The Denver Nuggets find themselves in first place with almost half of the season completed. They have defeated powerhouses from both conferences, including the Toronto Raptors, the Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Despite being the “team to beat” in the Western Conference, the Nuggets have been at full strength only twice the year.
The Nuggets lost starting small forward Will Barton during the second game of the season and he has yet to return. The team had lost their starting guard Gary Harris and Paul Millsap for a handful of games as well. The team leads to the league in games missed due to injury, but their record does not reflect that at the slightest.
During the injury plagued season, the Nuggets bench has really stepped up. Players like Monte Morris, Juancho Hernangomez and Torrey Craig have played crucial minutes. From big shots and calm play to game-saving blocks against the reigning NBA Champions, these guys have saved the Nuggets miracle season. Yet, now that the team is almost back to full health, minutes are going to drastically change. With that happening, who will have to continue being the Nuggets x-factor for the second half of the season?
Malik Beasley will be the X-Factor
The entire Nuggets bench has produced during this time of injury. However, Malik Beasley has been producing at a very high level over these past couple weeks, which is why I think he is the X-Factor for the rest of the season.
Malik Beasley over the past 10 games is averaging 12.1 points per game on 44% shooting. He scored a career-high 23 against the New York Knicks and he is playing with the utmost confidence. He is a spark-plug off the bench and his outside shooting has been consistent enough to make him part of Michael Malone’s crunch time lineup.
As the Nuggets continue to stay a top of the Western Conference, they’re going to need Beasley’s stellar play. Players are going to go through shooting slumps and injuries might continue to happen so Beasley will be needed for the stretch run. If he can continue his high level of play while the Nuggets continue to get to full strength, they could solidify themselves as the best team in the Western Conference.
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