NBA Preview: Denver Nuggets vs. Houston Rockets

By Ricardo A. Hazell
Isaiah Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets seem to be finally getting their thing together under new head coach Brian Shaw. The 4-4 team got off to a rocky start, which was to be somewhat expected.

There’s new management in town and the 2012-13 NBA Coach of the Year was sent packing after what was by all accounts a successful season. Couple that with the fact that Andre Iguodala is balling over in Northern California with the Golden State Warriors, Wilson Chandler has been injured for much of the young season and last year’s leading scorer Danilo Galinari is still out from an ACL injury suffered last season, and you can see why the Nuggets aren’t having the easiest time adjusting.

Shaw is finally corralling all the demons into a manageable menagerie. They have gone 3-1 after losing the first three games on the season. The rats were indeed jumping the seemingly sinking ship. As leading scorer Ty Lawson and the rest of the Nuggets’ deep backcourt rotation begins to apply their will upon opponents, the frontcourt rotation is slowly beginning to jell with the return of Wilson Chandler.

Kenneth Faried‘s scoring average is down a bit from last year, but he is still an animal on the boards. Timofey Mozgov is on pace to have a career year, but his rebounding totals leave something to be desired. Javale McGee has only played five games this season and is out indefinitely with a stress fracture of the tibia. He will be missed against the Rockets.

There’s no way starting point guard Lawson’s rebounding average (4.8) should be more than that of the starting center (4.6). The acquisition of PG Nate Robinson in the offseason appears to be as big a head-scratcher eight games into the season as it was on the day he signed. There’s no way he’s a third-string point guard.

Perhaps a trade of some sort is in the near future, but leaving Super Nate’s ego to fester on the bench might come back to haunt Denver unless he starts getting major minutes soon.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

At the start of season, the motto for the Houston Rockets was “Fear the Beard” as James Harden was called upon to lead the charge, with Jeremy Lin playing the role of Robin to his Batman. This year, the Rockets’ acquisition of Dwight Howard as Superman means the Justice League is ready to take on the opposition. However, Houston is barely keeping their heads above water against the bad guys with a 6-4 record.

Howard’s performance has been mixed as of yet. Yes, he is leading the league in rebounding at 14.9 per game and his scoring average of 18 points per game are robust and effective. However, Howard has thus far proven that he is not a viable one-on-one option in crunch time. Shooting 48 percent on free throws makes him a liability late in games. Yet, his strength and athleticism makes it nearly impossible to keep off the floor.

Harden is continuing his march towards the top the list of the league’s best players with a 26 point scoring average, and his 45 percent field goal percentage is among the league’s best for shooting guards.

One knock on him is that he appears to not know how to play off the ball and can often be found pounding the rock on the perimeter when the offense breaks down, which bogs down the offense even further. One-on-one basketball has never won anything in the NBA.

Lin appears to be flourishing since coach Kevin McHale decided to send him to the bench in favor of Patrick Beverley as the starter. Lin is averaging 18 points and five assists per game, and seems to finally finding the key to being a consistent scorer in the NBA. Recent back-to-back 30 point games followed by a 21-point performance can attest to that.

Chandler Parsons has proven to be a very opportunistic scorer with a 16-point average as well. He is picking his spots and makes it extremely difficult for teams to double-team Harden or Howard. I am intrigued to see how former starter Omer Asik‘s trade request will be handled. There are at least 10 potential playoff teams in the East that would love to have him.

Ricardo A. Hazell is a freelance writer for Rant Sports based in New York City.  You can follow him on Twitter at NikosMightyDad or add him to your network on Google Plus.

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