviously need him going forward and he'll move up the power rankings when he returns to the hardwood. 

    14. Quincy Miller

    2013-14 statistics: 2.7 MIN, 1.7 PPG, 0.3 RPG, 0.3 BPG

    Quincy Miller earned the last spot on the roster during training camp, but he's barely seen any action since the start of the regular season. In three games, he's played a mere 2.7 minutes.

    For a team that's trying to get experience playing with each other in a new system, it's tough to give the entire bench quality minutes. I'd expect Miller to get a couple opportunities for some decent playing time this season, but he'll mostly continue to watch from the sideline.

    13. JaVale McGee

    2013-14 statistics: 16.0 MIN, 7.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.4 BPG

    If you were told before the regular season that JaVale McGee would have these numbers and be out indefinitely five games into the year, would you believe the Nuggets could hold an 11-7 record? Maybe, but I doubt it.

    Granted it was preseason, but McGee quickly showed improvement by scoring 11.3 points and pulling down 6.6 rebounds in only 23.7 minutes. He was 23-of-31 (74.2 percent) from the line, hit some mid-range jumpers and made a few solid post moves.

    Then, he faltered in the regular season, and the MRI after the Phoenix Suns matchup showed a stress fracture in his left tibia, according to Aaron J. Lopez of Nuggets.com. McGee's energy was down, he couldn't protect the rim as effectively and he was dominated on the glass. 

    Through much improved bench play, the Nuggets are excelling without him. Once he's ready to return, the center starting spot will be a hot topic of discussion.

12. Anthony Randolph, 11. Evan Fournier

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    12. Anthony Randolph

    2013-14 statistics: 14.0 MIN, 5.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.0 SPG

    Anthony Randolph was given a golden opportunity at the beginning of the regular season. While Gallinari and Wilson Chandler were out and Kenneth Faried came off the bench because of his previous hamstring injury, Randolph started at small forward.

    From there, Randolph has only played in four games with significant minutes. His one solid statistical outing (14 PTS, 7 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 1 BLK) came in the loss to the Suns, and the Nuggets had one of their worst defensive efforts of the season.

    Randolph has been phased out of the primary rotation and is only getting some late minutes if the game is out of hand. While he has some explosiveness and has been taking more outside shots, he's been a liability defensively and turning the ball over.

    If he's not getting minutes now, it's hard to imagine he will when Gallinari and McGee return. Shaw is beginning to establish his rotation.  

    11. Evan Fournier

    2013-14 statistics: 11.6 MIN, 4.2 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 0.7 APG

    Perhaps the most surprising aspect to the start of Denver's season has been the disappearance of second-year guard Evan Fournier. After Gallo went down near the end of last season, Fournier excelled by scoring in double figures in six of the last nine contests.

    But now Fournier is slowly losing playing time, and he's only seen a total of 32 minutes in the last six games. Sometimes Fournier only comes in with the second unit for a half, sometimes he only comes in for garbage time at the end.

    In the little time Fournier has played, his shooting has been shaky at times with his 38.4 percent shooting. Although, his absence is more about the successful combination of Robinson and Andre Miller, while the emergence of Hamilton on both ends of the floor has worked well in the backcourt.

    It's still possible that Fournier could make his way back into more of a 15-minute guy each night. But right now, it appears most of his time will be on the bench.

10. Andre Miller

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    2013-14 statistics: 19.4 MIN, 6.1 PPG, 3.5 APG, 2.8 RPG

    Andre Miller's minutes might be down, but his effectiveness isn't. Given that he's playing with several new players and he currently doesn't have his buddy McGee to throw lob passes to, Miller's doing an admirable job.

    There are nights where he won't score, especially when Robinson continues to shoot lights out. He doesn't force a lot of steals like he used to.

    But Miller does the little things and pitches in when necessary.

    With his experience to find the right matchup in the half-court offense and call the appropriate play, he also continues to display a potent crossover and is productive in the post. Plus, Miller continues to pass the ball well and is only committing 0.9 turnovers per game.

    He may not be making a huge impact, but Miller is filling an important role as this team continues to grow. His time in the primary rotation isn't over yet. 

9. Darrell Arthur

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    2013-14 statistics: 17.7 MIN, 6.1 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.6 BPG

    Darrell Arthur may not be the greatest scorer, rebounder or shot-blocker for a power forward, but he's one of the most consistent. There are three things he's going to give you—defense, energy and the mid-range jumper.

    Coming off the bench and often paired with Mozgov, Arthur is the one big guy that can guard in space and in the post. He's also done a solid job defending the pick-and-roll, something the Nuggets have normally struggled with.

    His defensive efforts come with great enthusiasm, which sometimes gets lost behind the motors of Faried and Robinson. By only playing 17.7 minutes, he's contesting every shot, diving for loose balls and deflecting passes. So, even though he picks up 2.6 fouls in a small amount of time, they are usually good ones.

    As for his mid-range game, whether it's on a pick-and-pop or good ball reversal, he's been fantastic. Since Faried and Mozgov still need development and Hickson has spent more of his time under the basket playing center, Arthur's 54.4 percent shooting from 18-to-24 feet (per NBA.com) has helped open up the lane for his teammates. 

    Like Miller, Arthur doesn't have great statistics. But, he's serving a needed purpose.

8. Randy Foye

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    2013-14 statistics: 25.5 MIN, 10.2 PPG, 2.2 APG, 0.8 SPG

    After a rough start, Randy Foye is finally starting to make some shots. In the last nine contests, Foye is shooting 46.1 percent from the floor, 40.4 percent from three and scored in double figures seven times. 

    Still, that doesn't excuse several poor shooting performances, many of which came in Denver losses. He was a combined 7-of-32 versus the Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers.

    It's not that the Nuggets live and die by Foye's points. They've won several games where Foye barely gets on the board.

    It's more when Foye forces the issue and takes bad shots on top of an off night. But Denver's offense has been more in sync the last two weeks, and he's finding his stroke.

    Defensively, Foye has made some great plays at times, including his game-winning block against Carmelo Anthony. But overall, he's been average, and opponents are picking on him, particularly in the post. 

    We'll see if he can keep the hot shooting up and improve on the defensive end.

7. Jordan Hamilton

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    2013-14 statistics: 17.3 MIN, 8.8 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 0.8 SPG

    When Andre Iguodala and Corey Brewer joined the Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves, respectively, Denver's small-forward position was in serious question since we knew Gallinari wouldn't be ready for the start of the regular season.

    Jordan Hamilton has not only stepped up, he's thrived in his increased role. 

    He's making 38.1 percent of his three-pointers, but he's also running the floor well and creating opportunities for Denver's transition game with his defense. By guarding well on the perimeter as well as in the post, he's forcing 0.8 steals in just 17.3 minutes.

    The combination of shooting, speed and defense makes him an efficient player off the bench. 

    Interestingly enough, according to Hoopsworld.com, the Nuggets didn't pick up Hamilton's team option before the regular season started. Therefore, he'll become an unrestricted free agent in the upcoming offseason.

    Hamilton hasn't earned anything yet, but there's a good reason why Shaw is playing him. He's helping Denver in multiple aspects of the game.

6. J.J. Hickson

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    2013-14 statistics: 24.8 MIN, 10.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 0.8 BPG

    Playing in the starting lineup isn't anything new to J.J. Hickson. He may not be a 7-footer like McGee, but he's posting the necessary numbers and brings considerable energy, which makes a forceful one-two punch with Faried.

    However, the Nuggets are getting hammered inside, and Hickson takes a good portion of the blame. In Denver's 98-88 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Tristan Thompson recorded 17 points and 21 rebounds, Andrew Bynum racked up 14 points and seven rebounds and Anderson Varejao had 18 points and 13 rebounds.

    Denver's frontcourt defensive issues are well-documented from seeing the opponents' production. Hickson doesn't have the size to stop the big bodies, but he also doesn't have the skills to guard away from the basket or in the pick-and-roll.

    Still, Hickson is more of a power forward. He was put into this situation because of McGee's injury, and his rebounding makes up for some of it.

    Hickson continues to deal damage on the offensive end inside. However, since he's playing center, he's not able to utilize his mid-range jumper as much, and as NBA.com points out, he's taken 69.1 percent of his shots from less than eight feet from the basket.

    Therefore, it would be more ideal if Hickson's 47.5 field-goal percentage was over 50. Plus, his free-throw percentage has plummeted to a career-low 53.7 percent, which is 10.1 percent lower than his previous worst percentage.

    Ultimately, there's plenty of room for improvement, but Hickson is bringing a fair amount of production.

5. Timofey Mozgov

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    2013-14 statistics: 18.8 MIN, 8.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.4 BPG

    There's no doubt Timofey Mozgov is the most improved player through six weeks. As someone who's never had better numbers than 15.6 minutes, 5.4 points, a 52.6 field-goal percentage, 4.1 rebounds and one block before this season, Mozzy's registering 18.8 minutes, 8.6 points, a 55.3 field-goal percentage, 6.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks.

    His ability to pound the rock, crash the offensive glass and get to the free-throw line has been a huge asset on offense. Defensively, he's tough to attack because of his 7'1" height and 250-pound size.

    Mozgov had a career-high 23 points to go with nine rebounds and four blocks against the Los Angeles Lakers in mid-November. However, Mozgov proved that wasn't just a fluke, and he produced back-to-back 31-minute performances of 16 points with 15 rebounds versus the Toronto Raptors and 17 points with 20 rebounds against the Brooklyn Nets.

    While some of that is influenced from Denver blowing out its opponents, as Mozgov continues to see more playing time, his efficiency continues at a high rate. His 18.5 PER is the third highest on the team.

    Mozzy keeps getting better, and Shaw needs to keep giving him minutes. He's a big reason why Denver is 11-7.

4. Wilson Chandler

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    2013-14 statistics: 27.9 MIN, 10.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.3 SPG

    Wilson Chandler's numbers are not where they need to be—41.4 percent from the floor, 34 percent from three and 72.7 percent from the free-throw line. We are looking for somewhere near 45, 40 and 80, respectively.

    Since Chandler is playing 27.9 minutes, the most he's recorded since arriving in Denver, and he's taking on a larger role defensively, it's not a huge shocker that Chandler's numbers are down. He also didn't have the luxury of a preseason, and he missed the first six games because of a hamstring injury.

    But his defense is much improved from last season since he's on the perimeter more frequently. Chandler's 1.3 steals are a career high.

    On the other side of the ball, his 0.8 turnovers tie a career best from his rookie season when he only played 19.6 minutes.

    Chandler's shooting statistics should improve over time as he becomes more comfortable in Shaw's offense. He's still one of the most diverse scorers on the team and is a big focus for the opposing defense.

    But until he does, he can't be ranked higher than the fourth spot. 

3. Nate Robinson

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    2013-14 statistics: 18.7 MIN, 10.2 PPG, 2.6 APG, 0.8 SPG

    OK, perhaps I'm overvaluing Nate Robinson's ridiculous scoring run. Over the six games from when the Nuggets defeated the Bulls to the win over the Raptors, Robinson averaged 15.3 points in just 21.3 minutes.

    But a good part of the reason why Denver blew fourth-quarter leads to the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder was due to the second unit's inability to generate offense. Even in the loss to the rising Portland Trail Blazers, Robinson scored 16 points in the fourth quarter, cut the deficit to seven at one point and at least gave the Nuggets a chance. 

    Sure, his assists are down, but he's playing the 2 a lot with Miller in the lineup at the same time. He's also playing tenacious defense with his usual fiery passion. 

    Furthermore, since he can create his own shot at the rim, from mid-range and behind the arc, Robinson is drawing a lot of attention and making life a lot easier for his teammates. Hamilton is open for three, Arthur is there for the mid-range jumper and Mozgov gets one-on-one opportunities down low.

    Robinson may not be the third-best player on the team when the season is over, but his hot streak is worthy of giving him the No. 3 spot right now. 

2. Kenneth Faried

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    2013-14 statistics: 25.0 MIN, 10.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 0.7 BPG

    People want to know the answer to this question—can Kenneth Faried develop into a well-rounded power forward? Obviously, time will tell, but I think he can, and I don't think anyone's ceiling of potential can be appropriately defined in just the beginning of the third season

    But even with his game right now, Faried is playing very effective basketball.

    The Manimal grabs offensive rebounds and slams home crazy alley-oops that few players can pull off. He turns several bad possessions into good ones purely by his motor and athleticism.

    It's one thing to be an energy guy, but it's another to consistently make plays for your team and change the momentum of the game. He's not going to hit a game-winning shot, but he turns losses into wins at key moments, and there's good reason why he's a fan favorite.

    A lot of NBA teams need a guy like him, just like the New York Knicks, who pursued him earlier this season for Iman Shumpert, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News

    As he continues to work on his outside shot, post moves and defensive skills, the Manimal still has a 20.6 PER and is averaging a career-best 1.7 fouls and 1.1 turnovers. Additionally, if Faried played between 30 and 35 minutes per game, he would post double-doubles on a nightly basis and have the points and rebounds you see from the big-men stars in the league.

    To be clear, Faried still has work to do to become an elite power forward. Although, he's progressing and his current value is underestimated. 

1. Ty Lawson

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    2013-14 statistics: 35.0 MIN, 19.3 PPG, 8.2 APG, 1.2 SPG

    No matter how you look at it, Ty Lawson is the MVP of this team. He's posting All-Star caliber numbers, and he puts the team on his back when necessary.

    With four double-doubles and scoring 20-plus points on 10 different occasions, Lawson is clearly the focal point of the offense without Gallinari by his side. Whether it's attacking off the high-ball screen, pulling up form three or running in transition, he's been nearly unstoppable. 

    Denver has the No. 4 offense in the league at 104.3 points and the seventh-ranked offense in terms of efficiency, according to TeamRankings.com. That's a statistic Lawson can be proud of with a different head coach, offense and four new players.

    Surprisingly though, Lawson is shooting a career-low 44.4 percent from the floor, 35.5 percent from three and 74.6 percent from the free-throw line. But, they aren't that far off from his career averages of the 48.3, 37.8 and 77.1 percentages, respectively. His horrendous four-point outing versus the Cavs hurt too.

    Defense is the next step for Lawson. He's done a fine job against the average competition but continues to struggle containing the better point guards, such as Russell Westbrook's 38 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.

    Nonetheless, it's hard to be critical of Lawson. With all the offseason moves, he's made the transition go a lot smoother.