So far, the Nuggets preseason has been a mixed bag.
On the upside, we've managed to get a glimpse into Brian Shaw's new offense, featuring heavy post play and increased sets designed to free Nuggets players for jump shots, instead of forcing everything to the rim. While the Nuggets have had some success hitting from outside, the post play from Kenneth Faried, J.J. Hickson and JaVale McGee is still a work in progress. Evan Fournier and Anthony Randolph have each contributed significantly in their minutes during the preseason, and may end up working their way into additional rotation minutes during the regular season (if not starter minutes for Fournier). The Nuggets also forced a star-filled L.A. Clippers squad to overtime, even though they were missing Faried, Nate Robinson, Darrell Arthur, and Wilson Chandler, ultimately falling but forcing Chris Paul to play 40 minutes to pull out the win.
On the downside, there are still significant questions about the future rotations Shaw will employ. Notably, Randy Foye has had a fairly horrific preseason, unable to find his rhythm, and seemingly lost as to where exactly he fits on this Nuggets team. Hickson's defense is as full of holes as it's ever been. McGee has played well in spurts, but has yet to turn in a dominant complete game. On top of all those issues, the Nuggets have been plagued by injuries to Faried, Robinson, Chandler and Arthur, forcing them to miss significant training camp and preseason playing time. With Danilo Gallinari still sidelined as he continues to rehab his knee, the Nuggets depth will be sorely tested if the Nuggets lose Chandler, Faried, or Robinson for significant stretches during the regular season.
Going forward, the Nuggets have only one more game to play before the season opener at the Sacramento Kings on October 30th, followed shortly by their home opener against the Portland Trailblazers on Friday, November 1st. I'm excited to see how this squad comes together over the next week and how Shaw will solidify the starting lineups and rotations through the next two preseason games.
In this prediction piece, Grantland's Zach Lowe predicts that not only will Kenneth Faried be traded during the course of the season, but the Nuggets will fall out of the playoffs altogether. Say it ain't so, Lowe! I disagree, but there's a number of interesting predictions contained within.
Blazers' Edge Chris Lucia breaks down the Nuggets offseason and offers up some predictions of his own for how the Nuggets will fare this upcoming season.
"Nasty Nate" has already incurred a hefty fine from the NBA and the season hasn't even started yet. While I love Nate's competitive fire, keeping his emotions in check will be a priority during the regular season to avoid hurting the team with technicals and potential suspensions.
Chris Dempsey peers into the decisions Brian Shaw must make before the start of the regular season, including whether or not the Nuggets keep Damion James over Jordan Hamilton (unlikely, given the $1.1m guaranteed to J-Ham), the starting lineup, and how to manage the minutes of the clogged point guard and power forward positions.
The Nuggets' final preseason game will take place on Friday, October 25th, at the Chicago Bulls at 6:00 PM.
Oh, and one other note - it's my birthday today, even as I am busy recovering from a nasty head cold. 29 trips around the sun!