Throughout much of the second half of the 2013-14 regular season, Nuggets coach Brian Shaw spoke often about wanting a "veteran leader" to galvanize the troops on the Nuggets so to speak. Someone everyone could rally behind while they pursued the goal of becoming a better team.
Trouble is, that is kind of a nebulous idea. What is veteran leadership? Is it a grizzled Kevin Garnett - esque figure who can glower and yell and get everyone into place? Is it someone who isn't quite as old, but who has cache of respectability? That sort of element is one of those "if it's right for you, it's a leader" kind of thing. I always thought that one sized definitely DOESN'T fit all in the NBA. Every locker room has a different personality, and it takes different kinds of players to create a winning dynamic.
Which brings me to need.
What do the Nuggets actually NEED to be a competitive team next season? Is it a simple matter of players returning from injury? Or is is a combination of acquisition and player health that will rule the day for the Nuggets this offseason? This is the crux of confusion by fans and close observers of the Nuggets. There is something wrong, and it needs to be fixed ... but how do you go about fixing it?
Depending on players returning from injury is an interesting concept that banks on quite a bit of hope. Lets face it, when we talk about players returning from injury, we are pretty much exclusively speaking about Danilo Gallinari. Why do you say that ... you ask? Well, we saw J.J. Hickson and Nate Robinson with the team for most of year, they are a known quantity. JaVale McGee is less of a worry now due to the emergence of Timofey Mozgov last season. The presence of Mozzy mitigates any McGee anxiety outside of the money he is owed the next two years. No ... we are talking about Gallo and the unknown that comes with his return
Truth is that even I, who is a fan of Gallo's game, cannot tell you that he will be who he was prior to the injury. . There is so much that hinges on Gallo being able to produce. Where you come down on the issue depends on where you see Gallo going from here. To be truthful, I just don't know. I have hope that he comes back with the same fire that made him such a good player on the 2012-13 Nuggets team. Gallo is extremely smart, and as Tim Connelly told us on the CSG podcast last week, you can tell he grew up around the game of basketball. So if nothing else the team will benefit from his basketball IQ greatly. As for actual on the court performance from the big Italian? That remains the biggest question mark of the Nuggets upcoming season.
So, if we are counting on players coming back from injury ... how do you supplement around them? Much has been made about the Nuggets potentially trading their 11th pick in this upcoming draft to consolidate and pair down some of the roster spots this next season while acquiring said veteran presence. If you don't like what you see at that slot in the draft, you have to trade, but it doesn't mean you trade out ... it could mean you trade UP or BACK. You never know with these things. The options are varied.
If you were to ask me my opinion on what the Nuggets need (and why wouldn't you ... I mean ... come on!) I'd say a defensive minded two guard is a must. Particularly since the Nuggets may still move to a variant of the post-up offense next season with an ostensibly full roster. I've long felt that Randy Foye's best role is off the bench. You get someone tough enough (and with length) you can start to fully realize what Shaw want's to go down. The question is, do you acquire that with the 11th pick ... or do you trade for it? Do the Nuggets surprise everyone and make a big move that shakes things up considerably?
Does this player exist in the draft? Would this player START immediately on a team with ambitions that outstrip mere "development"? Who knows?
In any case, that's one man's opinion. We could argue until the cows come home about the Nuggets not "tanking" like, say, like the 76ers did this year. Fact is, we have to deal with where the Nuggets are NOW and where they see themselves going forward. Tim Connelly has gone on record as saying he expects the Nuggets to make the playoffs next season. How do the Nuggets get THERE from HERE?
Hopefully the answers become clear soon enough.