Brian Shaw has a new game plan for the Denver Nuggets. The new mantra for the Nuggets is “wear ’em down, wear ’em out”, an attempt to add an element of grit and toughness to a franchise that has been bounced from the first round of playoffs nine times in the past 10 years.
George Karl’s run and gun approach is a thing of the past; Shaw wants to grind. With Shaw in charge, reports from Nuggets camp say the team will take on a tougher style of play, what Shaw described as “smashmouth basketball”.
Even so, expectations in Denver are less than they were a year ago. Shaw’s task of of steering a team that won 57 games in the regular season, but only managed two victories in the playoffs, is steep. Aside from losing head coach George Karl and general manager Masai Ujiri, the Nuggets also lost players that played significant roles in the rotation.
Corey Brewer – George Karl loved Brewer for his motor. Brewer was always in the thick of things on the court and was a bright spot on defense coming off the bench. His 12.1 points per game were an added bonus, often getting easy buckets on the break. The Nuggets will miss Brewer’s effort, especially if Shaw plans to wear down his opponents night after night.
Kosta Koufos – Koufos started at center for the Nuggets last season because of he was technically sound. The seven-footer doesn’t have any skills that will drop your jaw, but his consistency on the defensive end and his above average post game landed him the starting job. Having JaVale McGee made Koufos expendable, along with his poor playoff performance against Golden State.
Andre Iguodala- Iguodala was arguably the Nuggets’ most important player last season, and undoubtedly the biggest loss. Sure, he drove Nuggets’ fans insane with his pass-first mentality which resulted in a mere 13.0 points per game. But his ability to guard three different positions and fill up a box score (5.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game) make Iguodala incredibly difficult to replace.
Nate Robinson – At the very least, “Kryptonate” will provide loads of excitement. Robinson has the ability to fill up the cup off the bench and will add even more speed to an offense led by Ty Lawson. After an outstanding season with Chicago last season, Robinson will look to provide the same energy and scoring punch for the Nuggets.
Randy Foye – Entering his eighth season, the Nuggets are Foye’s fifth team. The reason he was brought to Denver is because of his three-point shooting. A career 38 percent three-point shooter, Foye shot 41 percent last season, putting him at second on the team behind Wilson Chandler (41.3 percent). The Nuggets will insert him into the starting lineup and expect a jolt in production from behind the arc.
J.J. Hickson – Hickson is an athletic power forard who has a good post game. He had a terrific season for the Portland Trail Blazers last season putting up solids as the starting center (12.7 points, 10.4 rebounds). Hickson will begin the season as the the starting power forward with Kenneth Faried coming off the bench.
The Nuggets will be successful if:
1.) They can get healthy. The season hasn’t started and the injuries are already piling up for the Nuggets. Wilson Chandler (hamstring) won’t be able to start the season and Danilo Gallinari is out indefinitely after tearing his ACL. IF the Nuggets can get healthy they suddenly have a team that can compete in the Western Conference.
2.) JaVale McGee can stay on the floor and be a factor. McGee has a well documented case of asthma that has limited his playing time among other issues on the court. If McGee can stay out of foul trouble, make good decisions, and breathe easy on the court, the Nuggets will be able to trust in him and let him evolve into the player many believe he can become. If he can, the Nuggets will have a top five center in the league.
3.) Ty Lawson can become an All-Star. Lawson is the Nuggets’ best player and they will need him to continue to progress in his role on the team and as an individual player. At this point, the next step for Lawson is to become an All-Star caliber player. If Lawson can make the jump, he will be one of the tougher players to contain in the league.
4.) One of the young players on the team has a breakout year. Whether that is Evan Fornier, Jordan Hamilton, or Quincy Miller, the Nuggets could use one of these young players to make an impact.
At the very best, Quincy Miller has the potential to be a player in the mold of a Paul George. He will get some time this season and the Nuggets will see if he lives up to the hype.
Hamilton is an athletic shooting guard who has three-point range, and Evan Fornier could continue to build on the success he had from a season ago. Anthony Randolph is another young player who could make an impact this season with his ability to rebound and his athleticism on offense.
Prediction: 52-30; 6th in West
When the Nuggets get all of the pieces together, this team is deeper than people think. They have depth at the guard positions as well as upfront. Don’t sleep on some of these young studs on the roster, and continuing progression of Kenneth Faried and Ty Lawson. With Kenneth Faried coming off the bench this season, he has a nice shot to win the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award.