Chauncey Billups' Absence Could Kill Denver's Dream of a Title

Rich Kurtzman@@RichKurtzman Senior Analyst IDecember 19, 2009

The two players that are the most important to the Denver Nuggets in 2009-10 are Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups—one’s the leading producer, the other just plain leads.

Billups runs the Nuggets—he calls all the plays, makes sure everyone is in their correct positions and calls them out when they’re not.

Billups almost always has the ball in his hands as Denver moves the ball upcourt, and knows what to do with it once he’s there.

As he walks up court, Billups knows how to dissect and defeat a defense by dropping dimes to teammates. Ball movement, at times a weakness of the 2009-10 Nuggets, begins and ends with Chauncey Billups.

And when Denver falls in love with the jumper, another downfall at times, Billups can change the team’s mindset and drive quickly to the hole.

Plus, Mr. Big Shot is the Nuggets’ second leading scorer at 17.4 points per game and he’s the leading assist man with 5.7 dimes per.  

In all, Billups is the main catalyst for the Nuggets on both the offensive and defensive ends, and their spiritual leader of sorts with his enthusiastic on-court coaching that is priceless to an NBA team.

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On Wednesday night against the Houston Rockets, Billups injured his groin (an injury he’s never had in the NBA), and was forced out of the game with only three minutes gone in the second half. When he went down, both veteran Anthony Carter and rookie Ty Lawson stepped up to fill Billups’ huge void. The two combined for 11 points and seven assists, solid enough for Denver to easily roll to a 111-101 victory over Houston.

After the game, Billups underwent an MRI and the results came back negative, meaning he didn’t injure anything structurally, but the Nuggets star said, “I’m going to listen to my body, and whatever it tells me, that’s what it is. I don’t know if it’s going to be tomorrow or next week. I don’t have a timetable.”

Head coach George Karl said that Billups would likely miss a “couple games” with the groin injury and he will likely be back Wednesday as the Nuggets host the Atlanta Hawks.

And while that’s good news for the Nuggets, if Billups were to miss a big chunk of time for Denver it could mean their title hopes would be dashed. As of right now, ESPN’s title projector has the Nuggets in fifth place overall with a 5.9 percent chance to win the NBA championship next June.

Sure, Carter is a veteran, and he even started for Denver when A.I. was in town, but he’s a big drop-off from Billups. A.C. only averages 2.9 points and 2.2 assists, a far cry from Billups big-time production.

Rookie sensation Ty Lawson will likely have to play even more minutes this week, from 20 to likely 25 or 30 per game, and his scoring and passing will definitely help to keep the Nuggets afloat during Billups’ absence.

But, as long as it’s just a short-term injury, Denver will be fine and continue to be contenders in the West.

Both Carter and Lawson will get their chance to shine in a brighter spotlight as A.C. will start tonight in New Orleans against the Hornets.

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