Power Ranking Every Key Denver Nuggets Player Before Season's End
The 2013-14 season hasn't gone smoothly for the Denver Nuggets, but certain players are showing some promising signs.
Due to numerous injuries, instead of just using the first month or two to figure out what works and what doesn't, that's been the theme for most of the season. At least it's given head coach Brian Shaw a chance to see everyone play a variety of roles.
For this set of power rankings, we'll dive into the key guys and figure out which ones have had the greatest impact. Danilo Gallinari (missed the entire season) and JaVale McGee (only played five games) won't be considered, but you will find Nate Robinson somewhere.
As for criteria, we'll mainly focus on each player's overall body of work. Having said that, there will be an emphasis on recent performance and improvement.
10. Aaron Brooks
25.1 MIN, 10.9 PPG, 4.9 APG, 0.9 STL
All things considered, Aaron Brooks has done a respectable job filling in for the injured Robinson.
He's out of sync occasionally, and you have no clue which way he's going with the ball, but Brooks is penetrating the lane and knocking shots down from three-point range. When he's in the game with Ty Lawson, Brooks creates floor spacing, and his assist numbers are continuing to increase as a result.
Even when Brooks is leading the charge and Lawson is sidelined, he has big-game capabilities. He showed that off Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons with 27 points and 17 assists.
Defensively, despite being a liability at times, he brings solid energy. He's no Robinson when it comes to firepower, but he provides a spark.
Even though he has an expiring contract at the end of the year and may not be part of the long-term plan, Brooks has helped the Nuggets' backcourt issues.
9. Darrell Arthur
16.5 MIN, 5.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 0.6 BLK
Darrell Arthur has dealt with a few short-term injury-related absences, but he's starting to find his rhythm in the home stretch. While only playing 17.2 minutes, he has recorded 11.6 points and 3.2 rebounds in his last five games.
He hasn't been and probably won't be a versatile offensive player. However, he's great in the pick-and-pop, is starting to hit three-pointers occasionally and does a lot of the little things effectively.
The defense hasn't always been there, and perhaps Arthur has benefited in the past with the Memphis Grizzlies system and slow tempo. At the same time, he's someone who can defend at the 3 or the 4, which makes him a flexible play off the bench.
As he gets more comfortable with Denver's pace, we should see more productive outings. A strong finish would go a long way in helping him secure the backup spot at power forward next season.
8. Evan Fournier
18.6 MIN, 7.7 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.4 APG
Evan Fournier started getting more minutes as the season progressed, and he eventually received a secure spot in Shaw's primary rotation. But Shaw didn't just hand it to him. He earned it.
We weren't sure what he was going to bring to the table coming into this season. When he was thrown into the mix at the end of his rookie season, he showed promise, but how would he progress with a coaching change and new scheme?
Fairly well. Fournier is more aggressive, finding more ways to score and cutting down on his turnovers as of late.
Even though he has experience playing point guard overseas and did so a few times when the Nuggets were short-handed, it's clear that his best fit is at the 2. His ability to slash from the wing, attack from the perimeter and shoot the three proves it.
7. Timofey Mozgov
20.3 MIN, 8.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.2 BLK
The most surprising player of the year is big man Timofey Mozgov.
He was signed in the offseason to a three-year deal worth $14 million. This seemed a bit odd at the time, considering his contributions were fairly limited and hr spent much of last season on the bench.
But he has excelled under Shaw and even earned a spot in the starting lineup. His defense and rim protection have been solid, he's a big body to deal with on the glass, and he is gradually taking steps offensively.
His 8.5 points, six rebounds and 1.2 blocks are all career highs. His 16.1 player efficiency rating is also the fourth-best on the team.
Hopefully before the season is over, Mozgov will get the opportunity to play in the 25- to 30-minute range and see if his efficiency stays at a legitimate level.
6. Randy Foye
29.6 MIN, 12.3 PPG, 3.2 APG, 0.8 STL
It's been an up-and-down year for the deep-range shooter.
Foye has been asked to do a lot this season outside of three-pointers—occasional point-guard duties, taking on tough defensive assignments and creating his own shot off the dribble. This isn't anything new to him, but on a new team with a constant changing lineup and rotation, that speaks to why he's been so streaky.
With the exception of Wednesday's game with Lawson and Wilson Chandler out, Foye has recently seen a decrease in minutes. There are a number of reasons for that—off shooting nights, the bench playing well and ultimately him not making a big enough difference on the floor.
While Foye is shooting 37.3 percent from three, he's still one of the better long-distance shooters. When he catches fire, he's tough to stop because you still have to respect his ability to penetrate the lane.
But his ceiling is nearly tapped out, and his starting spot at the 2 isn't a lock for next season.
5. Nate Robinson
19.7 MIN, 10.4 PPG, 2.5 APG, 0.8 STL
Granted Robinson only played the first 44 games of the season, but his energy has made him worthy of the No. 5 spot.
Like Brooks, he's shown again that he can create his own shot whether he's at the 1 or the 2. He's still one of the most exciting players to watch in the NBA when he gets into a flow.
But his commitment to being a tenacious defender, force turnovers and completely change the momentum of the game can't be overstated. When McGee went down, Robinson picked up the torch as the other energizer after Kenneth Faried.
Even though he suffered an ACL injury that will cause him to miss the rest of the season, there is good news for Nuggets fans. According to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post, Robinson plans to exercise his player option and return to Denver next season.
4. J.J. Hickson
27.0 MIN, 11.7 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 0.8 BLK
Even though J.J. Hickson is now coming off the bench, that doesn't take away from what he brings to the table. In fact, it helps.
While he's playing a season-low 24.4 minutes in March, he has also scored a season-high 12.5 points per game this month. He's also put up double-doubles in the last three games.
It makes sense that Shaw moved Mozgov into the starting five. He complements Faried more effectively, and his rim protection is much needed.
Hickson takes on a more dominant role off the bench, both scoring-wise and on the glass. He's also the main spark for the second unit and provides better balance for the team.
3. Wilson Chandler
31.3 MIN, 14.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 0.7 STL
If you look at Chandler's numbers more closely, it's been a pretty standard season for him.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Chandler has played at small forward 83 percent of the time this season—unlike last year, when he spent 70 percent of his minutes at power forward. Small forward is the more natural position for him.
Even though he's had an average year, there's one positive takeaway. While he has only played 58 of the possible 68 contests, that's the most the Nuggets have gotten out of him in any season (if you don't combine his 51 games with the New York Knicks and 21 with Denver in 2010-11).
Add that to Chandler being a consistent starter and guarding more prolific opponents this season, and he's making subtle strides. Plus, he's still one of the most versatile players on the team.
2. Kenneth Faried
26.5 MIN, 12.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 0.8 STL, 0.9 BLK
As Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal thoroughly dissects, Faried's drastic improvement since the All-Star break is remarkable.
Even more recently, the "Manimal" is putting on quite the show in March—20.9 points on 61.5-percent shooting and 10.2 rebounds. These are All-Star-caliber numbers.
To be fair, a small part of that increased production is based on having Lawson back and the chemistry they have.
But Faried is finding more ways to score, taking on a bigger workload and continuing to be an explosive player. His development under Shaw is coming to life.
With 12 of the remaining 14 games coming against current playoff teams, Faried's consistency will be tested. Should he keep this up, along with the team getting the injured players back and having a likely high draft pick, Denver fans have something to be excited about moving toward next season.
1. Ty Lawson
36.1 MIN, 18.2 PPG, 9.0 APG, 1.6 STL
It's hard not to wonder if the Nuggets would be in the playoff hunt if Lawson not gone down with a rib injury that forced him to miss nine games. The Milwaukee Bucks were the only team they defeated while he was sidelined, and Denver was noncompetitive in nearly every other game.
Be that as it may, Lawson is clearly the MVP of this team. He has been from the start of this season, and his absence only justified it to a larger extent.
His minutes, points, assists and steals on the season are career highs. His team-high 19.8 PER and 23.1 usage percentage are also career highs, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
While he's shooting 43.3 percent from the field and 36 percent from three, which are barely career lows, those stats can be contributed to the lineup, rotation and style-of-play changes throughout the season. Look for those numbers to come back up next year.