Originally written on In The Neutral Zone  |  Last updated 11/3/13
Last season, the Denver Nuggets racked up the most wins in franchise history (post-ABA/NBA merger), going 57-25 during the regular season before losing a six-game series to the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Unfortunately, the offseason was a major setback for the squad, and it all started with the firing of George Karl, who was let go after leading the Nuggets to the playoffs in nine consecutive seasons. Shortly before his departure, Karl was named the NBA Coach of the Year for leading his team to 57 wins despite the lack of an All-Star on the roster. In addition to Karl, Denver also lost Andre Iguodala to a sign-and-trade, and Kosta Koufas via a Draft night trade. The absence of Iguodala’s versatility and Koufas’ production off the bench will be difficult to overcome, however, the biggest loss was experienced by the front office, which lost General Manager Masai Ujiri, the 2013 Executive of the Year, to the Toronto Raptors. Many expected Pete D’Alessandro, Denver’s Vice-President of Basketball Operations, to takeover the helm, yet D’Alessandro was hired away by the Sacramento Kings to become their new GM. In June, former New Orleans Assistant GM Tim Connelly was named Denver’s new General Manager, bringing a reputation of salary cap expertise and scouting proficiency with him to the Nuggets’ front office. To make up for the loss of Koufas, Denver signed JJ Hickson, an excellent rebounder who will provide frontcourt depth, but the signing that drew the most headlines was the addition of Nate Robinson. Due to the absence of Derrick Rose from the Bulls’ roster, Robinson filled in as Chicago’s starting point guard last season, helping to guide his team to the Conference Semifinals. This year, he figures to be the Nuggets’ second string point guard, backing up Ty Lawson, and battling Andre Miller for minutes. Overall, the Nuggets lost too many key pieces to take a step forward this season. The strength of the team will lie in its bench play, as Wilson Chandler, Andre Miller, Nate Robinson and J.J. Hickson are solid players who will prevent any drop-off in production between the first and second units. The major question will be whether the Nuggets can score enough to keep up with their Western Conference foes. The roster lacks a true go-to-scorer who can drop 20 points a night, and the perimeter combination of Randy Foye and Danilo Gallinari leaves much to be desired. Barring a trade, Denver is primed for a first round exit this year, and a spot in the mid-first round of the 2013 NBA Draft. Current Rotation and Projections (All projected statistics are from ESPN’s 2014 Projections) No. Player Name POS MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3PM 1 Ty Lawson PG 34.2 16.3 3 6.6 1.4 0.1 47.2% 1.2 2 Randy Foye SG 25.7 10.3 1.6 2.1 0.7 0.3 39.7% 1.9 3 Danilo Gallinari SF 29.4 14.3 4.6 2.2 0.8 0.4 41.7% 1.6 4 Kenneth Faried PF 30.2 12.7 9.9 1 1.1 1.2 55.9% 0 5 JaVale McGee C 28 12.8 7.9 0.5 0.6 2.8 56.4% 0 6 Wilson Chandler SF 29.7 14.5 5.7 1.6 1 0.6 45.4% 1.4 7 Andre Miller PG 23.4 8.6 2.7 4.1 0.8 0.1 46.7% 0.2 8 Nate Robinson PG 23.5 11.7 2.1 4 1 0.1 42.8% 1.5 9 J.J. Hickson C 26.6 11.5 8.9 1 0.6 0.6 52.7% 0 10 Evan Fournier SG 22.3 10.5 1.8 2.3 1 0.1 49.3% 1 11 Darrell Arthur PF 18.3 7.5 3.6 0.6 0.5 0.7 47.6% 0 12 Anthony Randolph PF 10.9 5.1 2.9 0.4 0.5 0.7 47.8% 0 2013-2014 Depth Chart POS No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 PG Ty Lawson Andre Miller Nate Robinson SG Randy Foye Evan Fournier Quincy Miller SF Danilo Gallinari Wilson Chandler Jordan Hamilton PF Kenneth Faried J.J. Hickson Darrell Arthur C JaVale McGee Timofey Mozgov - Player Contracts Key: (P)=Player Option (T)=Team Option (R)=Restricted Free-Agent Player Name POS AGE 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 Ty Lawson PG 25 $10.7 M $11.5 M $12.4 M $13.2 M JaVale McGee C 25 $10.7 M $11.2 M $12.0 M None Danilo Gallinari SF 25 $10.1 M $10.8 M $11.5 M None Wilson Chandler SF $6.34 M $6.75 M $7.17 M (T) None J.J. Hickson PF 25 $5.15 M $5.38 M $5.61 M None Andre Miller PG 37 $5.00 M $4.62 M None None Timofey Mozgov C 27 $4.40 M $4.65 M $4.95 M (T) None Darrell Arthur PF 25 $3.23 M $3.45 (P) None None Anthony Randolph PF 24 $1.75 M $1.82 M None None Kenneth Faried PF 23 $1.44 M $2.37 M (T) $4.43 M (R) None Evan Fournier SG 20 $1.42 M $1.48 M (T) $2.28 M (T) $3.27 M (R) Jordan Hamilton SF 23 $1.23 M $2.22 M (T) $3.28 M (R) None Quincy Miller SG 20 $788 K (T) $915 K $1.18 M (R) None Overall – – $61.65 M $60.39 M $41.57 M $13.21 M Team Needs: Starting Shooting Guard, Post Presence Position Needs: SG, PF While I am a fan of Randy Foye, he should not be a starting shooting guard in the NBA. He is a solid shooter from the perimeter, but lacks consistency and efficiency as a scorer. The bad news is that with the exception of Kenneth Faried and Ty Lawson, the Nuggets don’t possess many assets that they could flip for an above-averge 2-guard, and they won’t have a high enough pick to solve the problem through the Draft. This is why Denver should bite the bullet and trade away Kenneth Faried, a fan favorite who is a highlight waiting to happen. Faried and JaVale McGee are both below-average defenders, and putting them on the court together is a recipe for disaster, especially when you go up against the Clippers, Grizzlies, Lakers, and Spurs at least five times a year. By executing a trade, the Nuggets could hit two birds with one stone by acquiring a go-to scorer at the shooting guard position and rectifying their interior defense by inserting Hickson into the lineup. On Draft Night, the Nuggets could go one of two directions: shooting guard or frontcourt depth. There is a serious logjam in the Denver frontcourt right now, with McGee, Faried, Hickson, Arthur, and Mozgov all battling for minutes. The problem is that none of the bigs are reliable scorers from the low-block. Adding a post presence like Mitch McGary, Jarnell Stokes or Dakari Johnson would add a consistent low-post scorer, while bolstering the team’s interior D. Furthermore, both Darrell Arthur and Anthony Randolph come off the books after next season, freeing up a little wiggle room on the depth chart. The shooting guard pickings are weak in this year’s Draft, but the Nuggets could find a potential starter in the mid/late first round. Wayne Selden, Aaron Harrison, Sam Dekker, Rasheed Sulaimon and Mario Hezonja are all potential selections. Dekker could be the target, as he provides solid length at 6’7”, and is an underrated finisher at the basket. Look for the Draft stocks of Selden, Harrison and Hezonja to rise over the next several months, putting them out of the Nuggets’ range. Potential Prospects: First Round SF Sam Dekker – Wisconsin – 6’7” 200 Pounds PF Mitch McGary – Michigan – 6’10” 250 Pounds C Dakari Johnson – Kentucky – 6’11” 265 Pounds SG Mario Hezonja – Croatia – 6’6” 200 Pounds PF Jarnell Stokes – Tennessee – 6’8” 250 Pounds Second Round PF Patric Young – Florida – 6’9” 250 Pounds SG PJ Hairston – UNC – 6’5” 225 Pounds SG Joe Harris – Virginia – 6’6” 220 Pounds PF Dwight Powell – Stanford – 6’9” 220 Pounds SG CJ Wilcox – Washington – 6’5” 180 Pounds 1 total views, 1 views today
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