with the addition of Andre Iguodala, the Nuggets not only improved their starting lineup on defense, but offense as well, in a player who is only two and a half years older than Afflalo, Iguodala is a young vet with a lot of prime years left in him. But how does our team look now? What will we look like differently, if anything different in our scheme changes at all? I'll be grading the starting positions and their most likely bench warmer.
Point guard- Ty Lawson/ Andre Miller - Ty Lawson showed us last year in the playoffs that he can play at that level, and it could be a turning point in his career to finally become the next Tony Parker. Lawson is the main reason aside from Karl's coaching philosophy that we have the highest pace of any team in the league. With Afflalo out and Iguodala in, that means that Lawson will have an even better option in the fast break, because even though Afflalo wasn't that bad running the break, he didn't have the athletic ability to finish at the rim often, while Iguodala, who is one of the best athletes in the NBA, can run the court like a gazelle. So Lawson can pass to any of these players on the fast break and cause havoc.
Andre Miller is to me, still the best backup point guard in the league, and I love his game. He might not be great at staying with his man on defense, but he is a great passer who gets everyone involved, can post near triple doubles on occasion, can rebound better than most point guards, can pass in the fast break with his amazing quarterback passing as well. Sure he defers to slowing the game down a bit, but if anyone can help Lawson with learning the in's and out's of a half-court offense, it is Miller. He is one of the best lob passers in the league and with the athletic jumpers on our team, he should not shy away from that this season. It also is nice to note that he and Iguodala are good friends as well, and have basketball chemistry together.
However, this unit suffers from defensive issues, Lawson is good at stealing, and below average in every defensive category you can think of for a point guard. While Miller is a good post defender, just too slow to keep up quick quicker point guards.
Nene is celebrating in his mind, and Iggy wished he was on the Nuggets..*sniffle*
Shooting guard- Andre Iguodala/Brewer/Fournier/Hamilton?
While the starter here is unquestioned, the clear candidate for backup shooting guard is hard to pin-point. I think that Iguodala, is an amazing defensive player upon much research, not only is he a great man to man defender, he can block and steal as well. Even in advanced defensive statistics, he is shown to be much better than Afflalo. Moving him to playing the shooting guard means he stops being an undersized small forward and becomes a perfect sized shooting guard, who has had nearly 5 assists a game in his career, along with nearly six rebounds a game. So not only is he a significant improvement from Afflalo in defense, but offense as well. He only averaged 12 points a game last season, but this was due to playing in one of the slowest paced schemes, they were basically a Chicago Bulls lite. In the Nuggets scheme, he might well average over 20 points a game, but I'd estimate more towards 16-18 a game.
Many say Jordan Hamilton will be the backup shooting guard, while there is promise there, as he is an athletic freak who can hit the three ball, I feel he is more of a natural fit at small forward. Corey Brewer being the full time backup two-guard makes little sense, as Brewer's peak has reached, while Fournier and Hamilton have much higher upside. Knowing George Karl's way of not playing rookies that often, I feel he will have to make a choice between Brewer and Jordan, and I feel that Hamilton should get the minutes here, if he plays poorly for us, we should give Fournier some burn to see what he can do. If we do go for Brewer, he'll be a nice ball of energy out there, who plays with a lot of heart and hustle and energy mixed with a good athletic body. However Brewer is a spazz, who has no offensive game to speak of aside from playing the fast break, but you could do worse I suppose.
Grade - B
However, a c- for the photoshopping here.
Small Forward- Danilo Gallinari / Wilson Chandler - Now, despite what some people might say, this is still the best 1-2 punch at the 3 position when healthy. Gallinari improved his defense immensely last year, and with his first official training camp with the Nuggets coming up, the Nuggets fans should be excited. Gallo has shown to give Kobe all he can work for on defense, a good way of measuring how good your wing's defense is. Gallo also is 6'11 and has a quick explosive step. He was our best dunker early last season, finishing very impressively to the hoop on the fast break. He needs to show more of his post-game, when he did post-up last season, it was quite impressive. Galinari's defense is about as good as Afflalos, but like Iguodala, he can pass extremely well and can set up plays that lead to either assists or passes that lead to finding the open man. He is also one of the best small forwards in stealing the ball. Offensively, Gallo needs to make three pointers to keep defenders honest, but if he can do that on a consistent basis, watch out.
Chandler, to me is underrated on defense. He to me, is better than Afflalo when healthy, and better on offense too, at least in the fast break. Chandler can run the court like a gazelle and finish very well too. Now that Harrington is gone, Chandler will have to step up and be our 6th man this year, and if he can excel at near Harden like levels, I think keeping him and his contract would be a wise move unless something bigger comes up down the road. Chandler can score on offense too, as his best scoring year was better than Gallo's best scoring year. If Chandler stays healthy and longs 25 minutes a game, I think he'll be a keeper, he has automatic shots on offense too. I also think Chandler is just a overall much better player than Harrington, so keeping him isn't as crazy as it sounds since his contract looks a lot better than Harringtons.
Kenneth Faried is amazing. There will be naysayers who will point at his height, but I don't care, he has one of the best PER'S on the league, was one of the best at getting rebounds per minute, and can block shots very well. He can finish at the rim, isn't that bad at shooting jump shots and hook shots 15 feet or close to the rim. Basically, he is everything you want in a power forward, so I won't factor in his height, to me that doesn't matter because Faried is a rare mould like you'd find in a Charles Barkley type of player. However, Faried's post defense is a bit of concern. Yes he has the body to push post-up big men out and force them to take jump shots, but we hardly saw any man to man defense from Faried since he was always playing weakside defense. A lot of this might be because Karl saw something in Faried's defense in practice he didn't like. Mcgee isn't known as a great post defender either, so that is the big weakness I see on this team so far. Still, Faried is amazing.. so get over it.
Randolph is... how we should say this.. someone who Should be a good player, because at 6'11, with high agility, speed, hops and athleticism... you'd think he would have a place in the NBA somewhere. I think he'll fit right in with us just as long as he does not take jump shots, only scores on Andre Miller lobs and dunks in the fast break. I'd like him to develop into a Chris Anderson upgrade, and play with hustle, energy and if Randolph does get second fiddle to Faried off the bench I think he could prove everyone wrong since the Denver system fits him very well.
Now call me crazy, but I could see a better idea here.. Chandler plays power forward off the bench, Hamilton rotates for Gallo and Fournier comes in at shooting guard, while Brewer still gets to keep all the minutes per game he had last year. I'd rather see Fournier substitute for A.I instead of Brewer simply because of the upside potential.
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Center- Javale Mcgee/Timofey Mozgov/Kosta Koufas
McGee is still a big bag of upside to me, he has the body of a center who should average 18-20 points a game and pulling 9-10 rebounds a game. He is one of the best blockers in the NBA. He scored at will from lobs with us last year. And now learning some fresh new post moves at Hakeem camp, we should see McGee showing that he isn't a goofball who can play when he is on a serious, healthy organization that does everything it can to win as opposed to the Wizards dysfunctional mess. I still think he can be a really good post-up defender like Tyson Chandler, he is strong enough to do so, and he has added muscle this off-season. I think McGee's post-defense will be pivotal in order for our defense to take leaps and bounds this year to develop into a contender. Another concern is that he only averaged five rebounds a game for us in his regular season with us.. I know, short sample size, but I don't want him to turn into Brook Lopez lite in rebounds.
Mozgov played great for Russia in the olympics, and I think he is better suited with MIller off the bench simply because Mozgov to me, excels when he plays in a slower system. Mozgov can shoot the jumper, he is a good man to man defender, yet I'm still irked by him playing lost all the time. I think he deserves another chance, and I hated the idea of him as our starter last year, but I like the idea of him coming off the bench. Kosta meanwhile still is young and was better than Mozgov last year in the regular season, minus the playoffs, so I think we'll see those two fight for the second string, unless one gets packaged with Brewer or Chandler in a trade. If Mozgov brings his Olympic level of game to us, watch out everyone.
If Quincy MIller is signed, I think he won't sniff any minutes unless it is garbage minutes. Miller is raw, but I like what I see the kid. Tall, fast, has a shooting touch and could potentially be a poor mans Kevin Durant one day, if not that, then a homeless Kevin Durant. Work with Steve Hess kid, and you'll be gettin betta!
Thanks for reading.