With the NBA offseason activity beginning to wane heavily this week, albeit for a few signings still up in the air- Nikola Pekovic notably. And on the eve of the NFL and college football's annual takeover of all things media, I think it's finally time to make some predictions for the upcoming NBA season given that the majority of rosters are somewhere between working rough draft and fixed. Now before reading this column, I need you guys to realize a few things: 1) I'm making NBA predictions in JULY and literally ANYTHING can happen before the season to derail these predictions. 2) These are 100% serious. I am not here to troll or make fun of anybody. That would be churlish and a waste of time. 3) I encourage you to respond with how you feel about my predictions. So without further ado, I present to you a running column that will include a Fanpost for each and every NBA team, "The Flagrantly Early, Incredibly Half-Baked NBA Predictions Series."
No. 1: Wilson Chandler will hold down the fort nobly in Gallinari's abscence
Danilo Gallinari left a decent sized hole on this Nuggets roster when he went down with an ACL injury last season. Gallinari is believed to be Denver's most talented player, and one one the best scorer's on the team. It was evident in last year's playoff series versus the Golden State Warriors that they needed one more scoring punch- that would've been Gallinari. Now the Nuggets unfortunately go into this season with another big hole at the shooting guard after Andre Iguodala skipped town for greener pastures. But I think first year head coach can rest assured that the drop-off at the small forward position won't be that insurmountable. Enter Wilson Chandler. Chandler has been estranged ever since his NBA-lockout trip to China that threw his NBA career in flux for some time. But now he seems to have settled in nicely with the Denver Nuggets after initial reports that he wanted no part of this team. Chandler finished last season with a healthy 13/5 (p/r) for a backup and finished top-10 in PER amongst shooting guards, top 15 amongst small forwards. If he can build on those numbers in a more significant role, which I think he will, Denver will be okay. That's the perfect kind of guy to plug into this hole short term next season, although the Nuggets probably need someone who will take more offensive touches now that AI is gone. While it hurts that Gallinari won't give Denver a full season most likely, we can all rest assured that Wilson Chandler will step up to the plate and fill in nobly in his absence. That's all you can ask for.
No. 2: JJ Hickson will regress to the mean
JJ Hickson was great for the Portland Trail Blazers last year averaging a double-double, while finishing top-10 in PER and top-3 in Rebounding Rate amongst power forwards. That's impressive for 5th year guy who's flirting dangerously with a journeyman-like career. Yet, Portland didn't re-up him; they decided to trade for Robin Lopez and let Hickson walk barely even putting up a fight. Now that JJ has found a team in Denver, it's easy to say that Hickson's in for a rude awakening if he believes he can post career numbers again like he did in Portland last season. Hickson joins a loaded Denver front court that, theoretically, has to find a place for 6 quality big men in their rotation during this upcoming season- JaVale McGee,Tim Mosgov, Darrell Arthur, Anthony Randolph, Kenneth Faried, and JJ Hickson. Maybe Faried plays some small forward minutes, as Gallinari's absence opens up some time there, but that barely relieves Hickson's competition.
In Portland last year it was basically Aldridge and Hickson running as much as they wanted with little to no competition at the position. Further, many speculate that Aldridge's sublime box-out ability opened up a lot of easy rebounds for Hickson. This season, sharing the paint with McGee and Faried- a prolific rebounder- probably means a lot less opportunity for Hickson to pad the stats with easy rebounds. However, JJ Hickson's offensive face-up game gives him a decent edge to get significant touches when he's in the game. Outside of Lawson, there aren't many proven scoring options on this roster, especially ones that Ty can just feed and watch go to work- like Hickson does well. All in all, it's hard to see Hickson getting the minutes, or freedom within the system to pad his stats this year considering the bizarre spacing issues Denver may encounter, which means regression to the mean.
No. 3: Brian Shaw will keep it interesting in his first year
Brian Shaw finally got his first chance at head coaching this offseason after a few years of his name being in the hat. While rumors surfaced that Shaw only wanted a squad where he could run the triangle, it seems Shaw has initially jumped ship on that thought process as the Nuggets are barely equipped to pull off something so complex. While Shaw enters his inaugural coaching attempt with some adversity- losing Iggy to Warriors, Koufos trade, Gallinari injury- like many, I believe Brian Shaw will be just fine. Although the Nuggets stacked up at 2 positions where depth was no issue- Nate Robinson at PG, Arthur & Hickson at PF- it's clear Shaw isn't afraid to make some unconventional plays. Robinson is as prolific a scorer as you will find and with the Professor Andre Miller getting no younger, it seems a wise insurance policy. Arthur and Hickson are both good face-up players in the post, something Denver severely lacked last season with Koufos, McGee, Randolph, and Faried. While there's a glaring hole at shooting guard- unless Evan Fournier blows up or you're comfortable with Randy Foye- it will be interesting to see how Shaw experiments with lineups as this Denver roster is loaded with talented guys that if used right are very much in the playoff discussion. I think a Lawson-Chandler-Faried-Hickson-McGee crew is perfectly capable of putting Denver on 40 win pace until Danilo the Magician returns to man the reins, especially with such a smart coach and Vogel understudy at the helm.