2011-12 Record: 38-28, 2nd place in Northwest Division, eliminated in first round of NBA Playoffs by Los Angeles Lakers
2012 NBA Draft: G Evan Fournier (20th overall pick, French League), F Quincy Miller (38th overall pick, Baylor), Izzet Turkyilmaz (50th overall pick, Turkey)
Offseason Losses: G Aaron Afflalo (traded to Orlando Magic), G Rudy Fernandez (signed with Real Madrid), F Al Harrington (traded to Orlando Magic), C Chris Anderson (amnestied)
Resigned: G Andre Miller (3 years, $14.6 million), C JaVale McGee (4 years, $44 million)
Projected Starting Line-Up: PG Ty Lawson, SG Andre Iguodala, SF Danilo Gallinari, PF Kenneth Faried, C JaVale McGee
OFFSEASON GRADE: B +
The Denver Nuggets have always been a team that defies sensible basketball logic as far as building a roster is concerned.
Instead of having (at least) one major marketable star to build around (the obvious approach), as well as to help sell merchandise and what not, Nuggets management has instead compiled a group of solid, under the radar type players who have found ways to make this team a credible, legitimate threat in the Western Conference.
The focus isn’t on one individual player (right, Carmelo Anthony?). It’s the sum of Denver’s many parts that makes this team function.
Take newly acquired all-star and recent gold medalist Andre Iguodala for example. Iguodala comes over from the Philadelphia 76ers in the four-team trade that sent “Superman” Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Andre qualified for his very first Eastern Conference all-star team last season and just recently won a gold medal with the 2012 USA men’s basketball squad over in London. Despite being the focal point of the 76ers for the last 6-7 years, I’ve only ever seen Iguodala as more of a #2 or #3 option on a championship contending team, rather than a player you build around long-term.
Head Coach George Karl isn’t going to all of a sudden flip the script and make Andre Iguodala the one and done go-to-guy for this basketball team. If anything, Andre will be incorporated into an offensive scheme that already allows its abundance of weapons (Lawson, Gallinari, Miller, McGee etc.) to get near equal opportunities to score the basketball. I’m sure he will understand that and be immediately sold on what Karl is preaching.
I’m sure some fans in Denver were upset seeing Aaron Afflalo leave in the deal, as he could easily be considered the better player at this stage of his career. He averaged more points than Iguodala and shot better from the field last season. He’s also shown a steady increase in productivity on a yearly basis since entering the league back in 2007, while Andre’s numbers have been on the decline as of late. If anything, Iguodala’s recent all-star selection should prove that big flashy numbers don’t always tell the entire story. The Philadelphia 76ers were one the of the surprising teams last year out East and Andre was singled out for being a huge part of their success. He’s one of the best perimeter defenders in all of basketball, which is a huge plus for a team looking to improve upon a defense which allowed 101.1 points a game (third worst in the NBA) to their opponents in 2012.
Resigning JaVale McGee was also a huge step forward towards improving the teams lackluster defensive play. Considered to be one of the biggest jokes in the NBA at one time, McGee has now turned over a new leaf as a member of the Nuggets and is now looked at as one of the top centers in the league today. His 2.2 blocks a game was good enough for 2nd in the NBA last season, behind Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka at 3.7. Having McGee on board for a full season under Karl as well as incorporating Iguodala will surely help the Denver Nuggets be a more credible threat on D.
I also love the signing of point guard Andre Miller as well. Miller is probably good enough (in his mind and in the mind of others) to start on a majority of teams, but having him stay with the ball club as insurance in case Ty Lawson (knock on wood) goes down with an injury was a smart move by executive vice-president Masai Ujiri.
Drafting Evan Fournier out of France and Quincy Miller out of Baylor show Denver’s willingness to look towards the future while still trying to be competitive for today. Both rookies are 19 years old and still have a ways to go in their development. Playing time will be scarce with such a deep roster, but competing with a bonafide playoff team will do wonders for their confidence. They both have the potential to be integral parts of the roster in 2-3 years, but that’s only if they gradually improve their raw skills at a steady pace.
If the 2012-13 season was a full 82 games, the Denver Nuggets would have been on pace for 47 wins.
Their playoff series with the Los Angeles Lakers showed the world that they are indeed the real deal.
A core of Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, Danilo Galinari, 2nd year player Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee is strong enough to make an even deeper run in 2013.
The Thunders, Lakers and Spurs of the West will deservedly be the favourites in the Western Conference, but never discount a team as well-constructed as these Denver Nuggets.
Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports