George Karl and the Denver Nuggets have never been big on signing the big, popular players from free agency. However, instead they have worked to find inexpensive gems like journeyman Anthony Carter, Chris ‘The Birdman’ Andersen (who was suspended), Dahntay Jones (former first-rounder) and this season they have added veteran Al Harrington, Shelden Williams (dubbed a lottery bust), Melvin Ely (former first rounder) and Gary Forbes (undrafted free agent)- who have each contributed one way or another for the Nuggets early in the season.
While Harrington was the biggest signing for the Nuggets, he was overlooked by many teams due to his so-calling chucking style the last few years. However, one thing that most teams didn’t pay attention to was the teams he played on. The Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks were all offense and no defense, but after six games Harrington hasn’t carried that same M-O. He has crashed the boards (16 boards in last two games) and nearly locked Dirk Nowitzki down Saturday night. All while scoring double-digits in each of the Nuggets first six games, including going for 28 points and 14 rebounds in Denver’s come behind victory over the Rockets.
Williams was another player that was overlooked by teams and even fans. He developed the bust label after not living up to expectations set for him due to being a top-five pick. But Williams has been exactly what the Nuggets needed. He has banged and fought opposing players in the post and has been a monster on the glass. Offensively, he doesn’t have great hands but he has a solid 15-foot jumper. He also struggled against the Clippers stud big man Blake Griffin, who was very active on the offensive glass Friday night. However, through time Williams should develop enough confidence and he could be even more valuable for the Nuggets. He has averaged nearly nine rebounds a game during the first six games.
Ely is another former lottery pick that was left for dead by the NBA, in fact he was drafted in the same draft as Nene but never panned out. However, with Birdman, Kenyon Martin and Nene on the mend Ely has been getting early and important minutes. He held his own against his former teammate Chris Kaman and shown an ability to pass the ball as well. Statistically Ely has been superb, but he takes high percentage shots and has crashed the boards for the Nuggets, which has been all they needed.
Forbes was the last man to make the team and there were even doubts he would make it due to the fact how deep the Nuggets were at the wings. But like always Karl has a way of fitting players in where they can utilize their strength and much like former Nugget Greg Buckner, Forbes has been used primarily as a defensive stopper and he made his appearance known against All-Star Nowitzki Wednesday night. The former UMass star worked on denying the ball from Nowitzki and making each shot difficult. Of course when you are 6-foot-7 defending a 7-footer you have your work ahead, but Forbes made Nowitzki work for his shots and that is all he needed to do. Forbes also showed a bit of a touch from behind the arc, hitting a pair of treys in Saturday’s game.