Let's get one thing out of the way: this was the first of seven preseason games to be played, and the Clippers will get another shot at our Nuggets (on Thursday, October 25th, televised on TNT) before the preseason wraps up. There's a lot of minutes left to be played in this exhibition schedule, and ongoing adjustments to starting lineups, rotations and minutes are a certainty. With that being said, there's a few big things that stood out to me:
- George Karl was not joking around when he said that training camp (and by extension, preseason performance) will tell him who plays at the center spot, not just giving it to McGee simply because of his nice new contract - and JaVale, by all accounts, was very disappointing against the Clippers. He didn't start, played fewer minutes than Timofey Mozgov and Anthony Randolph, missed 6 of 8 shots and was repeatedly stuffed by DeAndre Jordan. Meanwhile, Mozgov put up some solid if unspectacular minutes, and Kosta Koufos appears to actually be even better than he was last year, at first blush.
Clearly, JaVale still appears to be working Olajuwon's tutelage into his game and we can hope that this was simply an aberration against a stout young center in his own right. It does, however, further reinforce the narrative that it might be best to bring JaVale off the bench with Andre Miller during the regular season until that chemistry with Ty Lawson finally emerges.
- Shooting concerns? What shooting concerns? Jordan Hamilton is going to fill in just fine as the go-to scorer for the Nuggets. We saw flashes of J-Ham's ability last season, and it's carried over from summer league into the preseason this year. Hamilton drained 3 of 6 from beyond the arc, and that stroke looks awfully reminiscent of former polarizing Nugget knucklehead J.R. Smith.
He's confident from deep and has a great, quick release that is hard to defend. Additionally, J-Ham is significantly buoyed by the fact that he's shown virtually none of the character issues that have plagued J.R. throughout his career, while bringing a similar degree of athleticism and shooting ability. If Danilo Gallinari goes cold, look for Karl to start getting Hamilton much more involved in the offense. Hamilton is also a tenacious defender, and with more minutes - potentially alongside Andre Iguodala? - can create lots of problems for the opposing teams on the perimeter.
If we must have small ball (and we will), this is an appealing lineup to me:
- Ty Lawson
- Jordan Hamilton
- Andre Iguodala
- Danilo Gallinari
- Anthony Randolph
Now, before I get killed for suggesting Randolph play at the 5, let's think about past Nuggets' history: Karl loves to play small and fast to create as much pace advantage as possible, especially at home. There's also precedent for Randolph playing center for other teams, with some mixed/dubious results, but who knows - the Nuggets seem to love taking "project players" and turning them into forces in their own rights. That would be a very tough group to keep up with. Lobs everywhere!
Oh, who am I kidding. We all know Karl is going to play Lawson alongside Andre Miller with Hamilton at the 3, Iguodala at the 4, and Kenneth Faried at the 5. Book it.
- Danilo Gallinari put up a very Danilo Gallinari line, with 15 points on 4 of 9 shooting, 5 assists, 2 rebounds, and no turnovers. Reassuringly, 3 of Gallinari's nine buckets were threes. The Nuggets need Gallinari to be capable of being a "stretch 4" threat to space the floor for the sake of McGee and Faried. If he can return to his formerly sharpshooting self, the Nuggets are going to have some great high pick and roll/drive and kick options. Gallinari continues to impress me as a potential point-forward playmaker. We know that Gallo is capable of some very nifty passing, and if he can start averaging 3 or 4 assists a game the offensive production of this squad is going to be even more potent.
- In what was probably the most teeth-gnashingly frustrating development of this first game, Corey Brewer looked like he actually worked on his shot in the offseason, hitting on 7 of 8 from the floor and both attempts from 3. Corey Brewer's a great energy guy, to be sure, but he's been an absolutely atrocious shooter during his entire NBA tenure. If he can sustain this level of shooting - and that's a very big if - he's going to force Karl to put him in the rotation with Iguodala, Hamilton and Chandler. Not a bad thing, but Brewer's past history shooting the rock leaves me very wary of giving him significant minutes, except as injury insurance.
- Was the ball coated in Vaseline prior to the tip? Both teams combined for 50 turnovers. Sloppy play even for a preseason game. Ty led the way with 6 turnovers of his own. While the Nuggets have largely turned the ball over at a higher rate than other teams given their typical pace and frenetic play, protecting the rock must be given a greater degree of focus going forward.
- Kenneth Faried continues his development apace. He impacted the game without rebounding (just 1 in 23 minutes of play), scoring 18 points on an extremely efficient 7 of 11 from the floor. He even hit an elbow jumper! When Faried can hit that shot with consistency, he will be an even more frightening cover than he already is. Can we expect him to carry over his perimeter shooting into the regular season?
There's a lot of preseason left to play, and important questions still to be answered. Will Karl decide to keep McGee coming off the bench? If so, who starts - Timofey or Kosta? Can Faried continue to be a legitimate 12 to 15 foot jump shooter? Will Corey Brewer poach minutes from Wilson Chandler? What are the Nuggets even going to do with Wilson Chandler?
Perhaps the most important question of all: do you have the mental fortitude to withstand another season of Anthony Carter playing backup point guard when Ben Uzoh and Julyan Stone are inevitably cut? It's gonna happen. Prepare yourselves.
One other thing: in case you haven't watched it, the NBA has released a nice video of what is a flop and what is not a flop, featuring our very own Gallo! You can watch it here.