Key Bench Players: PG Andre Miller, SF Wilson Chandler, C Kostas Koufas, C Timofey Mozgov, F Anthony Randolph
Notable offseason additions: SG Andre Igoudala, SG Evan Fournier (1st round draft pick), F Quincy Miller (2nd round draft pick), F Anthony Randolph
Offseason subtractions: SG Arron Afflalo, F Al Harrington, SG Rudy Fernandez, F Chris "Birdman" Anderson (via the Amnesty)
The biggest move of the NBA offseason saw C Dwight Howard finally relocate from Disney World to Disney Land. A little talked about wrinkle in that trade was that the Denver Nuggets sent out forgettable players F Al Harrington and G Arron Afflalo (and I love you Al, will never forget the 21/5 you dropped in D'Antoni's first year in the Mecca) and got back Olympian and NBA All-Star Andre Igoudala. Hash tag NOT BAD!
No need to delve into how a team can send out a good but overpaid 2-guard and a forward who loves nothing more than to chuck 3's and get back one of the 12 best Americans in the world, a 6'6" perimeter beast who can defend any shooting guard or small forward and can run the offense too. This is the NBA we live in and have grown accustomed to. What we will delve into is what is the ceiling for this Nuggets squad, just two years after trading "franchise player" Carmelo Anthony (yeah, it's in quotes for a reason), the Nuggets look poised to be a helluva lot better than Melo's new team, the hapless New York Knickerbockers.
In last year's playoffs, a young Denver team had the Lakers on the brink of elimination in round 1, leading 3-2 before ultimately losing in 7 games. "Little Engine that Could" Ty Lawson pushes the team at a breakneck pace, and he may be the fastest guy in the League with the ball in his hands. Last year's rookie sensation Kenneth Faried, nicknamed the "Manimal" because of his freakish athletic ability, plays as hard and as hungry as anybody in the League. The fastest guy and the hardest worker, on the same squad. But wait, there's more.
Is this the year tantalizing Italian Danillo Gallinari puts together an All-Star campaign? The 6'10" small forward who Mike D'Antoni once labeled "the best shooter I've ever seen" put up a solid 17 and 5 last year before hurting his ankle. Gallo will be 24 years old this season, but already has been in the NBA for four years and has solid career averages of 14 points and 5 rebounds. Will the other former Knick small forward Wilson Chandler finally stay healthy? He was a non-factor after returning from China last season due to injury, but when healthy Chandler is a defensive menace who flies under the radar.
We haven't even got to the Bigs yet, and if we're talking about the Denver Bigs we have to start with Pierre. Who is Pierre? Apparently, it's the name of JaVale McGee's alter ego. In one sentence, that sums up JaVale McGee. Talented big who is prone to immaturity and goofiness, does McGee have the focus to contribute over an entier season? Is Russian Timofey Mozgov anything other than the guy Blake dunked on? How about Anthony Randolph, the uber-talented 7-footer who oh-so-badly wants to play point guard and "do his thing".
A lot of questions surround the young'uns on this squad, but the fact remains: this is a young team with some blue-chip prospects and a whole lot of talent, and now they have Iguodala to tie it all together. Coach George Karl will certainly think of new and creative ways to employ the many skills Iguodala brings to the table. Going into Denver and playing this team is not going to be fun, as there may not be any other team that can match their speed, athleticism, and length, to say nothing of the fact that they will have "home court" in the truest sense at elevation.
Best Case Scenario: Iguodala shines in Karl's wide-open system, and Lawson pushes the offense to new heights. Gallinari, finally healthy, puts his offensive arsenal together and averages over 20 points per game. Kenneth Faried continues to play as hard as he did in college, and makes all those GMs that passed over him think "why didn't I realize this guy was such a beast?" Either Anthony Randolph or Javale McGee have a newfound maturity that pushes them into highlight reels on a daily basis and conversation for most improved player. They make the playoffs and actually win a series, advancing farther than the Knicks have under anti-hero Carmelo, before bowing out to one of the superpowers in six.
Absolute Apocalypse: Those injury woes rear their ugly head again, and both Gallinari and Chandler miss significant chunks of time. "Pierre" acts like a clown and is generally a distraction, just like he was in Washington. Even the talents of Iguodala, Faried, and Lawson can't carry this team into the playoffs, and they fail to make the playoffs and fail to stink enough to get a good draft pick.
Expected outcome: 2nd in the Northwest Division, 5th in the Western Conference
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