The 25 Best Players in Nuggets’ History: Numbers 15-11

(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

NuggLove continues its rankings of the top 25 all time Denver Nuggets, with 11 through 15.

15. Kiki Vandeweghe

Career with the Nuggets: 293 games, 33.4 minutes, 23.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.5 blocks .541% FG, .857% FT

Career Accolades: 2x NBA All-Star

Kiki Vandeweghe was drafted 11th overall by the Dallas Mavericks in the 1980 NBA Draft but never suited up for Dallas. Vandeweghe refused to play for the Mavericks, probably because it was Dallas’ inaugural season in the NBA that year, and was traded to the Denver Nuggets in December of 1980.

Vandeweghe averaged 11.5 points and 5.3 rebounds in 51 games that season and the Nuggets finished 37-45, seven games better than the season before.

Vandeweghe started to become a household name in just his second season with the Nuggets. During his sophomore year, Vandeweghe upped his averages to 21.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 78 starts with the Nuggets, and helped Denver get back to the playoffs after missing them the previous two seasons.

Vandeweghe was an All-Star in each of his final two seasons in Denver and during the 1983-84 season, his 29.4 points per game ranked 3rd in the NBA.

The Nuggets decided to trade Vandeweghe following his career year and the Nuggets’ haul included Calvin Natt, Fat Lever and Wayne Cooper. The trade allowed fellow small forward Alex English to be the primary scorer for the Nuggets and it addressed their last-ranked defense.

Although he never made another All-Star team after leaving Denver, Vandeweghe had four more seasons in the NBA where he averaged 20+ points a game.

14. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf

Career with the Nuggets: 439 games, 28.4 minutes, 16.0 points, 2.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.1 blocks .443% FG, .354% 3PT, .916% FT

Career Accolades: NBA All-Rookie Second Team, NBA Most Improved Player (1993)

Formerly known as Chris Jackson, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was one of the most prolific scorers in college basketball history, scoring 1,854 points in just two years at LSU. After his sophomore season with the Tigers, Abdul-Rauf was selected third overall by the Denver Nuggets in the 1990 NBA Draft.

Abdul-Rauf spent six seasons in Denver and helped the Nuggets get out of a rebuilding stage following Alex English’s departure in 1990.

Abdul-Rauf started in just 19 games his rookie season, but averaged 14.1 points and 3.1 assists for the Nuggets and was named to the All-Rookie Second Team.

His sophomore season was a disappointment, the Nuggets brought in veteran point guard Winston Garland, drafted guard Mark Macon, and Abdul-Rauf saw a decrease in minutes, points, rebounds and assists.

It wasn’t until his third year in the league when Abdul-Rauf found his footing in the NBA. During his age-23 season, Abdul-Rauf averaged 19.2 points, 4.2 assists and 1.0 steals per game and took home the Most Improved Player Award at the end of the season.

The Nuggets didn’t make the playoffs, but they won 12 more games than the season prior and were one of the best up-and-coming teams in the league. The Nuggets’ young core consisted of Abdul-Rauf, second-year players Dikembe Mutombo and Robert Pack, and rookies LaPhonso Ellis and Bryant Stith.

Arguably Abdul-Rauf’s best season came during the 1993-94 league year, when he averaged 18.0 points and 4.5 assists, which ranked first and second on the team respectively.

During his last season in Denver, Abdul-Rauf was suspended by the NBA for his refusal to stand during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Abdul-Rauf was traded to the Sacramento Kings at the end of the season, he lost his starting role and saw a major decrease in minutes during his two years there.

Abdul-Rauf spent one year playing international ball in Turkey and contemplated retirement before returning to the NBA during the 2000-01 season for 41 games with the Vancover Grizzles. That would mark the end of Abdul-Rauf’s career, at the young age of 31-years-old.

While at the time Abdul-Rauf faced plenty of criticism, he has since been praised by many for his courage and his decision to risk his career for social activism.

Abdul-Rauf ranks 8th all-time in points for the Nuggets and his .956 free throw percentage from the 1993-94 season is the third highest mark in NBA history.

13. Byron Beck

Career with the Nuggets and Rockets: 747 games, 25.7 minutes, 11.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.1 blocks .505% FG, .811% FT

Career Accolades: 2x ABA All-Star

Byron Beck is the only retired player on this list who spent the entirety of their career in Denver.

Beck played for Denver during their inaugural season in the ABA during the 1967-68 season. Beck, along with 10 other rookies, won 45 games that season, and Beck averaged 9.4 points and 7.4 rebounds.

Beck upped his averages to 14.5 points and 11.0 rebounds the following season and made his first ABA All-Star Game.

Statistically speaking, Beck probably doesn’t deserve to be above some of the named previously mentioned. That being said, Beck never missed the playoffs during his 10-year career with Denver and his Denver franchise ranks are as following: third in games played, fourth in minutes, sixth in points, second in rebounds and fourth in win shares.

Beck was a mainstay for Denver and he helped kick-start the franchise and get the Nuggets into the NBA.

12. Chauncey Billups

Career with the Nuggets: 259 games, 33.4 minutes, 16.9 points, 2.7 assists, 5.3 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.2 blocks .414% FG, .392% 3PT, .912% FT

Career Accolades: 2x NBA All-Star, All-NBA Third Team

Similar to Andre Miller, Chauncey Billups had two stints with the Nuggets, the second one being the far more successful than the first.

The Denver-native and former Colorado Buffalo was drafted third overall by the Celtics in the 1997 NBA Draft and found his way to Denver during the 1998-99 season. On a team with Antonio McDyess and Nick Van Exel, Billups averaged 13.9 points and 3.8 assists, but the Nuggets finished 14-36 that season (lockout shortened the season that year).

The next season, the Nuggets won 35 games, but Billups played in just 13 games and was traded to the Orlando Magic in February.

After becoming a household name with the Detroit Pistons, Billups found his way back to Denver during the 2008-09 season. The Nuggets reached the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 25 years and Billups finished the season averaging 17.9 points and 6.4 assists per game.

Billups was an All-Star that season and made the All-NBA Third Team with his teammate Carmelo Anthony. In Billups’ final season with the Nuggets, he averaged 19.5 points and 5.6 assists but the Nuggets would go on to lose in the first round of the playoffs to the Utah Jazz.

Billups ranks 8th all-time in threes made for the Nuggets and 7th in three-point field goal percentage.

11. Ralph Simpson

Career with the Nuggets and Rockets: 519 games, 31.3 minutes, 19.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.2 blocks .456% FG, .770% FT

Career Accolades: 5x ABA All-Star, All-ABA First Team, 2x All-ABA Second Team

Ralph Simpson played six full seasons for Denver before they moved to the NBA and was an All-Star each year except his rookie season.

Simpson went from scoring 14.2 points a game his rookie season, to 27.4 points his sophomore season, which ranked 4th in the league during the 1971-72 season.

Simpson was also an iron man for Denver. During his first six years there, Simpson missed just 17 games.

Simpson left Denver after their final season in the ABA, but he had scored more points (9,953) than any Denver player during their time in the ABA.

Simpson returned to the Nuggets during the 1977-78 season, but played just 32 games and averaged 5.5 points a game.

Simpson ranks 9th all-time in games played for the Nuggets, 5th in points, 9th in assists, 10th in steals and 5th in free throws made.

Next. Top 25 Denver Nuggets in History: 25-21. dark