Sizing up the season's first half for the Denver Nuggets

Point guard Ty Lawson leading the way as team reaches midway point
by Aaron Lopez

The Nuggets arrived at the season’s midway point on Thursday night in Portland. Through 41 games, Denver is 20-21 and fighting for a playoff berth in a crowded Western Conference race.

As the Nuggets prepare to open the second half of the season Saturday night against the Indiana Pacers, here is a quick look at some of the highlights from the first 12 weeks of 2013-14:

Most Valuable Player
Ty Lawson

Continuing a career-long trend, Lawson continues to improve his production with increased minutes and responsibility every season. Lawson has been Denver’s most consistent player while keeping the offense humming at a high level. He ended the first half with 10 double-doubles in 11 games and is averaging career-highs of 17.8 points and 8.9 assists per game. If not for a deep selection of worthy point guards in the Western Conference, he would be a virtual shoe-in for an All-Star invitation.

Most Improved Player
Quincy Miller

There are a few good candidates for this category, but the midseason award goes to second-year forward Miller. After playing a total of 26 minutes as a rookie, Miller stayed ready when injuries impacted coach Brian Shaw’s playing rotation. He recorded his first double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds on Jan. 11 against Orlando. Honorable mention for this award goes to Lawson, Evan Fournier, Jordan Hamilton and Timofey Mozgov.

Sixth Man Award
Nate Robinson

Denver’s bench has been one of the biggest bright spots, ranking third in the NBA in scoring. Leading the charge is Robinson, who is averaging 10.5 points in 19.9 minutes per game. Robinson’s explosiveness was on display during Denver’s game at Golden State on Jan. 15. He scored 14 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter as the Nuggets beat the red-hot Warriors.

Top Defensive Player
Darrell Arthur

When the Nuggets acquired Arthur from the Memphis Grizzlies last summer, they envisioned him disrupting the pick-and-roll and playing physical defense in the paint. Arthur didn’t disappoint in the season’s first two-plus months, establishing himself as the team’s most versatile and consistent defender. A hip injury has sidelined Arthur for the past five games; the Nuggets are surrendering an average of 115.6 points during that span.

Signature Win of the Season
Jan. 15 at Golden State.

Coming off a disappointing loss at Utah two nights earlier, the Nuggets returned to Oakland for the first time since losing to the Warriors in the 2013 NBA Playoffs. Ty Lawson had 22 points and 11 assists as Denver handed Golden State just its second loss in 13 games. Along with Wilson Chandler, Randy Foye and Nate Robinson, Lawson was one of four Nuggets to score 20-plus points.