Marlowe Blog: Nuggets a mystery without two big pieces

Evaluating Denver's performance difficult without Gallinari, McGee
by Aaron Lopez

Thirty games into the 2013-14 NBA season, the Denver Nuggets are a mystery.

Are they a playoff team, as good as their earlier seven-game win streak would imply? Or are they playoff pretenders, as evidenced by their recent seven-game losing streak?

I would suggest we won’t really know until the Nuggets are at full strength.

The elephants in the Mile High room are Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee – two legit NBA starters who have both been out virtually all season. Gallo continues to rehab from surgery on his ACL, while JaVale is recovering from a stress fracture in his leg.

I think it's good to remember how important these two players are to Denver’s success.

Let’s start with Gallinari, who was in the midst of a terrific season when he went down with his injury last April.

He scores 16 points per game, is a good rebounder and a terrific playmaker. I believe Gallo’s ability to make other players better has always been overlooked by many. He is also a solid defender (George Karl thought he was the Nugs’ best) who took on the likes of Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant in prior seasons.

Also, Gallo shoots better than 37 percent from downtown and 80 percent from the free throw line. Can you say molto bene?

Finally, he has the kind of swagger that the Nuggets need so desperately. Gallinari is very good, and he knows it. In the NBA, that’s a very valuable commodity.

Now, let chat about JaVale McGee.

At his best, JVM is a running, jumping, slam-dunking, shot-blocking machine.

Just go back two years to the NBA Playoffs against the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. McGee was one of the big reasons the Nuggets gave Los Angeles all it could handle.

Yes, JaVale did get off to a slow start this season, but so did the rest of the Nuggets. Also, keep in mind—McGee was playing with a LEG FRACTURE!

So let’s give him a break (pun intended), and see what he can do once he is completely healthy AND has time to adapt to Coach Brian Shaw’s system.

Not many teams in the NBA could survive the absence of two starters for 30 games or more. The Nuggets have.

The New Year is upon us. Let’s hope “The Rooster” and “Pierre” are not far behind.

Chris Marlowe is in his 10th year as the play-by-play voice for the Nuggets on Altitude. He is a longtime broadcaster who also served as the captain of the gold media-winning U.S. Olympic volleyball team in 1984.