- NBA Rank: 11
Conference Rank: 7
- Denver Nuggets
Be vigilant, for nothing one achieves lasts forever.Tahar Ben Jelloun
The Nuggets are going from a franchise-best regular season to being a fringe playoff team. Their offseason moves have been hit-and-miss. They have some bright spots moving forward. Having said that, as a Nuggets fan I am not overly optimistic.
Andre Iguodala has always been one of my favorite players. Last season the Nuggets acquired him in a Moneyball-inspired move that involved them giving up very little for one of the best players in the game. In spite of George Karl yanking their minutes around, Kenneth Faried, Kosta Koufos, and JaVale McGee all played at a high level. Somehow Andre Miller defied Father Time and Danilo Gallinari was finally healthy (however briefly)!
It wasn't all perfect though. Corey Brewer, who should not get heavy minutes or take a lot of shots, proceeded to do both (George Karl is just going to be George Karl). Lawson, apparently trying to make me look bad, had a down season after signing a big extension. Wilson Chandler got healthy enough to get on the floor, and because he was Wilson Chandler, this was a problem.
Regardless, the good outweighed the bad. The Nuggets put up their best regular season, flirted with getting a number one seed, and for a brief, beautiful moment, they were a contender.
But when the playoffs came around, injuries to Gallinari and George Karl's tendency to use...creative....playoff rotations both collided for a coaching disaster and a first-round exit to an inferior team. We did mention George Karl was their coach right?
|Andre Iguodala ||2779||30||.172||10.0|
|Corey Brewer ||2003||27||.018||.8|
|Kosta Koufos ||1817||24||.183||6.9|
|Julyan Stone ||28||24||.199||.1|
Indicates that the player is no longer with the team.
The Nuggets dropped Corey Brewer and George Karl in the offseason. These were both good choices. But there were plenty of bad moves as well. Toronto grabbed Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri. Andre Iguodala hopped ship to Golden State. The club traded Kosta Koufos, a surprisingly solid starting center, to Memphis in return for Darrell Arthur, a terrible backup big man. In my mind, John Hollinger did this to make up for the digs I've given him over the years. Or perhaps Kroenke owed him money.
Add that all up and one third of the Nuggets wins and minutes walked out the door in the offseason. It's hard not to think that the result is a weaker team.
|Randy Foye ||2.1||2287||30||.021||1.0|
|J.J. Hickson ||4.8||1594||25||.105||3.5|
|Nate Robinson ||1.2||1218||29||.060||1.5|
|Darrell Arthur ||4.2||401||25||.021||.2|
Indicates that the player is new to the team.
The effect of Masai's absense became apparent very quickly. There was cause for optimism when the Nuggets picked up J.J. Hickson. Hickson had a great season last year. But Randy Foye, Nate Robinson, and Darrell Arthur? That is a terrible set of pickups. Our projections reflect that.
The end result? A mid 40s team and a probale 6 to 8 seed that is set to lose in the first round. Also known among Nuggets fan as "2004".
Projected Playoff Rotation: Lawson, Manimal, Foye, JaVale, Gallinari, Chandler, Nate and Hickson. They really need to get a better Shooting guard if they don't want the Rockets, Spurs or Grizzlies to roll them in Round 1. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Signing Nate Robinson when a) your starting PG is already short enough to look JJ Barea dead in the eye and b) you've got Andre Miller? That is pure genius!).
I'd feel bad not ending with some optimism. Lawson's set for a bounceback season. The Nuggets' new coach Brian Shaw, who learned at the feet of Phil Jackson, will likely give more minutes to Faried and McGee. Gallinari and Chandler could turn it around. I know this is grasping at straws. The truth is the Nuggets have downgraded their roster. Yes, they have Lawson, Faried, and Hickson at great contracts. That means under smart leadership this team could return to being a contender in a short amount of time.
The frustrating thing as a fan is that they already had a contender last year. It's hard not to focus on what could haven been.
The Second Opinion Arturo offers hope
Dre, hey, it'll be ok.
Say it with me: the Nuggets traded George Karl for Phil Jackson's number one lieutenant, who also happened to design the best defense in the league last year in Indiana. This will be a scrappy, young (12th youngest in league) likeable team that'll win a bunch of games. If Shaw is anything like his mentor he'll play his best guys and his young players will improve.
The biggest issue I see is that George Karl, for all his other faults, was a remarkable x and o's coach. I do think getting that new offense together will be a challenge. Denver should also actively be looking to add some more three point shooting.