Last season: 36-46, 4th Northwest Division (11th Western Conference), Missed Playoffs
Notable Acquisitions: G Arron Afflalo (trade w/ ORL), G Gary Harris (Michigan State, 19th overall; acquired via trade w/ CHI), C Jusuf Nurkic (Bosnia, 16th overall; acquired via trade w/ CHI), G Erick Green (2013 Draft Pick), G/F Alonzo Gee (claimed off waivers via SAC)
Draft Picks: F/C Nikola Jokic (Serbia, 41st overall)
Notable Losses: G Evan Fournier (ORL), G Aaron Brooks (CHI), F/C Anthony Randolph (Russia), F Jan Vesely (Turkey), F Quincy Miller (free agent)
Burning Question: Will any Nugget emerge as a bonafide star this season?
There are many viable candidates who could experience a career year. If a couple of players, like Kenneth Faried and Ty Lawson, can improve their production across the board, it’ll do wonders for the team’s short term outlook.
If this year’s preseason was any indication, the Nuggets might be a force to be reckoned with in 2015. Avoiding mediocrity, for the second year in a row, will likely be the theme in the Rockies, so expect them to play very inspired to start the season.
No, the Nuggets still don’t have a go-to star and no, they aren’t the best defensive team around (gave up 106.5 ppg last year; 28th overall) but Denver has a high-powered offense to go along with one of the deepest rosters in the Association.
How deep is this Nuggets team? Well, they are stacked. Coach Brian Shaw has a variety of weapons at his disposal. They have depth at every single position and are working towards solidifying a cohesive lineup on both ends of the floor.
But when you think of the Nuggets, three players immediately come to mind: lighting-quick point guard Ty Lawson (team-high 17.6 ppg last year), the ever energetic Kenneth Faried and versatile forward Danilo Gallinari.
Lawson was steady again as Denver’s lead guard and may be ready to take that next step into stardom. An improving floor general, he is the head of the snake for the Nuggets’ transition and dribble penetration attack. Often times, if he is on, so is Denver.
Faried, aka the Manimal, will try to build upon his amazing summer with Team USA in the FIBA World Cup. He was a terror throughout the entire tournament by out hustling everyone and attacking the glass with ferocity. If his low post game and on-on-one defense can improve, he can also be an All-Star someday.
Lawson and Faried, along with Gallo (aiming to return from a Torn ACL), should spearhead Coach Shaw’s bunch in the tough Western Conference. The return of two-way shooting guard Arron Afflalo was also a huge acquisition but will it be enough to make the playoffs?
It’s definitely a possibility. Teams that are THIS deep don’t roll around too often, so the Nuggets definitely have a shot. It won’t be easy but if Coach Shaw can make them commit to playing defense (that’s a big if), they could play their way into one of the final two spots.
The Nuggets are definitely a team to look out for. If one of their young players can break out in 2015, Denver could be neck and neck with the more star-studded teams in the West.
Projected Starting 5:
If you look at the talent on Denver’s roster, it’s tough to determine who exactly should receive more minutes than the guy ahead of him. If we were on Coach Shaw’s staff, here are a few players whom we’d like to see get a ton of playing time.
G Gary Harris (Competing with Arron Afflalo, Randy Foye & Erick Green): Harris, the number 19 overall pick is a flat out stud. Both at Michigan State and early in the preseason, he’s shown the ability to knock down jumpers, create offense and play lockdown defense.
His age (19) and inexperience probably won’t serve him well this year but Harris could be a strong contributor to the lineup by midseason.
C JaVale McGee (Competing with Timofey Mozgov, JJ Hickson and Jusuf Nurkic): McGee was thought to be a franchise cornerstone after signing a 4 year/$44 million extension prior to last year. After missing most of the year with a stress fracture in his leg, JaVale looks to get back on track and provide energy on both ends.
Coach Shaw might play him alongside the improving Mozgov to form a huge front line attack. As long as McGee is out there, Denver has a chance to protect the paint.
G Nate Robinson (Competing with Ty Lawson, Foye and Green): Spark plug, dynamo, firecracker…whatever title you want to give Robinson, one thing is certain: he can fill up the scoreboard with the best of them. Nate’s game-changing play was missed after a partially torn ACL he suffered early last season.
Now back in action, he will provide excellent relief for Lawson and maintain a high-octane offense in the second unit.
F Darrell Arthur (Competing with Faried, JJ Hickson and Gallinari): Every team needs a big man who can stretch the floor. While Arthur is still working on his three-point range, he is a nice midrange shooter who can keep defenses honest.
He complements the big guys (McGee, Mozgov, Faried) well with his shooting and rebounding, so he could get an uptick in playing time in 2015.
F Wilson Chandler: If you haven’t already figured it, Denver is a balanced team that doesn’t exactly cater to any individual player. Since Chandler will be delegated to a backup role with the return of Gallo, he should receive plenty of time as the team’s Sixth Man.
When healthy, Chandler can get plenty of buckets, many of them coming from the long ball.
Best Case: Faried and/or Lawson break out and Denver is headed to the playoffs.
Worst Case: Parity (along with awful defense) is Denver’s worst enemy, leading to another low-lottery selection and a constant state of mediocrity.
3rd, Northwest Division (11th Western Conference), Will Miss Playoffs
“I don’t want no mediocre”- T.I.