Back in early August, when the big market biased media was fawning over the idea of Dwight Howard in LA with Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant, they overlooked one thing: The Nuggets got better as well. While the addition of Dwight Howard was no doubt the most talked about and the most debated, with some media saying things such as Dwight isn't as good as Bynum, no one debated that Dwight was the most valuable piece on the move. Most people even went as far as to say the Lakers were now the best team in the NBA. But, everyone seemed to forget about the Thunder, and, as always, ignore the Nuggets in the discussion. Are the Lakers the best team in the west? I, for one, don't think so. I personally think the Nuggets, acquiring Andre Iguodala, and drafting Evan Fournier and Quincy Miller, have leapfrogged the Lakers and Thunder to take the title as best in the west.
One point that needs to be focused on is a stat that ESPN loves, the PER. Taking all the players on the Lakers, Thunder, and Nuggets, and making a "team" PER, this is what the stats look like:
A couple of points on this. This number excludes rookies and ineligible players. The league average is 15. That means that the Lakers, by PER, are a little below average, the Thunder are a little above average, and the Nuggets, wow. A potentially shocking stat, ESPN said Faried was a SF, and he was the second best SF in the west behind only Kevin Durant. Another potentially shocking stat, the lowest Nuggets player had a PER of 13.28, while the Thunder and the Lakers each had multiple players under 10.
Going on to more advanced metrics, lets look at each big acquisitions of the Lakers and the Nuggets, specifically Andre Iguodala and Dwight Howard. Last year, the Nuggets had a offensive efficiency rating of 106.5, third best in the NBA, and a defensive efficiency rating of 103.4, 19th in the league. Both players are defensive blankets to put it simply. Iguodala, with his defense alone, contributes to 4.2 added wins, 7th best in the league. Dwight Howard, in comparison, contributes to 4.4 added wins. The Lakers had an offensive efficiency rating of 103.3, 10th best in the league, and a defensive efficiency rating of 101.7, 13th best. While based on the advanced metrics, Dwight Howard appears to be a better player than Andre Iguodala, but the Nuggets also appear to have been a better team already. However, when you look at another stat, the wins produced stat, it tells a bit of a different story. Andre Iguodala had a wins produced rating of 11.7, 5th best in the league. Dwight Howard had a rating of 10.5, 9th. Both of the acquisitions were big for both teams, and the debate could be made for either one about which one was the best.
Another trait of great teams is depth. The Lakers and Thunder each respectively have their big four, or medium-large four, whichever way you want to look at it. But beyond that, what does each team have depth wise? The Lakers have Metta World Peace, Antwan Jamison and Jordan Hill, and the Thunder have Kendrick Perkins. When you look at the Nuggets roster, it's different. While they don't necessarily have one superstar, the argument could be made that 8 of their players could start on different NBA teams, and even behind that, all of their players are valuable role players. Especially when teams come to Denver, they're going to need depth and speed, and that's something the Nuggets have a lot of that the Thunder, and especially the Lakers, don't have.
Some of you may call me biased for writing this, and that is something I would accept, considering I am a Nuggets fan. However, the point of this was to point out that the Nuggets have been extremely underrated, and there is a very valid argument for them being the best team in the west. George Karl does have a task at hand in figuring out how to divide the minutes between all of the talented wings on this team, but there's no such thing as having too much talent. Another factor that cant be measured with a stat is how the teachings of Hakeem Olajuwan will help both JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, and thanks for the read.