I asked Matt Cianfrone of the Nuggets blog Roundball Mining Company for the lowdown on the Denver Nuggets and he was happy to oblige.
The Nuggets are consistently inconsistent. At 22-21 they obviously aren't a great team but so far this year they have a seven game winning streak, an eight game losing streak and a five game losing streak. You never quite know what you are going to get on a nightly or even quarterly basis. Denver has blown a 20 point second half lead to the Suns already and almost blew a double digit second half lead the other night against a Pacers team on the second night of a back-to-back. I have honestly stopped trying to figure these guys out and just accepted they make no sense.
Ty Lawson has been terrific all season. He has posted a double-double in all but two games this month, one of which was a 30 point win over the Magic where he played only 30 minutes, and is the clear leader of this team. He does a lot of his damage driving to the rim and according to Sports Vu tracking data he is shooting 53.6 percent on those drives, which is seventh in the league for players with at least 100 drives. Lawson is second in the league in total drives so he isn't putting up those numbers in a cheap way either; his speed has been a huge asset for Denver this season.
JJ Hickson and Kenneth Faried stink defensively. Neither player is any good on defense to begin with so Brian Shaw had the bright idea to start them together and pray it works. Spoiler alert: It hasn't. Denver ranks 17th right now in defensive efficiency at 103.8 and most of the problems can be attributed to the starting big man duo. Things get much better when Darrell Arthur or Timofey Mozgov comes into the game yet Shaw won't make a move to change the starting lineup. Mozgov has been the best big man on the roster all season so I think the move may be made soon. Until then teams will continue to get whatever shot they want on the Denver starters.
Randy Foye is a pretty good barometer for the Nuggets. If he is making shots Denver is really hard to beat as it provides them another weapon beyond Lawson and Wilson Chandler to keep defenses honest and space the floor. During the eight game losing streak Foye was awful, shooting something like 28 percent from three, and it made life really hard for the Denver offense. Any extra space Lawson can have to maneuver is crucial since he is undersized and outside of the month of December Foye has done fairly well giving it to him.