Well, who wouldve guessed? The Denver Nuggets are just as relevant as they ever were with Carmelo Anthony.
Thats not meant to trash Anthony, but remember when everyone thought the Nuggets were headed for a decade-long rebuilding period when Anthony was traded to New York two seasons ago? Remember when the Nuggets lineup consisted of Anthony and Allen Iverson and everyone figured they were Finals-bound?
Now the Nuggets main names include Danilo Gallinari, Andre Iguodala and Kenneth Faried. Doesnt have quite the sizzle of Melo and (the origina) AI, but as weve seen, pizzazz doesnt always mean success.
Truth is, these Nuggets should be able to run and gun and have just as much fun as any team Denver has seen in some time.
Besides Gallinari, Iggy and Faried, the lineup features speedy point guard Ty Lawson, kind of a one-man Disneyland with the ball. He scoops, he scores, he tosses the occasional alley-oop. When he does, athletic center JaVale McGee is often the man on the finishing-the-business end.
None of this is to say the Nuggets are Finals-bound. But they know their roles, they know coach George Karl, they know how to play hard and play together.
That counts a lot in these days of teams longing for The Next Great Superstar. But as the Nuggets have discovered within the past decade, that type of thinking doesnt always work.
What they have now, in fact, seems to work every bit as well.
Last season: 38-28, lost to L.A. Lakers in first round of playoffs.
Coach: George Karl (25th year, 1,074-731)
Top returnees: SF Danilo Gallinari, PG Kenneth Faried, PG Ty Lawson, C JaVale McGee.
Key additions: SG Andre Iguodala, PF Anthony Randolph.
X-Factor: Faried. You could make the case that he put together the NBAs second-best rookie season last year (behind Clevelands Kyrie Irving). Faried immediately became the garbage man the Nuggets needed, a young player willing to do the dirty work with the ability to score when needed. If Faried continues to grow, the Nuggets should stay right on track to eventual Western Conference authority.
Strengths: Offensively, the Nuggets are mostly an opportunistic running team, keeping the ball moving and hitting the open man. What a concept, huh? Iguodala should fit right in, and perhaps flourish as a constsient scorer like he did during his early years in Philadelphia. When things slow down, Gallinari has proved to be a dangerous weapon in the half-court, his size and shooting stroke enabling him to score from just about anywhere. With good health, we may be talking about the next Dirk Nowitzki here.
Weaknesses: The Nuggets could still use a little work at the defensive end -- which is important because defense is the best way to start the break. Too often, they settle for taking the ball out following a made basket by the opposition. Other than Wilson Chandler and Andre Miller, there isnt a whole lot of proven and consistent depth here, either.
Outlook: People forget that the Nuggets took the playoff-savvy Lakers to seven games in the first round last season. They did it via cohesiveness and simply beating L.A. down the floor. That type of experience, while painful at the time, only builds confidence and motivation. With those things, the Nuggets will be a true threat.
2012-13 schedule: Link
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