The months of August and September are always a strange time in the NBA offseason. The NBA draft has concluded, the ink has dried on most big free agency moves, and we as fans look longingly to the start of training camps. We no longer have even Olympic basketball to sustain us. Truly, the NBA summer doldrums.
The normal impatience we experience during this trying period is further amplified by what many Stiffs feel is the immense promise of this very young team. Ty Lawson, JaVale Mcgee, Kenneth Faried, Evan Fournier, Quincy Miller*, Anthony Randolph, Kosta Koufos, Timofey Mozgov, Jordan Hamilton, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari are all 25 years or younger. Wrapped up in this very young core is a lot of promise, but who among them will elevate their game this year and become the Nuggets' next breakout talent?
Affectionately known as "J-Ham" around Denver Stiffs, many believe that Hamilton is poised to become the Nuggets next marksman. Combining a smooth stroke (36% from 3), decent handles and the athleticism that characterizes almost every Nuggets player, Hamilton has shown that he's ready to crack the rotation. With the departure of Arron Afflalo and now some NBA experience under his belt, Hamilton should almost definitely see more time on the floor behind Andre Iguodala in the SG spot.
Drafted 20th overall, there's been a lot of debate over why Masai opted for the young (turning 20 years-old in October) Fournier over other talents like Fab Melo, Jared Sullinger, or Perry Jones III that were available. As fans, we certainly don't have the same level of access to scouting reports, video and evaluations that Masai has - so there has to be something there, right? From what we've seen and heard of Fournier so far, he's a capable ball handler and slasher in the mold of flopper extraordinaire Manu Ginobili. He had some decent outings in summer league, played professionally for France's Poitier squad, but otherwise is a largely unknown NBA quantity. Well, we at least know that he's capable of this. But will Fournier get any playing time with the logjam of wings on the Nuggets roster?
A man that needs virtually no introduction, Faried might be the brightest star the Nuggets have seen since drafting Carmelo Anthony in 2003. Last season, not only was Faried 13th in the NBA in total rebound percentage (19.8% of all available rebounds), he was also 13th in PER, 13th in WS/48 (win shares per 48 minutes played) and 16th in true shooting percent (.618%). As a rookie. Kenneth can be counted amongst the elite rebounders and most efficient players in the game already. Can Kenneth improve on his stellar rookie season to become an even more dominant force in the paint?
Coming over mid-season in a surprising trade that sent Nene to the Washington Wizards, JaVale seems poised to finally show the NBA that he isn't just a joke. One of the most athletic, tall, and lanky players in the NBA, JaVale has spent a good portion of his summer working with Hakeem Olajuwon to improve his post game. Having been given a new opportunity in Denver and a taste of the playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers last season, the "JaValevator" might be better than he's ever been. It's definitely promising when Hakeem Olajuwon himself says that JaVale should "dominate the league".
Is this the year that Danilo finally lives up to his promise? We've all seen the flashes of brilliance that he's capable of. He can shoot well, pass the ball, rebounds at a decent rate and is a stalwart perimeter defender. Unfortunately, he's been frequently derailed by numerous injuries, including a broken thumb and some severely sprained ankles. Danilo looks to still be getting better, especially in Denver's fast paced style, and with a full NBA season might prove that he's the best asset the Nuggets received in their trade with the New York Knicks two years ago.
I believe that Jordan Hamilton will take this next step this season and provide the scoring punch off the bench that we lost with the departure of Al Harrington. His skillset, athleticism and hustle seem perfectly suited to a sixth man role, and he should fit in perfectly behind Andre Iguodala.
So who do you think will be the next breakout player on the Nuggets, Stiffs?
* - I excluded Quincy Miller from this poll as it's unclear whether or not he'll actually even be signed to a contract. It seems unusual for the front office to wait this long in signing a draft pick, and even so his relatively poor summer league play will probably relegate him to the D-league for the forseeable future.