Feb 19, 2012; Oklahoma City OK, USA; Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson (3) moves the ball against Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

Five Things We Learned About The Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets are limping into the All-Star Break, playing their previous five games without Danilo Gallinari and Nene and they may not have Ty Lawson until after the All-Star Break. However, help may be on the way.

  • WILSON CHANDLER IS RETURNING: Well, not officially, but he is back in the U.S. Chandler, who played 21 games for the Nuggets last season, watched the Nuggets beat the Timberwolves on Monday and said after the game he is eager to work out a long-term deal with Denver. Chandler is still waiting for clearance from the China Basketball Association to see when he can play. He would help right now with Gallinari hurt and in the long term his versatility, scoring and defense will be valuable off the bench. 
  • NORTHWEST DIVISION IS BEST IN NBA: There is no pushover squads in the Nuggets division this season. While other divisions have Washington, New Jersey, Detroit, Toronto, Charlotte, New Orleans and Sacramento. The Northwest Division has five teams that all have a shot at making the playoffs, led by Oklahoma City which is tied for the best record in the NBA. The other four are all separated by two games, Utah is currently in last place in the division with a not-so-bad 15-16 record. The Nuggets, who are 2-4 in the division, have seven more games against division rivals – two against Oklahoma City, three against Minnesota, one against Portland and one against Utah.
  • THE NUGGETS STILL LACK A CLOSER: The Nuggets previous three games were about as close as they can get. They lost to the Memphis Grizzlies on a last-second tip, they fell to the Thunder in overtime – despite leading by five with less than a minute left in regulation. They squeaked by Minnesota in overtime, but couldn’t capitalize on winning the game in regulation. So the question remains, who should take the last shot?
    Gallinari seems like the most likely candidate when he is healthy. He can hit from outside, draw contact and get to the basket. However, he did miss a breakaway layup that would have helped the Nuggets beat the Lakers earlier this season.
    Arron Afflalo has proven he can hit a jumper in tight situations, last year he hit a 20-footer to beat the Dallas Mavericks. But he also missed a jumper in the fourth quarter that would have won Monday’s game.
    Lawson should be the man to take over the game in the stretch. He should be able to get to the basket against anybody and can either draw a foul or make the basket. However, he lacks the aggressiveness and tends to settle for jumpers.
    Andre Miller isn’t worried about taking the last second shot, but he lacks range on his jumper and has missed a 17-footer and a 3-pointer that would have won games for the Nuggets this season.
    -Like Miller, Al Harrington isn’t afraid of taking a game-winning shot, but instead of taking a easy shot to close out games Harrington tends to settle for 3-pointers. He’s missed two treys that could have won games for the Nuggets.
    -Rudy Fernandez, Chandler and Jordan Hamilton all could develop into closers for the Nuggets. Fernandez is nearly automatic coming off of picks for 20-footer. Chandler has a career average of 13.9 points and can score in many different ways. Hamilton has shown to have no fear and has been surprisingly good from shooting 3-pointers and needs to show more moves near in the basket.
  • BIRDMAN IS ON THE BLOCK: The Nuggets are deep at every position, but are extremely deep in the post where young big men Timofey Mozgov, Kosta Koufos and Kenneth Faried are forcing George Karl’s hand with their play and due to that Andersen has been the odd man out. When Nene returns after the All-Star Break, Andersen may find it even tougher to see the floor. However, there might not be a lot of takers for Andersen – mainly due to his contract. He’s due over $9 million over the next two years and the Birdman will turn 34 in the offseason.
  • THERE IS LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL:  Fans tend to undervalue their team when it loses and overvalue it when they win. But the bottom line is, despite the struggles, the Nuggets are in a great situation right now at 18-15, especially with the break approaching. After the All-Star Game, the Nuggets should get Gallinari, Nene and Fernandez back. They are also on the verge of adding Chandler and their schedule gets much easier. They have a nine-game home stand and don’t have to play any more back-to-back-back games. They do have six back-to-backs and a seven-game road trip, however, the trip is two-weeks long and there is only one back-to-back on the trip.

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Tags: Al Harrington Andre Miller Arron Afflalo Chris Andersen Corey Brewer Dallas Mavericks Danilo Gallinari Denver Nuggets George Karl Jordan Hamilton Kenneth Faried Kosta Koufos Los Angeles Lakers Minnesota Timberwolves Nene Oklahoma City Thunder Portland Trailblazers Rudy Fernandez Timofey Mozgov Ty Lawson Utah Jazz Wilson Chandler

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