Kosta Koufos a big plus for Denver Nuggets this season

Fifth-year center leading team in plus-minus through first 15 games
by Aaron Lopez

Kosta Koufos is the Crash Davis of the Denver Nuggets locker room.

Ask him a question about his performance and you’re likely to get an answer that’s straight from the Bull Durham Sports Cliché Handbook:

“I’m just working hard and doing my best to help the team win. Everybody contributed tonight, so it was a great team effort.”

Koufos, one of the nicest guys you’ll meet in professional sports, does not want to make headlines with his words. He often apologizes to reporters after giving pat answers in an interview, but he need not apologize for his effectiveness on the court this season.

When Koufos is on the floor, the Nuggets have outscored the opposition by 68 points in 15 games. He is by far the team leader in plus-minus, with point guard Ty Lawson (30) second.

“Being solid sometimes is more effective than putting up big numbers,” Denver swingman Andre Iguodala said.

Koufos, who earned the job as Denver’s starting center out of training camp, is averaging 6.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.73 blocks in 22.5 minutes per game.

While his traditional stats don’t pop off the page, the 23-year-old is a mainstay when evaluating Denver’s top plus-minus combinations.

He is among the team’s best two-man combos, (Koufos-Lawson, Koufos-Gallinari, Koufos-Faried) three-man combos (Koufos-Gallinari-Lawson, Koufos-Gallinari-Iguodala, Koufos-Lawson-Iguodala and Koufos-Faried-Lawson), four-man combos and five-man combos.

“He does his job. Young players who do their job are very valuable,” coach George Karl said. “He’s very focused. He’s not motivated by scoring. He knows that there are a lot of other things for him to do out there to keep him on the court.”

Koufos had a modest four points and four rebounds against New Orleans recently, but he blocked five shots and helped the Nuggets outscore the Hornets by 34 points when he was on the floor.

“I believe numbers lie a lot,” Iguodala said after that game. “That was the case for (Koufos). The numbers just lied, and he was a big factor for us.”

Good luck getting Koufos to take any personal credit. After the game, he stuck to his script.

“It was a solid win,” he said. “Everybody played very well. From 1 to 12, everybody did their role and that’s the biggest thing.”

No apologies necessary.