(Boulder-CO) Time to weigh in how I evaluate the supporting cast that has gotten the Denver Nuggets through to this point so far. There have certainly been some good, bad, and ugly moments of memory, but I wouldn’t change the way that the journey has gone for the world.
Reggie Evans: 6.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 0.8 assists in 20 minutes of play nightly. He is a complete animal on the boards and solid defending pretty much any power forward in the league. I have really enjoyed watching Reggie during the duration of the suspension. Especially because of the added toughness he brings.
Yakhouba Diawara: 6.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 23 minutes of play nightly. I love what Yakhouba does when guarding the opposition’s best scorer. He really showed me some diversity in his match-up potential so far to this point and sometimes it is hard to remember that he is just a rookie. He did have some horrendous nights shooting, but it’s nice to see that it didn’t shake his confidence in his defensive game. The offense will come for this young player, but for now his development is right on schedule.
Marcus Camby: 12.0 points, 12.6 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, and 2.9 assists in 33 minutes of play nightly. He has been dominating the boards for the Nuggets all year long and making opposing players change their shot. His outside jumper from the top of the key is also falling as of late and Marcus is coming off a 22-rebound performance against the Rockets. Denver is a completely different team without Marcus on the floor and his presence is like knowing a mountain is right behind you.
Eduardo Najera: 6.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in 23.6 minutes of play nightly. In the last 15 games Eduardo has really been struggling. His minutes are dwindling and his starting position has been given to Reggie Evans. While not playing poorly, I feel that Eddie has not played up to his skill level in the last ten games especially. And with the 6’8” Carmelo returning, Najera’s numbers may be on the verge of shrinking even more.
DerMarr Johnson: Where ya been?
Jamal Sampson: 1.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 6 minutes of action nightly. Not much to report really, but from what we have seen there could be some raw ability. So hard to justify giving Sampson anymore minutes than he is getting with Marcus Camby playing like a wild man, but it is still nice to know Denver has a guy like Sampson.
J.R. Smith: 16.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 29 minutes nightly. It took J.R. a couple of games to return to the flow, but we saw against the Rockets that he is officially back. My only knock on J.R. is that he tends to get caught up in the moment sometimes which leads to him taking poor shots. He is an electric player and I feel that if he aggressively receives the game’s flow more naturally he can continue to be the Nuggets third option on offense. And you gotta love those highlights! Dude jumps right out of the gym!
Steve Blake: 14 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.5 rebounds just four games into being part of the Denver Nuggets’ system. Blake was an ideal pick up for a team that has scoring pouring out the yin yang. He is uber-safe with the ball and has been hitting the open look cold. He is a much better player on defense than Earl ever was and Nuggets management looks genius for signing him.
Linas Kleiza: 5.2 points and 2.9 rebounds in nearly 16 minutes of play nightly. Linas has been coming around as of late after nearly shooting himself down to the CBA… I jest, I jest, but his aggressive attack on the rim is something you never have to question. He has a cult-like following very similar to former Nugget Chris Anderson and his high-octane style of play also resembles the game of the “Birdman.”
Allen Iverson: 27.7 points, 7.7 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 2 steals in 43 minutes nightly. He has been the Nuggets savior on offense and done a pretty good job filling the void that Anthony left. Now that the two have a chance to pair I am expecting great things. One aspect of Allen Iverson’s game that has really impressed me is his passing. 7.7 assists is a lot of passing for a guy who is also scoring nearly 30 a game and I guess it took him coming to Denver for me to realize how gifted of a set-up artist he really was.
Nene: 7.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.15 blocks in 18 minutes of play nightly. It has been long road back for “Big Brazil” and I think that he is just now starting to get to where we all expected him to be in the early part of the season. The knee is reportedly stopped swelling so badly after games and hard practices and there has even been a spring in the big man’s step in the last two games. I still feel the sky is the limit for a guy like Nene because he already has the body to accompany the finer skills that can be acquired. If he stays the course he has been on in the last two games he could finish the year with averages of 10 points and eight boards which I’m sure any Nuggets fan would take.
And there’s the wrap-up! As one chapter closes, another one begins and thankfully for the Nuggets this story is not even close to over as Denver still has more than 50% of the season still ahead. It is going to be a wild ride, Nuggets Nation, so if you don’t have the stomach for it, let’s get it out on the table right now!