Why the Denver Nuggets are the Northwest’s sleeper team


Oct 29, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Ty Lawson (3) brings the ball up the court against Detroit Pistons guard D.J. Augustin (14) during the first half at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Denver Nuggets are the Northwest Division sleeper

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Everything we’re hearing about the Denver Nuggets right now is that they have depth. And while it’s certainly good to have a lengthy and versatile roster in the NBA, it won’t exactly drive jersey sales.

When a team is said to have depth, it’s like a pretty girl calling you a “good friend.” In this regard, the Denver Nuggets have become the dorky rom-com buddy who’s always polite and punctual, but never gets his lenses fogged up. This can be advantageous though, because as we all know, the dorky friend always beats the popular jock in the end.

So just how will the Denver Nuggets stand up to the likes of the much cooler Thunder and Blazers? Well, with the very versatility that their strange and eclectic roster boasts. Coach Brian Shaw has said he wants to run and gun, but also be physical inside. While seemingly contradictory thoughts, I think I know what he means.

(It’s a confusing roster, so we should expect any ideas about how it will be utilized to be equally perplexing!)

The Nuggets will run because Ty Lawson will once again control the attack from the point, and that means sprinting up court with an eye for a quick score. Much of the shooting will often come from Lawson himself, who clearly isn’t afraid to play one-on-five. The impact of this approach wasn’t great last season, given that Denver only won 36 games last year. But Lawson also had few other options with all the injuries the squad suffered.

This year will be different as the full cast returns, not least of whom is Danilo Gallinari. The Italian forward is due for a strong campaign after missing all of 2013-14 with a busted up knee. With his rest, which presumably included bronzing in the Milan sun while throwing back a few glasses of Campari, I fully expect him to post better numbers than his recent averages of 16 points and five boards per game. Gallo is also a very large man and that tends to help on the defensive end.

Then there’s JaVale McGee, another big man with both freakish athletic ability and a wild personality. The general public haven’t been this on edge about such a hopping mad character since the Green Goblin. It took a super hero to tame that beast, so perhaps the closest thing on the Nuggets roster is the Manimal, Kenneth Faried, who can hopefully combine well with McGee to dominate opposing bigs.

But what excites me most about Denver, beyond drinking Coors Light in its rarified air, is the return of Arron Afflalo. He shoots a beautiful deep ball, his post up moves are solid, and he gets up the wing with the best at his opposition. Afflalo also has good size at the two, so I look forward to him challenging opponents on the defensive end and perhaps taking a step closer to being an All-Star.

Overall, the prospect of Lawson duking at the top of the key, and probing the interior for creases, suddenly seems more enticing with Afflalo curling off picks or sliding down to the corner to set for three. Throw in Gallinari’s jumpers, big men like McGee and Timofey Mozgov patrolling the middle – and yes, that deep bench – and I can see the Denver Nuggets approaching 45 wins.

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