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NBA Weekly Roundtable: Denver Nuggets Surging While Bynum Sinking

Evan Budrovich, Aaron Fischman, Sareen Tavidian |
March 29, 2013 | 4:08 p.m. PDT

Staff Writers

It looks like Andrew Bynum may ever enter a game as a 76er (Zwannah Dukuly/Wikimedia Commons).
It looks like Andrew Bynum may ever enter a game as a 76er (Zwannah Dukuly/Wikimedia Commons).
There is less than three weeks left in the regular season, and 11 of 16 teams have already clinched their playoff berths. But it's also time to look forward to the draft and free agency. We've got a range of topics in this week's roundtable.

1. Last week, it was announced that Andrew Bynum will have surgery on both of his knees, making him out for the entire season. Bynum will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, making it possible that he’ll never suit up for the 76ers after Philadelphia sent Andre Iguodala to Denver for him as part of the Dwight Howard trade. With the Lakers currently 8th in the West and Nikola Vucevic and Maurice Harkless looking like franchise building blocks in Orlando, is it too soon to say that the Magic actually won the Dwight Howard trade?

Evan Budrovich: It is never too early to say that any team won the Dwight Howard trade, since the NBA is a “what have you done for me lately” type of league. That being said, the Lakers are struggling to court Dwight in terms of appealing to his style of play and winning on the court. The Nuggets are much more athletic with the addition of Andre Iguodala, but still lack the elite superstar to surpass the Spurs and Thunder in the standings. The Magic should be considered a major winner in this trade because they dumped a player that did not want to remain in Orlando, and got solid players who will start for years to come in return. Vucevic, Harkless and Arron Afflalo are by no means superstars, but they provide quality minutes and solid fundamentals like a Pacers team that has built themselves in similar fashion. This move was risky for all the teams because of injury concerns and financial burdens, but as of right now, the Magic look like the team best suited in the long run from the deal.

Aaron Fischman: Although there is ample evidence to suggest that the Magic will win the Dwight Howard trade, it’s too soon to say that they did. Despite two straight months of solid basketball from Harkless and Vucevic’s morphing into the best young center in the league, the Magic are still terrible. They still will receive future draft picks from the deal, but how they perform over the next two to four years will answer our question. If the rebuilding effort translates into wins, then we can declare them the winners. 

Then again, the Nuggets are certainly enjoying Iguodala’s presence, especially on the defensive end, and the Lakers got a great deal of value (namely, Howard and Earl Clark) for a guy who didn’t play a single game this season (Bynum). It’s not too early, however, to say that the 76ers lost this trade. Doug Collins and company will surely miss Vucevic for years to come. It also appears as though the team got nothing in return for a valuable role player in Iguodala (Jason Richardson doesn’t count).   

Sareen Tavidian: For all the hype about the “Triple Threat” in LA, the Lakers are currently 8th in the West. Right now, the Lakers could struggle to get of the playoffs’ first round even if they do make it in. It’s safe to say that Howard’s presence in LA has not really done anything but create hype, while Bynum’s injury obviously won’t be making a difference in Philadelphia. The 76ers never actually got to see Bynum dominate on the court, and that will affect their long-term prospects even if they don’t know how good they would have been with him on the court. Despite losing their best player, the Magic’s addition of Vucevic and Harkless has given them the opportunity for a strong future. Ultimately, I would not say that the Magic won the Dwight Howard trade, but they definitely did not lose.

Ty Lawson engineered the Nuggets' 15-game streak (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
Ty Lawson engineered the Nuggets' 15-game streak (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
2. The Heat's 27-game run out-shadowed them, but the Denver Nuggets went on a 15-game winning streak before losing on Monday. Denver is nearly invincible at home, with a 32-3 record at the Pepsi Center. What has been the key to the Nuggets’ streak, and how far do you think this team has a chance to go in the playoffs?

Budrovich: The Nuggets have embarked on the quietest double-digit winning streak in the NBA this season thanks to their style of play and team-oriented attack. The Nuggets’ up-tempo brand of basketball reminds many of street ball, putting up points in bunches. This squad also provides a solid team effort, ranking in the top five in rebounds, assists and points per game. The Nuggets’ ability to defend the rim and push the fast break has made matters look easy for the second-hottest team in the league. This style of play is fun and exciting, but I do not see it lasting in the playoffs. George Karl has worked wonders rotating bodies in this deep nine or ten-man unit, but this could actually hurt them come playoff time. Expect a second-round matchup with either Oklahoma City or San Antonio to decide the Nuggets fate. 

Fischman: The Nuggets have been scoring a ton of points. During the 15-game winning streak, Denver put up at least 110 points on eight different occasions. Their ability to score in transition has been invaluable. Also, balanced scoring has aided the team significantly. The Nuggets remarkably boast nine players who score at least 8.3 points per game. Incredible depth at every position affords George Karl many different substitution options. Because of these interchangeable parts, the Nuggets were able to reel off 15 straight despite subpar play from their leading scorer, Danilo Gallinari. The Nuggets’ depth combined with their regular-season home dominance make them formidable contenders, but given the playoff experience of the Thunder and Spurs, I can’t envision Denver getting any further than the Western Conference Finals. If the Nuggets make the Western Finals, it would be a huge success given the talent at the top of the conference. 

Tavidian: Although the Nuggets’ 15-game winning streak will not go down as the longest this season thanks to the Clippers and the Heat, it still needs to be acknowledged. The Nuggets have had no star power since trading Carmelo Anthony two years ago, and their rebuilding efforts are finally coming to fruition. Chemistry is usually the reason for a balanced team like Denver to have success, but they possess something even better: versatility. The team roster allows for flexibility, giving Coach George Karl a variety of lineups to work with. Teamwork has played a key role in their ability to sustain a high level of competitiveness, including their pair of point guards in the young Ty Lawson and the veteran Andre Miller. Even though their streak ended on Monday night, the Nuggets will be a challenging first round matchup for whomever they face.

Trey Burke's tournament has raised his draft stock (Adam Glanzman/Creative Commons).
Trey Burke's tournament has raised his draft stock (Adam Glanzman/Creative Commons).
3) Which NBA draft prospect improved his stock the most in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament? Which prospect saw his stock take the largest drop?

Budrovich: Khalif Wyatt did the most to improve this draft status for the 2013 NBA Draft after his opening weekend performance. The senior from Temple put on a display against Indiana and NC State, putting up 62 points in two games on 45 percent shooting. Wyatt impressed all season and was his conference’s player of the year, but nothing beat his pure domination of Indiana’s Victor Oladipo for stretches of the third-round game. Wyatt will probably get Top 10 looks now because of his ability to score and make people miss in one-on-one situations. 

Bucknell’s Mike Muscala took the biggest hit for the upcoming draft after coming up far short against Butler. Muscala matched up against the 7-0 Andrew Smith and could never find his range from the key, shooting 4-of-17 on the night. The senior was outstanding this season in carrying Bucknell to an NCAA Tournament bid, but struggled against bigger and stronger defenders like the ones he would face in the NBA. Muscala will still hear his name called on draft night, but his stock has likely fallen towards the end of the second round.

Fischman: Temple’s Khalif Wyatt, Arizona’s Mark Lyons and Marquette’s Vander Blue have excelled, but haven’t exactly come out of from nowhere. Minnesota sophomore guard Andre Hollins has done very well, but playing in the Big Ten, he was likely already on many scouts’ radar, at least to some extent. That’s why I’m going with Florida Gulf Coast’s Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson. If the Eagles hadn’t upset Georgetown, most of the country (and even NBA scouts) would probably not know much about these guys.

I know he played for South Dakota State, but after a stellar four-year career, Nate Wolters’ miserable first-round performance (I refuse to count “The First Four” as a round) against Michigan will damage his draft stock. The popular argument against drafting him will be, ‘Look at the poor competition he typically played against, and then when he finally faced a good team, he scored 10 points on 3-14 shooting.’ All of a sudden, 53 points against IPFW don’t mean as much.  

Tavidian: The player who improved his stock during the first weekend was Trey Burke of the Michigan Wolverines. Burke who is often considered the offense for Michigan, showed leadership and confidence on the court. Despite his 6’0” size, his excellent ball-handling skills and quickness on the court make him valuable to NBA squads. On the other hand, Kansas’s Ben McLemore, a prior favorite for the number one overall pick, struggled during his two first games with inconsistent shots and hesitation. McLemore is still a favorite to in the top five, but he needs to step it up and perform this weekend with the same magnitude that he demonstrated during the regular season.



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