NBA Roundtable

2012 Team Preview: Denver Nuggets

In Season Previews on October 12, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Denver Nuggets

Staters

  • PG – Ty Lawson
  • SG – Andre Iguodala
  • SF – Danilo Gallinari
  • PF – Kenneth Faried
  • C  – Timofey Mozgov

A decent but unexceptional starting unit. Their main strength is on the wings with Andre Iguodala (top six SG) and Danilo Gallinari (top ten SF). They have a good starting PG in Ty Lawson (middle of the pack). Their starting big men, Faried and Mozgov, leave a lot to be desired and are both weak starters.

Andre Iguodala is the best player on the team. Effective either as a power guard or as a quick forward. Iggy has exceptional athleticism to go along with good size at 6-6 220lbs. Along with Tony Allen, Iguodala is one of the two best defensive stoppers in the league on the wing. Capable of defending all three perimeter positions and can even play a little power forward defensively too. A very strong rebounding two guard or solid rebounding SF. A high level ball-handler and passer/playmaker for a wing. Iguodala has improved his jump-shooting some but is closer to decent/average than a strong shooter. Iguodala is a strong post-up threat at SG but relies more on quickness/slashing when facing bigger defenders at SF. A very talented and well-rounded basketball player.

In terms of shooting guards, I would rate Wade and Kobe as the two best in the league. Then a trio of Manu Ginobili, James Harden and Joe Johnson behind them. I would have Iguodala in that next slot just ahead of Eric Gordon. As a small forward, I would rank Iguodala similarly. I would have LeBron, Durant and Melo as my top three. Then probably Pierce and Rudy Gay. Then Iguodala in 6th place. So a highly effective player at either position.

Danilo Gallinari is the other star talent on the roster. More of a low level star than a big star. A third option on a strong team. Gallinari is a combo forward who can operate as either a power three or a stretch four. His shooting range causes matchup problems for power forwards while his size, power and foul-drawing causes problems for most small forwards. At 6-10 and with brilliant shooting range and ability to draw fouls at a high clip, Danilo Gallinari is a very effective offensive weapon. In terms of defense, Gallinari has become a very good position defender and learned how to use his size/length to good effect. He is lacking in quickness but he makes up for it with good smarts. As a power forward, Gallinari lacks the bulk to defend bigger fours but can function defensively against most lesser talents. Gallinari will start at SF but will play a lot of time at PF also. Probably splitting his playing time between the two positions.

My main concern with Gallinari at this point is that many of his big scoring nights still seem to come against weaker defensive teams/players. I want to see him become more consistently effective against high level defensive forwards / teams. That for me is the next step for him as a player.

Ty Lawson is a lightening quick point guard who plays an intelligent and efficient floor game. A solid shooter. A solid passer. Can beat his defender consistently but his lack of size forces him to be more judicial in choosing his shot-attempts. A very good ball-handler who avoids turnovers. Defensively, a good pressure defender but his size limits him on shot-contests and general team defense. A middle of the pack starting PG with limited upside.

Kenneth Faried is a player who is gotten a lot of praise but I feel most of that praise is premature and currently unwarranted. Faried is an immensely talented rebounder and possession creator but both his offense and defense leave a lot to be desired.

Defensively, Faried has shown himself to be a fairly average defender at the PF position. Better at team defense than in man-to-man situations. Still learning how to defend on the perimeter after not playing there in college. This lack of high level defense puts increased pressure on his fellow big man to be a high level defender. Unfortunately, most of those high level defensive centers are limited offensively or lack range on their jump-shots.

Offensively, Faried cannot make a shot outside of 5 feet of the basket which limits his team considerably. None of Denver’s centers are capable jump-shooters (McGee, Koufos, Mozgov) so playing Faried alongside them means that Denver has negative spacing offensively so the effectiveness of the rest of the players declines due to Faried’s presence on the court. Last year, in order to get more jump-shooting on the floor alongside Faried, George Karl was forced to play Al Harrington instead of one of his centers. This forced Denver into a lineup that lacked defensive integrity.

The main issue to take away from this is – Faried is a difficult player to play alongside. His lack of shooting makes it difficult for teams to play effective lineups in terms of offense and defense. If we talk about the ideal partner for Faried, we are talking about a high level defender who is a strong jump-shooting big man. One of the rarest players in the basketball. Off the top of my head, Kevin Garnett is the only player that comes to mind.

A terrific rebounder and possession creator but until Faried combines that with improved play either offensively (mid-range to long two point range jump-shooting) and/or defensively (high level defender), Faried is not fit to be more than a 15-20 minute a night backup PF on a title contender. He is simply too limited as an offensive/defensive player despite his wonderful work on the backboards.

This brings us to the final starting position and it’s the one that faces the most competition. There are three players competing for minutes – Timofey Mozgov, Kosta Koufos and JaVale McGee. McGee has the most raw talent but he is still undisciplined and it sounds like George Karl wants to continue bringing him off the bench for the time being (to pair him with Andre Miller). Koufos is a very limited offensive player and so-so defender but has become a strong rebounder.

Mozgov is their strongest post defender, has very good size at 7-1 260lbs combined with good athleticism/mobility and has a little bit of a jump shot offensively. Unfortunately, Mozgov’ fundamentals are lacking. Especially in terms of awareness/positioning on team defense. These lack of fundamentals lead to low minutes and his NBA coaches (D’Antoni, Karl) regularly losing faith in him which in turn causes confidence problems for Mozgov. So not only does he have basketball problems but he regularly ends up building up mental difficulties about them and his overall game due to impatient coaching. Mozgov is also an indifferent / weak rebounder.

Overall, this is a team with a strong perimeter grouping but a well dodgy big man duo.

Bench

  • PG – Andre Miller, Anthony Carter
  • SG –  Corey Brewer, Evan Fournier, Julyan Stone
  • SF – Wilson Chandler, (Andre Iguodala), Jordan Hamilton, Quincy Miller
  • PF – (Danilo Gallinari), Anthony Randolph
  • C  – JaVale McGee, Kosta Koufos

This is the main strength for the Nuggets – their bench. Denver has one of the best 2-3 benches, if not the best bench, in the NBA.

Andre Miller is the best backup point guard in the NBA. A good floor general and playmaker. A solid scorer. A very smart player who regularly brought Denver back into games last year when they had slow starts and pushed the lead on when they started well. One of the top five or six bench players in the league last season. Anthony Carter gives Denver a steady third string PG.

Wilson Chandler is the next best piece on the bench. At 6-8 230lbs with good athleticism, Wilson Chandler is a three position player (SG, SF, PF). His versatility and well-rounded game will allow Denver to create (or negate) matchup problems on a daily basis. Chandler is a good defender/rebounder and solid well-rounded scorer.

JaVale McGee is the next biggest threat off the bench and arguably the most talented of the bench. One of the most incredible athletes in the league at 7-0 with a 7-6 wingspan and armed with quickness, agility and explosiveness of a perimeter player; McGee is one of the most incredible physical specimens in the NBA. Unfortunately however, McGee is a knucklehead who has no clue how to exploit those exceptional physical talents. He is still young though and has massive room for improvement. McGee is Denver’s best chance at lifting themselves up from low seed playoff team to genuine title-contender.

That leaves us a perimeter trio of Evan Fournier, Corey Brewer and Jordan Hamilton. Not sure what to make of Fournier but his stat-line was unimpressive in a so-so French League last season. Jordan Hamilton is a legitimate NBA prospect but minutes will be hard to come by next year with Iggy, Gallinari and Wilson Chandler taking up most (if not all) of the small forward minutes. Corey Brewer is a long armed defensive menace who does a brilliant job of forcing turnovers and running in transition. He will need to become a more consistent perimeter threat to keep his minutes now that Wilson Chandler is back.

And onto the other bigs, Anthony Randolph and Kosta Koufos. Koufos is one of the best third string centers in the league and would be a middle of the pack primary backup center. A productive rebounder and good finisher around the basket but needs to become a better defensive player. Anthony Randolph is a strong possession creator but a dodgy defender and an ineffective offensive weapon. A lot like JaVale McGee, Randolph has incredible physical talent but is a knucklehead who hasn’t come close to fulfilling his potential. I do not expect Randolph to play much next season.

Danilo Gallinari will play the most minutes at PF behind Kenneth Faried. None of Denver’s actual big men can make a jump shot so George Karl will need Gallinari’s jump-shooting at power forward to make his offense flow properly.

Overall

The Denver Nuggets are a good playoff caliber team but lack enough top tier talent to truly threaten to win the Western Conference. Probably the 6th or 7th best team in the West.

They are better built to succeed in the regular season than playoffs.

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