In what should be the most unpredictable Denver Nuggets season in years, let's come up with some predictions that you all can save and then shout back to me how many I got wrong after the season is over. The Nuggets wrapped up the preseason with a subpar 2-5 record, but that's the preseason. After seeing Brian Shaw's first training camp and seeing how the coaching staff and players interact, there is more chemistry than people think with this team and the players are buying into the system. Yes, it will take time for the Nuggets to find their footing, but we will be pleasantly surprised by this season.
Nate's 8 Predictions:
1.) The Nuggets will win 48 games. A nine game dip in the win department thanks in part to missing Danilo Gallinari for a portion of the season and the team finding their way into a new offense and defense. The biggest adjustment will be on the offensive end as more mid-range shots will be taken and the rebounding must be on-point to insure extra offensive possessions. Last season's sixth seed won 47 games (the Warriors) out West and the Nuggets will do that one-game better, but still finish as the sixth seed (as Colin Neilson and I predicted here).
2.) Danilo Gallinari will make his debut on Sunday, December 15th at home against the New Orleans Pelicans. There's no secret that Gallo is eager to get back on the floor. It has been awesome seeing him walking around the Pepsi Center practice court and doing some very light shooting around the basket. The Nuggets start the month of December with a seven game road-trip and upon returning home, the team will hold Gallo out of the Friday the 13th game against the Jazz and he'll debut on Sunday night to a rocking ovation. But Gallo will only play in 45 games or less as he'll miss 22 to start, not appear in back-to-backs, and miss a little time with routine setbacks or a nagging injury or two.
3.) JaVale McGee will average 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. Last year he averaged 9.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. Finding some consistency will be the most beneficial upgrade to JaVale's game. People don't believe it from following his Twitter and Instagram accounts as he's typically goofing around with social media, but McGee is working hard on his game with Shaw and the coaching staff backing him. I have seen more growth during training camp in McGee than I did all of last season.
4.) Nate Robinson will get ejected from at least three games this season and that's a good thing. Robinson may have been the only guy to get ejected from a preseason game this season; add to that how he rode the officials during a practice scrimmage and you have a player who wears his emotions on his sleeve. The Nuggets lacked a little fire last year and Robinson will bring that back to the team, along with some explosive play, and it'll benefit this squad. Robinson won't allow the Nuggets to back down to any team.
5.) Evan Fournier will average 20 minutes per game. Fournier, who averaged just over 11 minutes per game as a rookie, will cement himself as the backup shooting guard and Shaw will not have to play a ton of Ty Lawson and Robinson together in search of offense. I'm also not sure how many games Gallo will play, even though I predict he'll be back Dec. 15th, and Shaw will need to keep Chandler at the small forward spot more than expected.
6.) Andre Miller will be traded before the deadline. With Fournier emerging, Foye being solid, and Robinson eating up minutes, Miller will be the odd man out. He could be an attractive piece to a team looking to shed salary or make a playoff push (injury somewhere?) as his $5 million salary this season goes down to $4.6 million next season with a buyout clause, making it an expiring deal.
7.) Kenneth Faried will come off the bench and be spectacular. We will not see Faried traded this season. He will have a new role as a big off the bench and he will thrive. We'll see improved defense and some good post play to go along with the rebounding and highlight reel dunks.
8.) The Nuggets will win a playoff series. By the time the playoffs rolls around, the team will be playing its best basketball and their success and chemistry will carry over and turn into a nice upset of a higher rated seed - perhaps the Clippers(?).
There you have it. Nothing too crazy, but those are my eight predictions before the season starts in just a matter of days in Sacramento to face the Kings. Remember last year when the Nuggets lost to the 76ers in Philadelphia to open things up? Teams are fired up to start things off and the fans in Sacramento will be going nuts. I can't wait to watch how it all unfolds.
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