Banged-Up Denver Nuggets Embracing the Role of Spoiler

By Mike De Moor
Randy Foye Denver Nuggets
Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets have had a disappointing season.

A year after finishing with a 57-25 record, the Nuggets are just 34-44 under first-year head coach Brian Shaw. Personally, I didn’t have Denver making the Western Conference playoffs going into the season, but the year has been a total loss for Nuggets fans due to a plethora of injuries.

In a year of transition, the Nuggets were unable to answer a myriad of questions regarding their personnel. JaVale McGee may be the center of the future, but he also might be nothing more than an inconsistent backup. Danilo Gallinari might be a consistent scorer for years to come, or he might struggle to regain his already-suspect athleticism. Nate Robinson and J.J Hickson might not be heard of again until late next winter, so who knows what kind of impact they’ll have on the franchise going forward.

Yes, Ty Lawson put up some great numbers this year (17.6 points and 8.8 assists per game) and yes, Kenneth Faried is still an absolute Manimal, but outside of those two, where are the building blocks? And more importantly, can you even build around those two? Or was the 2012-13 season more about great coaching, Andre Iguodala and a perfect mix of young and veteran players who were at the right times in their respective careers?

Right now, there’s a lot of questions for Denver, but the way the Nuggets have played down the stretch has been refreshing to see during a season marred by way too much tanking talk (as if it were something new in this league). Over the past month, Denver has topped the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks and Washington Wizards, while also falling to the Memphis Grizzlies twice by a combined 10 points and playing the San Antonio Spurs down to the wire.

After blowing a double-digit lead with four minutes remaining on Sunday to the Houston Rockets, Denver got its revenge at home on Wednesday night. Faried and first-year Nugget Randy Foye put on an absolute clinic, helping lead Denver to a 122-115 win.

Foye poured in 30 points on 6-10 from the three-point line, which we’re used to seeing from him on a biweekly basis (well, it’s not like clockwork, but every couple of weeks the guy goes off). However, Foye also dished out 15 assists, which Nuggets fans aren’t too accustomed to seeing him do. Foye has only hit double digits in the assist column four times this season and has only dished out more than six dimes seven times all year.

Meanwhile, Faried was hitting on all cylinders, scoring 23 points and pulling down nine boards in just 26 minutes (someone has to explain to me why he doesn’t play more). To me, watching a guy like Faried play makes me feel like I’m getting my money’s worth for the game. His effort, enthusiasm, ferocity and competitiveness are just off the charts. The best way to explain it would be like this: Imagine the exact opposite of watching Josh Smith.

In its last four games, Denver faces the Golden State Warriors (twice), the Clippers and the Utah Jazz. With how hard the undermanned, undersized and inexperienced Nuggets are playing right now, it wouldn’t surprise me if Shaw’s crew pulled another upset victory before the season is over.

Shaw can’t lead the way. Maybe Foye can just have another biweekly explosion.

Mike De Moor is an NBA writer for Follow him on Twitter @MikeDeMoor, “like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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