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All-Star Break Team Grades


February 26th, 2006 by DarnMee

I know that it is a little late, but these are my grade for the Nuggets through the All Star break. I wrote most of this before the trades, so I had to add addendums in a few spots:

Carmelo Anthony: A. Definitely the highlight of the season has been watching Carmelo starting to live up to his potential. With Camby and Martin missing so many games, someone needed to step up. Carmelo did it by taking the ball to the basket. He has vaulted into the NBA top 10 in scoring. He is playing at an All Star level. I relish the prospect of seeing him in a Nuggets uniform when he is 28, 30, 33…

Kenyon Martin: C.Watching Kenyon has been frustrating this season. Getting 14 points and 7 rebounds per game is below expectations. So is sitting out so much. He can be a high-quality power forward in this league, as he showed in the Dallas game on 2/10. Yes, his knee has hampered him. The question is, what is going on with his head? I hope he gets it figured out, because the Nuggets need him. (I hope that surviving the trade deadline and the addition of a college teammate improve his attitude.)

Earl Boykins: B-. I’m trying to figure out why I’m not very enthusiastic about Earl Boykins this year. His scoring average is a little better than last year. His assists are slightly down. Maybe it’s that I’ve seen the “dribble for 23 seconds and shoot” act too much this year. Maybe it’s just that he hasn’t seemed to be a difference maker this year, when last year it seemed like the game changed when he came on the court.

Earl Watson: B-. I don’t know what to make of this Earl. Sometimes he plays great, sometimes he’s invisible. Often, he doesn’t get off the bench. He can contribute, but does any team need two Earls? (I guess we didn’t.)

Andre Miller: A-. My son loves the alley-oop and we get to see plenty of those with the Nuggets this year. It’s fun to watch Andre dish it. One can argue about whether the tempo of the Nuggets is fast enough, but I think you can’t argue that Miller is one of the better point guards in the league.

Marcus Camby: B+. If Marcus hadn’t gotten hurt this season, he would get an A or an A+. But he did get hurt (which is not his fault). But I think he rushed coming back and messed up the team chemistry when they had a winning streak going (which sorta is his fault). Let’s hope he stays healthy and keeps rebounding. The Nuggets need the player he was before the injury.

Nene: Incomplete. When all of the season prognosticators wrote about the great depth the Nuggets had going into this season, they were thinking about Nene and Boykins. What would the Nuggets’ record be, but for his injury? When Martin or Camby is out, the drop-off is too steep.

Eduardo Najera: B+. In Denver, we love to see hustle, that’s why we love Najera. His hustle and rebounding definitely were a key component of the Nuggets success in during the January win streak. Can you imagine the team’s record without him? I hope he heals quickly and well.

DerMarr Johnson: D. The D stands for Did Not Play. Last year it seemed like he was a marginally talented contributor. This year, he can’t seem to get his behind off the bench. Rumor has it he practices badly. If he’s in George Karl’s dog house, why shouldn’t he be in mine?

Voshon Lenard: F. When he did play, he didn’t live up to expectations. Whining and demanding a trade after missing the whole year last year just makes him seem like a dog. No one wants Vo. (Oops, I guess the Trail Blazers do!)

Bryon Russell: Incomplete. A good guy and a good player. But can an older player return from injury and contribute? I doubt it. Right now, it’s too bad he’s taking up a roster spot.

Julius Hodge: Incomplete. He’s only played 30 minutes all season. Maybe with a little seasoning in the developmental league, he’ll make a good backup in the next couple of years. It’s way too early to tell.

Linas Kleiza: B+. The happy surprise of the year. It’s nice when a late first rounder can help a team that is suffering the injury bug. Supposedly Kroenke’s son told his Dad that they needed to draft him—I say give that kid a job in the scouting department! “LK” hustles, he rebounds, and he can even shoot a little.

Greg Buckner: B. Good defense. Sometimes he can score. Fills his role on the team. I wish he would score more or shoot threes a little better.

Francisco Elson: C+. I was hoping for more improvement this year. He didn’t really step up while others were injured as much as he seemed to last year. However, he is playing a little better lately and may earn a solid B for the year.

Coach George Karl: C+. Sometimes I wonder about Coach Karl. Last year’s team under Karl was amazing. This year’s team under Karl is confusing. How do you explain a big winning streak followed by a big losing streak? I thought he was going to be the “new George Karl” and get along better with players. It seems like Vo, DerMarr, and maybe Kenyon aren’t very impressed with the “new George”. He oozes arrogance to a degree that I find him annoying. Is he spending too much time thinking about the team in Boise and not about the team in Denver? If the team catches fire and wins a playoff series, then I’ll be proven wrong. But right now I’m a bit of a skeptic about the man.

Kiki Vandeweghe: B+. The original signing of Earl Watson was confusing. It did not address the need for a shooting guard. Drafting Linas Kleiza was nice, but he had to do it to make the boss’s kid happy. The recent trades seem pretty good. The Nuggets had three weaknesses: shooting, rebounding, and defensive toughness. Two of those needs were addressed by the trades. The problem is that the one we have all been worried about for the last year hasn’t been addressed. Still, let’s give Kiki credit for making a move that actually helps the team. Not many teams did that. Will Kiki still be here in a year? The playoffs might say a lot about that.

Nuggets Overall: B-. Perhaps it is unfair to expect the Nuggets to play this year the way they finished last year. That was something special. Maybe my hopes got up too high because of Sports Illustrated ranking them as Second Best in the West. I expect that the team is going to make the playoffs and probably is going to play much better now that the trade deadline is past. Let the playoffs come and then we’ll see what kind of team they really are.

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