Final Regular-Season Grades for Every Denver Nuggets Player
- Overall statistics
- Non-statistical elements
- Improvement and how he finished the season
- How many games he played
The Denver Nuggets' up-and-down season has finally come to an end. With a 36-46 record, they had their first losing year, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03.
It's easy to give poor grades to many of the Nuggets players. Their effort was awful at times, and Denver occasionally looked like a bottom-five team in the NBA.
Having said that, since the Nuggets were up against an absurd amount of injuries, had a first-year head coach in Brian Shaw who was making adjustments on both sides of the ball, and were in a substantially tough Western Conference, it was nearly the perfect storm for the franchise to struggle in terms of wins and losses.
Many of the younger guys made strides, particularly in the last month-and-a-half of the season. Therefore, it's appropriate to evaluate each player's 2013-14 performance and hand out these final grades.
To be eligible, a player must be on the current roster and played at least one regular-season game in a Denver uniform. Here are the criteria for the grades:
The first four areas will be emphasized the most since the players aren't usually in control of trades and injuries.
16.0 MIN, 7.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG. 1.4 BLK
JaVale McGee's year, when he was supposed to be in the spotlight, was shortened after he suffered a stress fracture to his left tibia that sidelined him for the season. He only played the first five games.
His mediocre statistics shouldn't be concerning. Not only is it a small sample size, his athleticism wasn't nearly what we are accustomed to seeing, and it's likely he was bothered by the injury before he stopped playing.
According to Aaron J. Lopez of Nuggets.com, teammate Randy Foye knew something was up: "You could kind of tell that something was wrong. He was getting killed for certain things, like not completely contesting (shots), letting people push him. Now you know the reason why. You can’t replace someone that athletic and that explosive. It’s amazing what he was doing on one leg."
When McGee did play, Shaw had already started using him in a more traditional way for a big man—using standard post moves on the low block and taking mid-range jumpers. The development of McGee will be key, and there's reason to be excited since Shaw has already done a fantastic job with Kenneth Faried and Timofey Mozgov's evolution.
But that's for the future, and McGee's brief 2013-14 stint is one to forget.
12.3 MIN, 4.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.6 STL
Anthony Randolph had a fair amount of opportunities to show what he could do this season. Most of those came in February when the Nuggets were short-handed leading up to the trade deadline.
Unfortunately for him, it was mostly the same story—low-percentage shooting, poor defense and adequate rebounding. He played anywhere from the 3 to the 5, which often resulted in his inconsistency.
The one thing that he added to his game, or at least tried to, was a three-point shot. He took a career-high 1.4 attempts from behind the arc (previous mark was 0.2), but he only converted 29.5 percent of them.
Despite usually giving respectable effort, there's a reason why he was on the end of the bench even during the final weeks when Denver was only dressing nine or 10 guys.
15.2 MIN, 4.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.8 BLK
I think it's unfair to be disappointed in Quincy Miller this season. It was his second year in the league but really his first time getting experience.
Improvement is needed everywhere, but with his combination of speed and length, he has room to grow. Furthermore, Denver benefited from having someone at 6'9" with his physical skill set to guard on the perimeter.
But his positive moments, mostly highlighted by a blocked shot or a three-pointer from the corner, came sporadically.
He produced a team-low 8.6 player efficiency rating and a minus-0.7 offensive win shares per 100 possessions. This mostly came from a 36.7 field-goal percentage and his lack of production in other categories.
14.6 MIN, 4.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.3 STL, 0.8 BLK
Jan Vesely's 21 games played with Denver were odd yet intriguing.
Offensively, his grade is a D. On a smaller scale, he is similar to McGee in that his game needs polishing and he possesses raw talent.
Defensively, however, he's worth at least a B. He had a defensive rating of 100, which was easily the best on the team. His efficiency in forcing turnovers was remarkable with 3.2 steals and 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes.
His defensive impact in the closing weeks against the top teams in the West was what Shaw was looking for from his guys much earlier in the season. When Vesely played next to Mozgov, opponents often settled for jump shots.
He's an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, and I'm not sure how Vesely would fit into the primary rotation next year with Faried, Mozgov, McGee, J.J. Hickson and perhaps Darrell Arthur. But if the Nuggets can get him at a discount and he improves offensively, he's worth keeping around.
17.1 MIN, 5.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 0.7 BLK
Arthur somehow kept getting lost in the shuffle. He showed up here and there, but with his various short-term injuries, followed by Faried and Mozgov often stealing the show in the closing months, you knew his role wasn't going to change.
At the same time, he fulfilled his duties for the most part. Between his mid-range jumper in the pick-and-pop and his ability to defend both inside and outside, he provided solid minutes.
Arthur comes to mind when Denver went to South Beach and knocked off the Miami Heat. Not only was he 7-of-11 shooting, made his one three-pointer and was a perfect 3-of-3 from the free-throw line, he forced four steals and slowed LeBron James down in the final 10 minutes and 52 seconds of the contest.
But with career lows of a 39.5 field-goal percentage and a 9.4 PER, his season could have been better.
19.8 MIN, 8.4 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 0.5 STL
Evan Fournier had a variety of expectations coming into his second season. He had spent much of his rookie year on the end of the bench, but after he came in and did a legitimate job in the final games, some wondered if he could even be the starting 2-guard in 2013-14.
While that didn't happen, he enjoyed an injury-free season and split time between point guard (5 percent), shooting guard (54.7 percent) and small forward (34.7 percent). He even spent 1 percent of his minutes at power forward.
This was partially the reason why his shooting percentages took such a hit this year. He also fired 43.6 percent of his field goals from behind the arc this season compared to 35.5 during his rookie campaign.
Fournier will likely be the backup 2-guard next year. As long as the Nuggets don't get hit with the injury bug again, he should settle into a more consistent role and have better shooting numbers.
31.1 MIN, 13.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 0.7 STL
If this was just about general stats in comparison to his teammates, Wilson Chandler would get a top-five grade on the roster. But that's not the case.
While Danilo Gallinari was originally expected to return at some point during the season, according to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post, Chandler was going to start at the 3 until Gallo came back. Since he was unable to return, Chandler started at the 3 for 55 of his 62 games.
Here's how his numbers compared from 2012-13 to this year:
That's not what Denver needed from him to help Ty Lawson and Faried carry the load. Chandler spent more time on the perimeter this season with the depth that the Nuggets added to the frontcourt, but he still never found a strong rhythm.
29.0 MIN, 11.9 PPG, 5.2 APG. 0.9 STL
Aaron Brooks was the perfect point guard for Denver to acquire after the Andre Miller saga and the Nate Robinson ACL injury.
Whether it was in the starting lineup or coming off the bench, he led the charge with tremendous speed and started developing chemistry with the other guys in the half-court sets. His 5.2 assists were just 0.1 shy of a career high, and that mark was set when he started and played 35.6 minutes for the Houston Rockets in 2009-10.
He was also a great pickup because he provided a solid one-two punch with Lawson. The opposing defense never got a rest with those two zooming guards.
Granted, his defense was average at best, sometimes you didn't know where he was going with the ball when penetrating the lane, and he was a moderate shooter, but by only shipping out Jordan Hamilton for him without any financial limitations in the future, he was an ideal guy to fill the spot.
30.7 MIN, 13.2 PPG, 3.5 APG, 0.8 STL
On one hand, Randy Foye did way more than he probably thought he would have to do this season. Not only did he play 34.8 minutes for the final 52 games, he logged 37.8 minutes for the stretch after Nate Robinson was out but before Brooks joined the team.
Foye was primarily the starting shooting guard, although he was asked to play a fair amount of point and was often tasked with guarding the opponents' best perimeter player. Not that Foye was a superb defender, but he had some huge moments, such as blocking Carmelo Anthony's last-minute attempt to defeat the New York Knicks.
On the other hand, through his first 29 games, Foye posted 8.6 points on 36 percent shooting, with two rebounds and 1.9 assists. His playing time continued to decrease, and he even lost his starting job momentarily.
By the end of the year, he shot 41.3 percent from the field, 38 percent from three and 84.9 percent from the line—all of which were close to his career averages. He found his groove in January and made up for his slow start.
Statistically, Foye had an adequate year, but for the amount of responsibility he had on his plate, he did a fairly noble job.
26.9 MIN, 11.8 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 0.7 BLK, 0.7 STL
After spending last season with the Portland Trail Blazers, Hickson was supposed to move back into the power forward position, which ultimately is better for his game and 6'9" frame. But again, injuries forced him to slide over to the 5 for a majority of the time.
Despite his lack of size, it's impressive how efficient he was on the glass with a team-high 18.3 total rebounding percentage. He was a double-double threat each night playing next to Faried, which isn't an easy task.
But since Hickson was at center, for whatever reason, he never took a mid-range shot. Seriously, his only attempts from outside 10 feet were eight missed three-pointers, and those came when the shot clock was expiring.
This is remarkable considering he usually shoots outside the paint on a somewhat frequent basis.
Considering that Hickson was a horrific 51.7 percent from the line and his previous career low was 64.2, eliminating his mid-range game could have led to this. The drop was substantial, and it was his sixth season in the league. Plus, shooting at that rate with 4.2 attempts leaves points off the scoreboard, especially when his 50.8 field-goal percentage was 0.1 below his career average.
Still, Hickson's year was fairly productive overall.
19.7 MIN, 10.4 PPG, 2.5 APG, 0.8 STL
For Robinson, his contributions weren't highlighted by numbers—it's never been that way. It's his motor—he can catch fire, and his teammates feed off his positive vibe.
We can find multiple examples of this resulting in big wins for the Nuggets, such as when they defeated the Chicago Bulls and knocked off the Golden State Warriors on the road. He also knows how to have fun, showing off his vertical against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Obviously, losing Lawson for most of February was huge, but Robinson's absence was also significant. With McGee out for nearly the whole season, no one else on the roster could consistently fill the role of being an energy boost off the bench. That was why some of those games around the All-Star break got out of hand and ended up in blowouts.
His stats weren't too shabby either. He drained 42.8 percent of his shots from the floor and 37.7 percent from three. He also took good care of the basketball and only committed 1.3 turnovers, which was a huge issue for Denver when he and Lawson first went down.
It's good news for Nuggets fans that he plans to exercise his player option in the offseason, according to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. That didn't work out too well with Andre Iguodala last summer.
21.6 MIN, 9.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.2 BLK
It's debatable on who wins most improved player of the year for the Nuggets between Mozgov and Faried, but Mozzy is certainly the most surprising player, positively speaking. Did anyone see this coming?
His previous best season came in 2011-12 when he started 35 of his 44 games. Here's how that season compared to this year:
With his constant effort, ability to block or contest shots and offensive evolution, he eventually earned the starting center spot. His 16.8 PER proved it, which was third-best on the team.
Then in the final 12 games of the regular season, he played 29.5 minutes and recorded 15.3 points on 56.6 percent shooting to go with 9.3 rebounds. Plus, 10 of those games were against Western Conference playoff teams.
While he can still get better, the interesting question is if Mozgov is serious about this sudden interest or permission to launch three-pointers.
It's likely that Shaw just gave him the green light for fun since the Nuggets were out of the playoff race. Or maybe Mozgov wanted something else other than being dunked on for people to make fun of him for.
But if this is actually a real thing. That 16.7 three-point percentage will need to drastically increase, especially since many of those bricks were way off the mark.
This year couldn't have gone any better for Mozzy, though, especially for someone who was just given a contract extension last summer. He earned every penny of that $4.4 million this year.
Some people may think McGee should be the starter next season, but it's a no-brainer to me that Mozgov is the man in the middle.
27.2 MIN, 13.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 0.9 STL, 0.9 BLK
For a good part of the season, Faried went thought some growing pains. There were times when he was "The Manimal," but there were other occasions where he disappeared.
But after hard work and getting on the other side of the trade deadline, The Manimal was unleashed. In the final 22 games, he exploded for 20 points and 11.1 boards.
Outside of his crazy athleticism and constantly attacking the defense, he improved in two areas—his low-post game and mid-range shot.
Down on the low block, he didn't depend on his standard dribble to the middle and go with the right-handed baby-hook shot. He started using more touch off the glass and even involved his left hand occasionally.
From 10 to 16 feet, Faried converted 38.8 percent of his shots, much higher than the 27.7 percent of the previous year. The defense started respecting his range later on in the year, which opened the door for him to get to the rim and slam it home.
Faried led Denver with a 19.8 PER. Even though he played with several different guys at point guard and was usually most effective with Lawson, Faried's game became less dependent on others.
With how he finished the season, if he can upgrade his defense and not just make the occasional awesome rejection, an All-Star Game appearance is a possibility in the near future.
35.8 MIN, 17.6 PPG, 8.8 APG, 1.6 STL
Lawson deserves a standing ovation and then some. The pace, rotation and starting five were always changing, yet he found a way to get better.
His 17.6 points, 8.8 assists and 1.6 steals are all career highs, even on the per-36-minute scale.
Even though his shooting percentages were slightly down, that's understandable under the circumstances. He also played 24 percent of his minutes at the 2.
When he saw his team starting to fade during a game, Lawson put the team on his back, broke the defender down on his own and often converted at the rim. Or when Denver had momentum, he would throw in a sweet crossover, break someone's ankles and dish it for the easy bucket.
Denver still probably wouldn't have made the playoffs had he remained healthy, especially with the depth in the West. But with all the pieces we've learned about over the course of the season, Lawson's guidance gives the Nuggets an excellent chance at getting back to the postseason next year.