The Nuggets didn’t have the most favorable offseason. They lost Andre Iguodala, one of their most valuable players, in free agency. George Karl stepped out as head coach and GM Masai Ujiri left to run the Toronto Raptors’ front office. While Denver still has a number of talented players, this season will be a challenge with the way the offseason went. Are the Nuggets still good enough to make the playoffs? Here is my projection of the Denver Nuggets 2013-14 season:
Guards (B): Ty Lawson, Randy Foye, Andre Miller, Evan Fournier, Nate Robinson
Ty Lawson is coming off a very strong season in which he averaged 19.3 points, 8.0 assists, and 1.7 steals per 40 minutes. Lawson showed an impressive ability to control the tempo last season while still moving up and down the floor at a fast pace. He also shot 46 percent from the filed, which is really good for a player who’s under six feet tall. With the big loss of Iguodala, Denver may have a hole to fill at shooting guard. They signed combo guard Randy Foye who’s proven to be most useful coming off the bench. Foye doesn’t make much of an impact defensively. 37-year-old Andre Miller remains a backup guard who is heavily depended on to provide offense off the bench. Nate Robinson has joined yet another team where he’s expected to do what he does: score the ball in spurts and give the team an energy lift with his fierce in-game emotions. Not many people know about Evan Fournier but he may very well be Denver’s future shooting guard. He has nice size, versatility, and a pretty good jumpshot.
Forwards (B+): Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, Jordan Hamilton, J.J. Hickson, Darrell Arthur, Danilo Gallinari (IR)
Once Danilo Gallinari returns from his ACL injury, Denver will have tons of depth at the forward position, perhaps even too much. I’m not sure how the minutes are going to be distributed to all these guards and forwards while keeping all the players satisfied. Wilson Chandler is a solid starter who has reached his peak. He’s a pretty consistent defender but he’s very up-and-down on the offensive side. Kenneth Faried is almost sure to be a bright spot for this team. Faried somehow manages to be wherever the ball lands, collecting rebound after rebound. His offensive is untraditional but fairly effective. Hickson and Arthur will very likely be battling for minutes at the four. I’d give the edge to J.J. Hickson, who averaged a double-double with Portland last season. A healthy Gallo obviously provides the team with a very dangerous outside shooting threat every time down the floor.
Centers (B): JaVale McGee, Anthony Randolph, Timofey Mosgov
JaVale McGee is incredibly gifted with his 7-0 frame and extraordinarily long defense. His presence in the paint is extremely bothersome for opponents trying to attack the rim. McGee averaged a whopping 4.3 blocks per 40 minutes last season. On the other hand, McGee’s offensive skills are very slow to develop as he doesn’t really have any go-to moves or touch from anywhere on the court. Randolph is a very similar player to McGee. He has the same type of body and playing style as well as an inconsistent offensive game. Mosgov is another big body who will battle for playing time if healthy.
Defense (B-): Losing Andre Iguodala is really going to make their defensive production take a hit. Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee give Denver’s frontline great defensive stability. Wilson Chandler is also consistent on defense, usually not having much of a problem sticking to his man and contesting all the shots. However, Denver’s mix of guards will likely trouble this defense a lot. On top of that, the Nuggets like to run up and down the floor, which limits the amount of defense they play.
Shooting (B): Denver does have a handful of players who are capable of shooting the ball at a high level. However, no one player can consistently create his own shot every night. You might say Ty Lawson is an exception to that but I still think his height gives him trouble getting off shots at times. Although Gallinari is known as one of the deadliest outside shooters, his shot selection isn’t all that great and defenses know he just wants to let loose from deep range. Foye and Nate Robinson can both fill it up from outside, and both are especially good when they get hot. Shooting is likely going to keep these guys up and running efficiently.
Experience (B+): With this incredibly deep roster, Denver has players who have been around the league long enough and who understand their roles on the court. It’s just a matter of how they’ll fit together and how the new players will adapt, as well as new head coach Brian Shaw.
Standing – 10th West: This would be an unusually steep fall in the standings as Denver finished 3rd in the West with a record of 57-25 last year. There are just too many differences to overcome this season. I see the Nuggets being a borderline playoff team.