Friday, May 8, 2009

And Now You Know!: As Balanced As a D Nug

I was going to write about Brett Favre this week but I wasn't in the mood to talk about mediocrity. Then the news of Manny Ramirez came and I just didn't feel like writing anything baseball realted (SportsJudge founder Marc Edelman tackled the Manny Ramirez fantasy fallout here and here). So, I decided instead to write about the Nuggets (once again).

What amazes me so much about the Nuggets is their lack of that go-to-scorer. Of course there is Carmello Anthony, Chauncey Billups, and J.R Smith, Nene, and Kenyon Martin. But what gets me is that ALL of these players average over 10 ppg this season, and then there is Linus Kleiza who averaged 9.9 ppg. So essentially that means that the Nuggets have six guys who scored over 10 ppg this year, an unheard of figure when it comes to championship teams.

Looking at the previous champions, one would have to go back 20 years to the 1989-90 Detroit Pistons to find a championship team that had five players average 10+ ppg in a season, and in fact they had a sixth guy who averaged 9.8 ppg that season. The Pistons lineup included Isaiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, James Edwards, Mark Aguirre, Bill Laimbeer, and the sixth man was Vinnie Johnson.

Something else I find unique about this year's Nuggets team is that they had no player who averaged more than 8 rpg. You'd have to go back to the 1990-91 Bulls to find a team that had a Championship team that had a leading rebounder with fewer than 9.2 rpg. That year Horace Grant led the team with 8.4 rpg throughout the regular season.

The Nuggets would be just the 4th team in the past 20 years to win a championship while allowing more than 100 ppg (100.9) and have the smallest margin of victory (3.4) since the Lakers in 2000-01. This year's Nuggets were better than their opponents in ever single statistical catagory except FT% and Offensive Rebounds yet everyone is talking about the Lakers.

The most important player on this team who receives the least amount of credit would be Chris Andersen. Andersen comes off the bench and averages over 20 mpg. Andersen has a story, though. The Birdman went undrafted after dropping out of the University of Houston and playing one year at Blinn Community College, coming from a broken home. From college he went ot play in the International Basketball League, the International Basketball Association and the Chinese Basketball League (against Yao Ming) for a few years before the Nuggets took a try at him.

The story most know is that this man entered the slam dunk contest, failed miserably, and soon after was banned from the NBA for 2-years after violating the anti-drug policy. Andersen came back to the Hornets for 5 games in 2007-08 before becoming a free agent and signing a 4-year deal with the Nuggets before this season.

Andersen credits his success this year to all the doubters. He finished second in the league in blocks per game with 2.5 (D. Howard 2.9), yet received just one vote for either All-Defensive team this year. Big men such as Kendrick Perkins, Udonis Haslem, and Trevor Ariza received more votes than Andersen for the All-Defensive team. In fact, three of his teammates received more votes for the All-Defensive team than Andersen did.

It's funny to watch the Birdman play, and no sooner than you can say, "What is this guy doing on the court?" does Andersen block a shot.

But I am getting ahead of myself. There is still a series to be played against the Mavericks and then the Rockets/Lakers. But should the Nuggets get to the Finals, as I predict they will, ESPN/ABC will be running specials on the Birdman. I'd like to believe that they'd be reading this article here to find out just how underrated he is.

And Now You Know! (And Knowing is Half the Battle)

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Brian Doyle said...

I like how the commentator mentions that not all the blocks will actually go down as blocks, but fails to mention that the reason they don't count is because they were shots taken by Dirk Nowitzki.