I'm as excited about the Nuggets as I've ever been. But there's a nagging realist in me that says this is not a top-tier team ...
A quick look at the standings 20 games in provides plenty of reason for optimism. Some of the leading indicators are also excellent (point differential, offensive and defensive efficiency, points off turnovers, and an outstanding 7-3 record on the road).
There are some concerning numbers though. While their 7-3 record at The Can is not terrible, the way in which they suffered each loss was (stinkers against NOLA and the Jazz, collapse against the Clips). On top of that, a few other wins regressed from blowouts into contested games late that kept the rotation from getting rest.
More concerning is the Nuggets record against winning teams. Unoffically, I have them at 10-1 against teams with losing records - which is great to see - but I have them at a pedestrian 4-5 against teams with winning records.
Don't get me wrong, I'm excited. Other than Arron Afflalo and Chris Andersen, every player has either played to or above expectations in my estimation. There is plenty of reason to believe that Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov will continue to improve and that AAA will get back on track. George Karl continues to do his thing. His rotations and decisions can be crazy-making, but he seems to have done a masterful job of getting his guys to buy into the team concept on both ends of the court. And he seems to have developed into a poor man's Phil Jackson. Maybe it's the goatee. Maybe it's the perspective gained in surviving two bouts with cancer. Maybe it's from surviving the Melorama, but he's got some Zen going. And of course, we have the best front office in basketball.
The Philly, Dallas, Miami and NY wins were outstanding. And the Nuggets have been in every single game this year.
But I need to see more.
Ten of the next 18 games are on the road. All 10 of those teams currently have winning records. Meat and potatoes time. If this team wins more than half of these games ... I believe I will begin to believe.