Los Angeles Lakers: Danlio Gallinari

Lakers vs. Nuggets: What to watch with Roundball Mining Company

December, 31, 2011
12/31/11
9:55
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The transformation of the Denver Nuggets started last season when Carmelo Anthony was shipped off to New York for a massive haul of players. This year, the roster continues to evolve, but the Nuggets are still considered a playoff caliber team, and some like ESPN.com's John Hollinger, consider them one of the Western Conference's best teams.

With consecutive wins under their belt, the Lakers now face a tough pair of back-to-back, home-and-home games against the Nuggets. They'll welcome back Andrew Bynum, giving the coaching staff and fans alike the first chance to see the Lakers with all the component parts in uniform.


Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Ty Lawson is one of the many B+ players making the Nuggets a real threat out West.


So what awaits the Lakers this weekend? To find out, we hit up Charlie Yao and Kalen Deremo of TrueHoop's Roundball Mining Company with some questions.

1. The Nuggets are a team without a true go-to star. It worked for them last season following the Carmelo Anthony trade. What are the prospects for 2011-12?

DEREMO: In the NBA, much like in any professional sports league, there seems to be a blueprint regarding the essential tools required to win a championship. While in the NFL you may need a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback or in the MLB a potent starting rotation, you can still manage to win without one of these elements. However, the modern-day consensus among basketball aficionados is that in the NBA, the recipe for a championship consists of on ingredient and one ingredient only: a superstar.

Though the Denver Nuggets sorely lack in this particular department, it hasn't dissuaded the Mile High City's fan base from open optimism about the upcoming season because let's face it, the Nuggets are not the Lakers; failing to win a championship each year is essentially protocol, not an anomaly. Nevertheless, there is a decent-sized faction seemingly unwilling to ignore what history tells us about past NBA champions and are terrified of yet another first-round playoff exit.

Here's the thing: The 2011-12 Denver Nuggets might have the one ingredient necessary to defy the notion a superstar is required to win a championship, and that's a copious amount of depth. As of right now the Nuggets can trot out two separate starting lineups that could probably contend with half of the teams in the league. For example, a starting five of Andre Miller, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Kenneth Faried and Timofey Mozgov would likely be just as effective as one with Ty Lawson, Rudy Fernandez, Danilo Gallinari, Nene and Chris Andersen.

Plus, this doesn't include Wilson Chandler whom the Nuggets will likely get back in late February or early March.

If Denver can fully capitalize on its youth, depth, and the altitude in Denver, there's no doubt that by the end of the season George Karl's run-and-gun squad could be looking at a top four seed out West. Moreover, considering how good Denver has been at home over the last handful of years, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Nuggets run teams out of the building on the way to a first-round playoff victory and possibly a trip to the Western Conference Finals if everything fell in Denver's favor.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0