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Denver Nuggets 2014-15 season postion preview: Small forwards

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Two's company, three's a crowd, and we have four (five? Wait... SIX?) small forwards jockeying for position. Let's talk about depth!

Garrett Ellwood

So, let's be clear... when I first signed on to do this preview, the Denver Nuggets had four small forwards on the roster and I thought, "That will be a nice challenge. I should take the biggest group so I can learn more and do more research."

Sumanumbatch.

Since then, three more gents have joined an already-loaded position. Let's write this thing before another small forward shows up, shall we? Taking this in a couple of tiers, immediately evident why.

Tier One: Studmuffins

Some numbers for a basis of comparison:

Player

FG

FGA

FG%

3P

3PA

3P%

2P

2PA

2P%

FT

FTA

FT%

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Gallinari (71 games, '12-'13)

364

871

0.418

135

362

0.373

229

509

0.45

286

348

0.822

65

302

367

176

64

36

111

130

1149

Chandler (65 games, '13-'14)

307

738

0.416

122

351

0.348

185

387

0.478

110

152

0.724

58

236

294

114

46

31

79

193

846

Danilo Gallinari

Gallo is a hot topic amongst the Denver faithful, returning after missing all of last season and the last 11 games of the season prior. The Nuggets fell precipitously and quickly  when Danilo went down, and his absence last season left a huge delta in what talent Brian Shaw had anticipated in his first season. Gallo is a tough matchup for any team, with the ability to stretch the floor from distance, but also play down low with size and physicality.

In addition, he has the capability to create his own shot, is a solid passer, fits into most any offensive scheme, and just happens to be a tenacious and willing defender, both man-to-man and schematically. Quite possibly the Nuggets most complete player. Here's a highlight package that will make Jeff Morton pass out. No, you don't need to watch all 24 minutes.


Wilson Chandler

Yes, I'm pretty effusive over Gallinari's return, but Chandler is no slouch at the three spot himself. A capable scorer from nearly anywhere on the floor, "Ill Will" tends to score in bunches and can take over a game when playing aggressively. On the defensive end, Chandler can be a lockdown defender himself, and though he takes heat from many fans for his quiet demeanor, Chandler's self-control tends to play nicely in high-pressure situations. Although Wilson didn't have his best statistical season last year when leaned upon more heavily, he certainly had nothing to hang his head about in last seasons' stats above. He'd be a starter for many teams in the league, and can put up 12 minutes of highlights from a single season (last year):


I was ready to make a case for how the Gallo/Chandler battle would be an interesting one this season, but too many of Gallinari's numbers above make most of the argument moot. While there's a decent possibility Chandler opens the season at the three spot, I'll be surprised if Gallo doesn't reclaim the starting spot for the last three quarters of the season. As deep as the Nuggets are at all five positions, the top two slots for the small forward position may be their highest-quality spot on the floor. Scoring, teamwork, defense, intensity. Exciting stuff. Now...

Tier Two: The Rest of the Pack:

A few more numbers, with me getting lazy on the last row:

Player

FG

FGA

FG%

3P

3PA

3P%

2P

2PA

2P%

FT

FTA

FT%

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Miller (52 games, '13-'14)

94

256

0.367

30

94

0.319

64

162

0.395

39

55

0.709

36

111

147

26

22

32

48

70

257

Gee (65 games, '13-'14)

98

236

0.415

19

58

0.328

79

178

0.444

43

61

0.705

35

114

149

47

39

15

44

96

258

Alexander (59 games, '08-'09)**

1.7

4.2

0.416

0.3

0.8

0.348

1.5

3.4

0.432

1

1.4

0.699

0.7

1.2

1.9

0.7

0.3

0.5

0.9

1.8

4.7

Williams (11 games, '07-'08)

5

19

0.263

0

0

5

19

0.263

0

0

4

8

12

3

1

0

0

3

10

FG

FGA

FG%

3Pt

3PtA

3P%

2Pt

2PtA

2P%

FTM

FTA

FT%

Off

Def

TOT

Asts

Stls

Blks

TOs

PFs

Pts

Benimon (NCAA '13-'14)

6.3

11.8

53.3

0.4

1.3

34.8

5.9

10.6

55.5

5.9

8.3

71.5

2.3

8.8

11.1

3.5

0.7

1.2

3.4

3

19

**Alexander has left Nuggets training camp.

First off, there were some tough decisions to be made across the article about career statistics vs. single season stats. Since we're looking at possibilities for this season, and most of these gents have had tough-to-accurately-sample careers, most of these numbers are single season, and meant to represent what I believe a typical season for each of the players at the NBA level could/should be at this point. Williams and Benimon were difficult to project at all, so you see representations of them against their top-tier competition.

Also, Benimon's stats are per-game, everyone else's per-season as the folks at Draft Express saw fit to make NCAA stats per-game. Hard to say what Benimon's NBA numbers would project to be. Forgive the kludge. On to four guys:

Quincy Miller

As the sole member of this Tier who has spent time in a Nuggets uniform, Quincy Miller enters his third season with the Nuggets needing to make an impression. Q has had moments that he's looked every bit the world beater and top prospect everyone proclaimed him to be, but those stints are unfortunately few and far between. Q has also shown himself to have potential as a defender with length and quick feet. Here's the highlights I could find... from his Baylor days:

First-year coach Shaw had mostly kind words for Miller throughout last season, but Quincy never played his way into meaningful minutes. In his second season, Q played 16 games as a starter in injury-riddled times, and still didn't make the dent any of us had hoped. This leaves the door open for a few others ...


Jerrelle Benimon

Benimon spent his first two NCAA seasons languishing at Georgetown, and chose to spend his last two at Towson, storming out to strong performances in both. Benimon is an effort guy who wasn't expected to make it out of the Vegas Summer League, and simply kept outworking, outplaying, and outhustling most everyone on the floor. The Nuggets rewarded those efforts with a chance to come in and make the big club. Nate Timmons wrote a great intro to Benimon from observing him in Vegas, and though he's got a tough hill to climb to make the squad, here's hoping that effort lands him a gig here or elsewhere. Here's highlights from Benimon's time at Towson:


Marcus Williams

Thankfully, we don't have to judge Williams solely based on NBA performance, where he scored 10 of his 14 career points in his 10 games with the Clippers in the 2007-08 season. But Williams went on to a roller coaster of a career in China, where he was a league MVP AND the first guy bounced from their league for marijuana use. Insert token Colorado/pot joke here. A few of you just made a token/tokin' joke. Shame on you.

Williams was also a two-year starter at basketball factory Arizona in his collegiate days, so he's played at high levels against solid competition. Video highlights are tough to come by, but Nate included a video in his article about Williams. Are you sensing a theme? I'm sensing a theme, because...

Alonzo Gee

Gee has a chance to seriously challenge Quincy Miller for the third slot at small forward, with five seasons under his belt, including a started-all-82-games campaign in the Cavaliers' 2012-13 season. I still used his numbers from last season, as he played in 65 games, less than half as a starter, and that should more accurately project his numbers if needed from the bench.

Though he saw less time last season than Gallo or Chandler, he's in the same ballpark for field goal percentage, and hit almost a third of his treys last season. Did I mention he's a tough defender in his own right? With the abundance of defenders now available at this single position, one might conclude this season's "emphasis on defense" chatter is much more than the usual lip service we've heard so many times before. Here's a few highlights from Gee's full season as a starter.

Oh yeah... Nate wrote two articles on him. Here and here. If you want even more depth on any of these guys, Nate has them down.


So... Call me a psychic, but I don't think the Nuggets will go into the season with all seven of these guys at the three spot. Risky statement, I know. But I'm willing to go out on that limb. Even if the Nuggets somehow stay four deep at this position, three of these gents will be on their way soon. Who stays and who goes, Nuggets Nation?  Is Q on his way out? Will Gallo or Chandler start the season, and if Chander, will Gallo overtake him during the year and when? Why do I suddenly feel as if I'm writing the "tune in next week" to a basketball soap opera? I'm swimming in small forwards!