Sitting at 15-13 in a highly competitive Western Conference, our Nuggets are in need of an assortment of Christmas presents. Here are my offerings for the holiday season and I welcome your suggestions, too ...
For Danilo Gallinari ... a three-point shot. Since connecting on 44% of his three-point attempts as a rookie in New York, Gallo has seen his three-point shooting percentage plummet down to 31% this season - and yet he attempts a team high of over five per game.
For JaVale McGee ... footwork. The seven-foot McGee has been playing better and better with each game, but his footwork - especially when it comes to defensive rebounding and boxing out - needs work. McGee tries too many times to grab rebounds while reaching around his opponent's back, and that needs to stop. Get McGee some box out work and he could be one of the NBA's dominant centers.
For Andre Iguodala ... more energy. Iguodala seems to recede into the background of too many games, and the Nuggets need his energy on both ends of the floor - notably in clutch situations. Iguodala is the only former Olympian AND former All-Star on the Nuggets roster. It's time to play like it.
For Corey Brewer ... a three-point shooting filter. You have to give credit where credit is due with Brewer: his motor is always running and he wreaks havoc on the floor defensively. But I cringe every time Brewer takes a three and he chucks up four per game in his 23 minutes of playing time. Yet when Brewer is wide open, he seems to be making them. So a filter is in order for Brewer to claim his moments and not just shoot threes indiscriminately.
For Ty Lawson ... assertiveness. Talk about disappearing late in games. Whether it's over-thinking or just a lack of confidence, the Nuggets starting point guard is taking the "let the game come to you" thing way too far and it's resulting in some dumbfounding play late in fourth quarters, notably with unnecessary turnovers. Lawson needs to dictate the end of games on his terms if he's ever to ascend to become of the west's best point guards. (While we're at it, we need to give Lawson a free throw shot, too. Connecting on just 69% of his freebies is unacceptable.)
For Wilson Chandler ... a healthy hip. Since becoming a Nugget, the talented Chandler can't seem to stay healthy. The Nuggets appear to be just fine without him, but a healthy Chandler still has trade value.
For Kosta Koufos ... touch around the rim. Koufos is turning in a solid season as the Nuggets starting center, but if there's one "Stiff" on this roster per Doug Moe's definition of the word, it's Koufos. If KK could develop a little touch around the rim he could be more productive offensively.
For Evan Fournier ... playing time. The rookie from France is already showing flashes of confidence, solid play and decent outside shooting. But will Nuggets head coach George Karl ever give him some playing time?
For Jordan Hamilton ... consistency. Hamilton has been in and out of Karl's doghouse, and I suspect much of this has to do with Hamilton making the least of his opportunities when given playing time. If the Nuggets insist on playing with this roster all season long, Hamilton is their only hope for consistent outside shooting - so he needs to get there soon.
For Timofey Mozgov ... a mean streak. Moz has more natural game than Koufos, but he gets battered around in the post against lesser sized opposition. If Moz had a mean streak (like we saw during the Olympics when he played for his home country of Russia) he could easily be a 10-point / 8-rebounds center in the NBA. Sadly, the Nuggets might have to trade him for him to develop into a better center.
For Andre Miller ... nothing. There's not much you can get a 36-year-old point guard who has racked up 7,622 assists. While we collectively wish that Miller pushed the pace more, Miller has been a net positive for the Nuggets two seasons in a row and doesn't appear to be fading anytime soon.
For Kenneth Faried ... a mid-range jump shot. You have to love Faried's enthusiasm, hustle and rebounding, but raw athleticism doesn't last forever. If Faried could develop a mid-range jumper, he could pull opposing power forwards away from the post and extend his NBA career beyond the 10 years he's currently good for.
For Anthony Randolph and Quincy Miller ... more weight. Randolph and Miller are both too undersized weight-wise. In Randolph's case, it's cost him from developing a solid NBA career at power forward. For Miller, it might cost him an NBA career. These guys must bulk up if they're to contribute to an NBA team on a consistent basis.
For George Karl ... continued good health and a big man coach. Having recovered from a second cancer scare just a few years ago, Karl looks great and - despite his comments to the contrary - is handling the rigors of the NBA season just fine. On the coaching front, Karl needs a true big man coach (my apologies to Ryan Bowen). McGee, Mozgov and Faried are in desperate need of footwork and mid-range jumper coaching, and it's not coming from Karl - a former ABA point guard.
For Masai Ujiri ... a Wilson Chandler / Timofey Mozgov trade for a shooter and some meanness. The Nuggets need one more shooter to spread the floor - a la Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Steve Novak, etc - and some toughness. Even though they had a high knucklehead factor, recent ex-Nuggets like Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, Chris Andersen and Dahntay Jones gave the Nuggets a physical and mental edge over opponents that was under-appreciated at the time. As much as I hate players like Stephen Jackson, Raja Bell and Matt Barnes, it's that type the Nuggets could use - shooters with a mean streak.
I hope our fellow Stiffs have a wonderful Christmas and holiday season!