Potential. When ever you hear anything about the Nuggets of Denver, the first thoughts that come into your mind, tends to be "fast", "athletic", and "young" but the word that comes to most peoples minds when they think of the Nuggets is "potential". The word that brings hope into all fans heart in any team of any sport. Potential is in a solid square block of marble, Potential is on a blank white canvas, Potential is what drives us to believe in not only other people but ourselves, it is in everyone and everything but there is always a timer that ticks away the minutes and before you know it, that potential turns into static monotone, and then ultimately, disappointment.
Aside from two players on the roster, every player on the roster is under 26 which is usually the time when a basketball player comes into his prime and becomes the player he will be for the rest of his career.
In the following Fanpost, I will look at each of these players, and dissect each player into three categories.
Dream case - This is the ultimate fantasy, almost every player projected to make it into the first round of the NBA draft has a "Dream potential" tag next to him. Whether the player in questions ultimate potential is being the next Tony Parker, or the next Clyde Drexler, or the next Toni Kukoc, every player is seen by NBA scouts laying back into a chair, late at night with a strong black coffee, watching over high school, college and/or European tapes examining their every move, tendencies, and their intelligence on the basketball court .
Best case- This is where the realism kicks in and where scouts understand that they have a job to protect to, they can't be lallygagging in the clouds too much. Most players realistic potential tends to come after a year or two that they are in the league. They start to look a lot like other players in the league.
They are then looked at or seen as a "poor version" or "homeless version" of higher quality players of present or past. Still, realistic potential is still a far away distance from where they stand at currently.
Worst case - Now we come to their weakest possible scenario. Players who fall here do not progress much further than when they came out of college and eventually find themselves out of the league or riding the bench.
Top 5 picks who don't develop much in the league get tossed around from team to team, into the arms of teams that try to take a risk and throw of the dice and unlock the potential by putting him into their system and hope that rich goodness comes out of it and pays dividends.
that will make all the difference and hopefully they profit if indeed it happens. Either this occurs or they are plagued by injuries and never get the chance to develop on the court.Players with poor attitude, lack of motivation and less sense of needing to practice tend to fall into this category. Potential in these regards does not mean potential to be good, rather.. potential to regress from where he is now. For example, Lebrons poorest potential at this point is Andre Iguodala, Anthony Carter's poorest potential at this point is Lebrons sweaty headband.
However- Now of course you are sitting there saying "well, the next Ty Lawson is Ty Lawson!". While that is probably the truth in literal terms, every player picks a player to try and mold themselves into, and it's a very common occurrence. Kobe emulates Jordan, Jason Terry tried to emulate Gary Payton when he was younger, and the list goes on. It isn't like we are arguing over whether Coldplay is the next Radiohead, because they aren't, but that is besides the point.
At first most players come off as poor carbon copies of their influences, but then eventually mold into their own style and player, but very rarely does the latter come at the start of a players career, we can't all be Frank Zappa here.
We will take a look at our centers, then in my next article I'll look at our power forwards, for now however..
I chose you McGeeomon!
Javale McGee -If you watch the game with your eyes, you probably come away thinking this guy has a world of potential with his size, length, and athletic ability. Even though he's in his fourth season, he's actually still young at 24 and a possible late bloomer like many centers are. If you don't watch games with your eyes however, and rely more on numbers and stats, you probably have an entirely different opinion of Javale McGee.
Dream case - Dikembe Mutumbo. Mutumbo was never looked on to score the ball at any time in his career, but his defense was invaluable to every team he has ever been on.
Mutumbos length and athletic ability are traits I've seen in Javale and with that ability he already has Mutumbo's blocking ability. McGee still needs to learn a lot on how to defend the post and work on his pick and roll defense, and his overall positioning on defense.
Also, Mutumbo was very good with his shot selections, while the pre-season version of McGee is trying to emulate Kareem hook shots and fadeaway jumpers like he is Michael Jordan. Let us hope that this is the pre-season equivalent to Shaq shooting five 3 pointers a game just for kicks and giggles. However since he's been in the league, McGee hasn't shown to have the shooting touch that you would find in more gifted players like Tim Duncan.
Best case- - I think the most realistic idea of what McGee will develop into is sort of a uptempo version of a Tyson Chandler/Marcus Camby hybrid. Meaning he can run the floor very well and do things athletically that Chandler can not do. His turnaround post move is very slow and wobbly, and not very reliable, but like Tyson Chandler, who shot over 65% in field goal percentage last season, if he picks his shots wisely and within his ability like lob passes, tip-ins, and fast break dunks he can help the team on offense in a big way.
On defense, if he focus's on being an enforcer on defense, planting his feet more often as opposed to trying to block every shot for example.. Well that will go a huge way into his progress. He can be a more athletic and improved version of Chandler if he also has a strong mindset and plays on a consistent level every game. I think consistency is his biggest issue thus far.
Worst case- Patrick O'Bryant. Don't think that Javale is so high above Patrick O'Bryants level right now just because Patrick isn't in the league anymore after 5 years in the league because Javale was a stat stuffer on a awful Wizards team. He has not proved much that much in terms of being helpful to a team, yet.
Both players pre-draft measurements showed that they both had incredibly similar physical attributes, both 7 footers having 7'6 wingspans, identical vertical and court speed. This is important to know because incredible height, wingspan and speed doesn't always mean success and doesn't automatically ensure success in the league. Javale is higher than where O'Bryant was at these stages of their career, but not by as much as you might want to think and Javale has shown to be wildly inconsistent as I'll show in the example below.
odds - 5/95
Final thoughts- If we look at his RAPM rating since the start of his career (RAPM is a more accurate and advanced measurement of the +/- statistic, read more here) we see that Javale in his playing time with the Wizards showed to be wildly inconsistent.
While it is typical for rookies to start their first season with a RAPM rating below 0, most players with a lot of potential tend to increase their RAPM as their career continues, for example, look at some of the following players RAPM statistics in their first four seasons, I'll start with some really good players and end it with McGee.
Hey now, why the giant decrease in 2012? That is something you'd see from reading up on J.R Smith's statistics, it is almost uncanny how those two defy logic with knucklehead inconsistency. The three players above Javale here SHOULD be the tier with which Javale should be on at the moment but he has not had a consistent progress as a player. That worries me, a lot. Enigma or untapped gold? Only time will tell, but you'd think that Javale knows of his gaffes and would look to better himself. Let's hope his progress is a smooth straight arrow, and not a circle...
Kosta Koufas- Thought to be a poor mans Mehmet Okur coming out of college, with a good shooting touch from beyond the college 3, he has since then found a new identity, turning into a traditional center and so far with the Nuggets, has shown to be an incredible rebounder and capable scorer on occasion. Despite having been in the league for three different teams, he is only 23 years old. He is 7'0, 260 lbs. and hasn't hit his prime yet.
Dream case - Marcin Gortat. There really isn't much difference between Koufas's high and realistic expectations, because despite not being a very athletic player, Kosta plays consistent, productive basketball. Gortat is the post-child for slower 7 foot players who aren't athletically as gifted as other such natural talents, yet works very hard and consistently produces when it matters.
Gortat is a very solid center in the league with or without Steve Nash passing him the ball. Both players have similar height, weight and athleticism. Both of their noses are very big and distinctive. Give Kosta the minutes and perhaps if he works as hard as he has been all summer as he has shown, he can become the Greek sword! (Nickname still in progress).
Best case-- Nikola Pekovic. Nikola is a big guy, he is the same height as Kosta but weighs around 30-45 pounds more. Pekovic is slightly under the radar around the league as far as centers go, posting up an impressive 18.5 points and 9.9 rebounds a game PER 36 minutes.
However, Kosta Koufas's PER 36 from last year was 12 points and 11.7 rebounds a game, showing that he is just as good, if not a better rebounder according to the stats, and that isn't only because of the level of competition each player have faced. Nikola is 26 and is a man, yet Kosta is 23 and has a few years before he hits his prime, to think that he can't attain more weight and muscle on him isn't unrealistic.
Worst case - At 6'11 and 305 pounds, I feel that his lowest potential at this point is Garret Siler, the really big chubby guy who is in the D-league. Siler is a giant, but is very slow and if Kosta had the same work ethic as Tracy McGrady he probably would be in the D-league as well with Siler.
Kosta however doesn't seem to be heading in this direction but anything is possible. Attitudes and personality are also strong indicators of a players potential, and Kosta luckily has a strong desire to keep improving that you won't see in many other players who've been on so many teams at such a young age not getting a lot of minutes.
on this day in America history- Kosta and Nikola forgot to bring their "I'm with loser" t-shirts
Meanwhile, someone, somewhere is reminiscing
Oh Khan,you had Darko, Kosta AND Nikola on the same roster, what happened bro?
Anyways, back to the subject on hand.
Timofey Mozgov- Mozgov is the biggest enigma on this list, and it isn't because I don't like him, I just don't think he is a good for our team. However, there are tiny slithers and glimpses of Mozgov where he is actually a very good player. The athletic 7'1 Russian is coming off fresh with a shiny bronze medal at the olympics and hopes to carry that momentum and swagger into this season and beyond. a nice shooter with a good stroke, Mozgov can still make a impact in the league at 26 years of age.
Dream case - Andrei Kirilenko, who played alongside Mozgov on the Russian national team, had high praise for Mozgov in the past, comparing him to a taller version of Anderson Varejao. Now I don't think the Varejao comparison is far-fetched, because Mozgov is actually very good at taking the charge, perhaps our best player on the team at doing so. Varejao is scrappy, tall and athletic like Mozgov but a far superior rebounder being the one thing that Mozgov is light years behind at.
If Mozgov can learn to box out better and starts to get better at rebounding, being on Varejao's level isn't that unrealistic. Personally I'd prefer Mozgov turn into a Perkins player over a Varejao player, because Varejao's a big flopper, and as we all know flopping is slowly going the way of the dodo bird.
However, Mozgov is underrated in the fast break like Varejao is, when Mozgov was healthy last year at the season start, he was very surprising with his speed. Either Mozgov needs to get tattoos or a new hair-do, because the mop head look isn't going to pose fear into opponents eyes. Right now, Mozgov is sort of a very unpolished version of what Varejao is.
Realistic potential- Kendrick Perkins. You laugh you say? Well consider the fact that both players best attribute is their ability to defend the top echelon of centers in the league in the post and throw a big body at them, I don't think it's too far-fetched.
Perkins is obviously better at doing this, as he prides himself into defending the opposing teams best post player, Mozgov himself needs to get mean and do the dirty work on defense that Perkins also does. Perkins is a below average rebounder as he just doesn't have the natural instincts or basketball I.Q to be so, just as Mozgov is, who averaged 4.1 rebounds in 15 minutes a game last season, below average for a
small forward center. Mozgov even only brought under 6 rebounds a game with Russia in the olympics in over 23 minutes a game.
Still, Mozgov has the ability to find a place in the league by being a scrappy center who's below average in areas you expect a center to be good at, and Perkins is the best at that in the league, so if I were Steve Rodgers and I had one word to say to Mozgov, it would be "smash", however I'm not Steve Rodgers so I'll just say to Mozgov, "get mean on the court".
Worst case - Robin Lopez. Kind of just a big tree that you have on the bench, just in case. Mozgov is sort of at this level already, which isn't a bad thing because you can't shrink a guy with a shrinking machine, he'd still be 7 feet talk with a slouched back in case he developed a bad sitting posture being on the bench so much, he'd still be tall, and you can't teach tall, and thank the basketball gods, the Nuggets have three 7 footers.
Basically, this is Mozgovs potential in a nutshell.
The third greatest moment in NBA pizza history.
And now ladies and gentlemen...