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The Nuggets best lineup?...

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We learned a lot of things from the Nuggets stellar victory over the Lakers on Friday night. But perhaps most importantly, I believe we learned what the Nuggets best lineup is: Chauncey Billups at point guard, J.R. Smith at shooting guard, Carmelo Anthony at small forward, Nene at power forward and Chris Andersen at center.

This is not to say that the Nuggets shouldn't keep their starting five of Billups, Dahntay Jones at shooting guard, Anthony, Kenyon Martin at power forward and Nene playing center in-tact. The Nuggets are 39-20 sticking with that lineup for the most part, and at this point in the season they should keep that rhythm going.

Nor am I saying that K-Mart hasn't been an effective player, because I'm as impressed with K-Mart as about any other Nuggets player this season. He could have taken his guaranteed money and called it a career, but instead he got himself back in shape, re-focused and has given the Nuggets a terrific effort this season.

What I am saying is that Chauncey, J.R., Melo, Nene and Birdman should finish games and/or be given the bulk of the minutes when the game gets tight rather than the Chauncey, Anthony Carter, Melo, Nene and K-Mart lineup head coach George Karl insists on using. That lineup isn't nearly as effective against large guards and/or tall front lines.

I'm sure the Nuggets coaches have stats on their most efficient/effective lineups, similar to the data presented at www.82games.com, but bear with me as I go by instinct on this. After all, 82games.com (which I frankly don't understand that well to begin with) claims that the Nuggets win % is highest when Billups, AC, J.R., Martin and Nene are on the floor together. Pardon my naivete, but I'll take Melo over AC if I have a game on the line. Moreover, that website doesn't even present data for the Chauncey, J.R., Melo, Nene and Birdman lineup I'm advocating for. Probably because Birdman and Nene rarely play together.

But watching that game Friday, it was clear that Birdman and Nene make a lethal combination (and of course I couldn't help but wonder how good the Nuggets might have been with a healthy Nene and a healthy Marcus Camby for the six seasons they played together). For all of K-Mart's physical gifts and much needed toughness, he's still severely limited offensively and simply put, he's not that tall and doesn't have long arms. And frankly, Birdman is probably an underrated offensive threat whereas K-Mart is an overrated one. Did you see how Birdman can maneuver his body on offense around the basket on Friday? Those weren't just dunks he was making.

Forgetting for a moment that Birdman makes 1/14th of what K-Mart makes in salary, by having Birdman on the floor the Nuggets have an Energizer Bunny-type player on defense who guarantees you a blocked shot every 10 minutes. And for every shot he blocks, I'd bet he alters two or three more. Furthermore, Birdman's presence makes Nene even better than he already is. With Birdman beside him, Nene can play his natural position at power forward where he's basically unguardable, and it keeps him away from those silly fouls he piles up night after night playing center.

Looking to the backcourt, it's indisputable at this point in the season that the Nuggets need to play J.R. down the stretch and NOT Anthony Carter. Carter is to turnovers what Vice President Joe Biden is to verbal gaffes: you're guaranteed one every three minutes. Additionally, with Chauncey having to be on the floor in all clutch situations, by including Carter beside him the Nuggets are assured of having a defensive mismatch while getting nothing out of Carter offensively. And as three-point shooting threats who can also drive to the basket, Chauncey and J.R. spread the floor while AC just clogs things up.

Simply put, a lineup featuring Chauncey Billups, J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony, Nene and Chris Andersen forces opposing teams to play the Nuggets five-on-five and respect them at all five positions. We in Nuggets Nation who were watching Friday's game know this to be true. The question going forward is, does George Karl?