Nuggets at Spurs Preview: Focus on the Upside

Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

After another rough loss to the Miami Heat in the Pepsi Center, the Nuggets travel to south Texas to take on a familiar nemesis in the San Antonio Spurs. Can the Nuggets dig deep and pull out of the funk they've been in lately?

2012/2013 NBA Regular Season: Game 10
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4-5

7-2
November 17th, 2012, 6:30 PM (MT)
AT&T Center - San Antonio, Texas
TV Altitude / 950 AM / 104.3 FM The Fan
Probable Starters
Tony Parker PG Ty Lawson
Danny Green
SG Andre Iguodala
Kawhi Leonard
SF Danilo Gallinari
Tim Duncan
PF Kenneth Faried
Boris Diaw C Kosta Koufos
Notes
Pounding the Rock Blogs You're here!
None Injuries Julyan Stone (out), Wilson Chandler (hip)
Manu Ginobili is shooting a career-low 37% Stat Denver is #1 in rebounds in the NBA (50.7/g)

Lately, it's been pretty hard to be positive about this team, but only because I'm a passionate Denver Nuggets fan and I hate to see them losing. After starting off slow, the Nuggets reeled off four consecutive victories, but have now dropped two in a row. Despite the ongoing funk that the Nuggets seem to be in, they can right the ship tonight in San Antonio.

- How great is it to watch Kenneth Faried continue to grow as a player? His endless hustle and motor are a joy to watch on the court. He's now averaging 14.1 points and 11.8 rebounds (6 offensive), with a PER of 23.01! Oh, and don't look now, but last night he tied Al Jefferson of the Utah Jazz for 1st in the NBA in total rebounds (106).

On top of that, more than half of Faried's 106 total rebounds are offensive. At 54 total offensive boards, Faried has 16 more than the next closest player, J.J. Hickson. He's an elite rebounder already, and his offense is coming along. He had a nifty dribble drive for a layup against Miami, and multiple attempts where he took it hard into the paint from the perimeter. If he can start developing a more reliable post presence and better ball handling skills, the Nuggets might see Faried eventually put up a 20/20 game this season, especially if he can improve his poor free throw shooting.

- JaVale McGee is finally playing within himself. Despite some roughness around the edges on his defensive game, he's much more composed on the offensive end and far less prone to terrible shots. Teams are having a hard time boxing out his lanky frame, and his rolling post hook is becoming a threat teams must work very hard to defend.

- At just 65% from the stripe, Denver remains 30th in the league at free throw shooting. Last year, they were 25th, with largely the same group of players. Still, there's lots of room for improvement here, and the Nuggets will draw more attempts from the line going forward.

- Being #1 in the league in rebounding gives Denver a huge advantage in second chance points and points in the paint, where they have dominated this season. Despite the Nuggets' struggles from the perimeter, once the shots start to fall with regularity, this will translate into lots of additional scoring for the team.

- Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson will improve their play. Their performance through 9 games has been frustrating, but they are both far below their career averages in many areas. They will progress to their mean, which means more points and higher scoring games for this team - and tacos for us!

- With Wilson Chandler's nagging hip injury, Jordan Hamilton's showing that his preseason and summer league play was not just a fluke. He has a sweet stroke from the perimeter, and "J.R. Lite" has shown that he deserves minutes. I'd love to see J-Ham start splitting minutes with Corey Brewer when the Nuggets need some perimeter scoring.

This season, despite a hot start, the Spurs are finally starting to see some of the effects of father time on their big three of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. As mentioned above, Ginobili is shooting a career-low from the floor, and turning it over more than a pancake cook at Waffle House. Timmy D, while still one of the best power forwards in the league (averaging 18 and 10 to date), also seems to have lost a step. Even his eyes don't bug out as far anymore. Are we finally seeing a changing of the guard in San Antonio?

Meanwhile, youngsters Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard are starting to fill a greater and greater role on this team. Splitter has a big body and a decent touch in the paint, and Kawhi Leonard is like a poor man's Kenneth Faried with a 3 point shot.

Tonight, the Nuggets must have better play from the perimeter, on both offense and defense. Faried's gotta continue to do his thing and give the Nuggets as many scoring opportunities as he can with his relentless energy on the glass. I'd like to see Ty drive the paint with authority and Corey Brewer knock down his open attempts on the perimeter.

A final note: I'm not trying to discourage anyone, but we need to temper our collective goals for this team a bit. They are one of the youngest teams in the NBA, they've lost two of their most veteran players in Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington, and they were handed one of the toughest first quarter schedules in the league. They're trying to work into their new offensive scheme and find out how best to utilize Iguodala's talents. Everyone (including we at Denver Stiffs) crowed about how the Nuggets were contenders for the West championship, ratcheting up the pressure on a squad that's still learning how to play together. Given what we've seen, I think it's better to re-evaluate this Nuggets squad as a low-seed playoff team and reset your expectations accordingly.

Besides, the Nuggets have always performed better as an underdog anyway.

***

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