After casting off Marcus Camby for nothing, allowing Eduardo Najera to walk away for nothing and drafting...well...nothing, if this incarnation of the Denver Nuggets are to make the playoffs in the even tougher Western Conference this season each player must improve in at least one area. So here is my wish list for the remainder of the Nuggets' off-season...
I wish for...
...Carmelo Anthony to keep his weight down.
Everyone is going to say that Melo's first priority should be to improve his defense (as sort of exhibited in Beijing), but I disagree. I still believe Melo's physique is his primary area of concern. As Doug Collins pointed out on air, Melo looked a bit sluggish and out of shape in the first few Olympic games. Once he seemed to get in better physical condition, Melo looked much sharper on both ends of the floor. That being said, he only played about 17 minutes per game - not 37+ like he will in Denver this season. I hope Kobe Bryant gave Melo tips on how to keep the weight down but the strength up. Otherwise, I fear that Melo will gradually morph into a Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson type frame that he'll never recover from.
...Nene and K-Mart to spend every waking minute on developing a consistent mid-range jump shot.
By relinquishing Camby, the Nuggets will be officially throwing Nene and Kenyon Martin to the Western Conference wolves - i.e. front court players twice their size and twice their ability in most cases. Therefore, more than in any other season, it is his absolutely essential for the Nuggets only two "big men" to develop a consistent, Karl Malone-esque mid-range jump shot. I can't emphasize this enough. If opposing centers are forced to cover Nene and K-Mart outside the key, this opens up the Nuggets offense significantly. Otherwise, the giants at center on other teams will just lay back and pad their rebound and block stats if neither Nene nor K-Mart can keep them honest.
...Allen Iverson to rest, rest, rest.
In 2007-08, for the third consecutive season A.I. finished first in minutes played per game in the NBA and there's no reason to believe this will change in 2008-09. Unlike Melo and Nene, A.I. remarkably doesn't have to hit the gym all summer to keep himself in shape and thus, I hope he's getting ample rest this off-season.
...J.R. Smith to improve his three-point shooting.
You're probably thinking: "Huh? Are you nuts? J.R.'s a 40% three-point shooter!" True, but he's an erratic three-point shooter. While J.R. put up some mesmerizing three-point shooting nights last season (like 7-8 against Cleveland in one game and 6-11 in another, 8-14 against Miami and later Chicago, 7-12 against Memphis, 6-9 against the Clippers and 5-8 against Houston) he had equally as many clunkers from behind the arc (like his 2-11 performance against Sacramento in one game and 0-5 in another, 1-9 against Golden State, 3-10 against Detroit, 1-6 against Boston, 0-5 against New Jersey and 2-7 against Minnesota). With a new contract and presumably more minutes to match, we'll need much more consistency from J.R.
...George Karl to develop an enormous chip on his shoulder.
With Nuggets fans, his own players, this blog, Mark Kiszla, Dan Patrick and even his own bosses the Kroenke Cronies (as evident by them not even informing their coach about the Camby trade and sandbagging him with an odd collection of talent) questioning his competence at every level, Nuggets head coach George Karl must be feeling somewhat slighted by now. Granted, he gets his $6 million over the next two years guaranteed no matter what he does (similar to what sports bloggers make I hear). But if Karl has any sense of professional pride whatsoever he'll want to coach like the fiery George we saw from his Seattle days when he coached with a me-against-the-world mentality, knowing that he'd be banished back to the CBA if he failed in the NBA again.