The Denver Nuggets nearly pulled off a fairly significant upset in the first round of the NBA Western Conference Playoffs before falling to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games. Their depth has served them well the past two seasons but can that style of play get them to the next level? That is one of the questions management must explore this off-season.
Denver Nuggets (38-28 last year)
2011-12 Season Summary:
Balance, balance, and more balance. That was the key for the Nuggets this past season as ten players who finished the season on their roster averaged at least eight points per game. Those numbers are a bit misleading since injuries limited the court time of several of those players. Regardless, it’s a formula that George Karl has adopted in Denver since the franchise dealt Carmelo Anthony and one that has led the team to have one of the most potent offenses in the NBA and gain a respectable amount of success.
Leading the charge for the Nuggets was their backcourt of Ty Lawson and Aaron Afflalo. Both players made significant strides with their game which helped offset the separate ankle and thumb injuries that sidelined Danilo Gallinari for 23 games. Almost as important for Denver was the leadership and experience that veteran ironman Andre Miller brought to the backcourt. Newcomers Corey Brewer and Rudy Fernandez played important roles off the bench though Fernandez’s season was cut short due to a back injury. Wilson Chandler was supposed to add even more depth after his stint playing professional ball in China during the strike, but his return to the NBA ended after just eight games because of a bum hip.
Perhaps the most surprising part of the Nuggets’ season was the trading of veteran big man, Nene who the team had just signed to a long-term extension last off-season. Dealing Nene to the Wizards for JaVale McGee brought a younger, more defensive-minded player which was needed due to Chris Andersen’s injury and off-the-court issues. Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufus added more size and depth inside which most NBA teams always seem to covet.
After failing to immediately crack the rotation, rookie Kenneth Faried became a fan favorite due to his hustle and aggressive style of play (and quite honestly, emerged as one of my favorite rookies of this past season.) His energy and ability to crash the boards added a missing dimension from the Nuggets roster. Al Harrington had a nice bounce back season after a rough inaugural year in Denver and accepted his role as the top scoring threat off the bench.
2012-13 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Timofey Mozgov/*JaVale McGee/Kosta Koufus/Chris Andersen
PF: Kenneth Faried/Al Harrington
SF: Danilo Gallinari/Wilson Chandler/Jordan Hamilton
SG: Aaron Afflalo/Corey Brewer/*Rudy Fernandez
PG: Ty Lawson/Julyan Stone
NBA Free Agents:
PG-Andre Miller (UFA)
*C-JaVale McGee (RFA)
*SG-Rudy Fernandez (RFA)
2012-13 Team Salary: approximately $48.1 million
1. Pay McGee?:
While swapping Nene for McGee temporarily saved the Nuggets some money, that won’t be the case this off-season since McGee is a restricted free agent and due for a significant pay raise. The question for Denver becomes how much is the team willing to pay to keep him around? They have recently given long-term extensions to Gallinari, Afflalo, and Chandler, plus they will have to pony up some cash for Ty Lawson in the near future since he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. Denver does have the advantage of being able to match any offer McGee signs, but anything in the $10-$12 million per year range could be out of their price range.
2. Re-sign Miller:
At 36 years old, Andre Miller isn’t near as productive as he was a few years ago. However, his leadership and ability to distribute the basketball still makes him a very valuable asset on a still rather youthful team. If Miller can land a starting job elsewhere though, he could once again be on his way out of the Mile High City.
3. 3-Point Shooter:
While Denver defended the three-point line better than any other team in the league, they struggled shooting it from distance finishing 24th in the league in three-point percentage. Getting Gallinari healthy should help that number improve but the Nuggets should still be proactive in looking to add a long distance specialist off their bench which would only make them a more dangerous offensive team.
OTHER NBA TEAM NEEDS PAGES:
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NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
NEW YORK KNICKS
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.