NBA Preview - Denver Nuggets
When Dwight Howard was dealt to the Lakers in August it caused a ripple effect felt throughout the entire NBA. One of the most affected teams was the Denver Nuggets. They inserted themselves into the transaction and vastly improved their team. They gave up Arron Afflalo who had been their starting 2 guard for the past couple seasons, but also got rid of Al Harrington. They brought in Olympian Andre Iguodala which could go down as the move of the offseason – ya’ know, provided Dwight Howard’s back completely disintegrates or something.
I’m expecting a career year out of Iguodala, which is really saying something because he’s coming off a year where he won a Gold Medal and had his first All-Star nod. His defense is impeccable and will be relied upon in the West as the Nuggets try to stop Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant. Iggy is one of the best defensive wingmen in the league right now and will certainly be up for the tall task. His offensive game isn't as explosive as it once was and I'm not sure if it's because of injuries or general wear and tear, but he could easily bounce back. He posted the lowest PPG (12.4) a season ago since his rookie year, but he's not a scorer. He can distribute the ball and make his teammates better - something very valuable on a team when he isn't even the point guard. Denver fans are going to fall in love with Andre and he’ll help solidify this team as a contender in the West.
The thing I love the most about the addition of Iguodala is the fact that the rest of the team stayed intact. Afflalo is replaced with the trade and the core is still going strong. Iggy is not a guy who will disrupt any sort of chemistry, quite the opposite – he’s going to bolster it. Ty Lawson broke out a season ago and established himself as the man the offense flows through. He’s that small guard type of player who weaves through defenses and bursts through the seams like a running back to the bucket. The offense is going to flow spectacularly as we embark on another season of Lawson improving. They never miss a step when Lawson is on the bench with veteran backup Andre Miller on the roster.
It’s funny, had you asked me a year ago about how I felt about JaVale McGee, I would have told you he’s a head case. Not a fan. Then the Wizards traded him to the Nuggets and I saw the true promise in his game. He’s still ridiculous with his inane desire to swat shots out of the air resulting in absurd goaltending calls and maturity is a huge question for him. Regardless, McGee is one of the more promising big men in the game and with George Karl keeping his feet on the ground (literally and figuratively) he may just reach that potential that seemed like it would go to waste. He showed plenty of flashes down the stretch last season and even impressed me in the playoffs for the Nuggets. It’s crucial that he doesn’t regress this year.
Wilson Chandler will play a full season this year after his issues with the lockout and playing overseas last year. I adore what he brings to this team and he’s got a ton of talent. He’s no longer injecting himself into a roster midseason and trying to coexist. Chandler is going through training camp with his teammates and he should go back to being a key contributor to this team like he was in New York and in Denver after he was traded as a part of the Carmelo Anthony deal. Danilo Gallinari came to Denver along with Chandler and I've found myself a bit disappointed by his game since. It's not terrible, but he hasn't improved since leaving New York. The injury issues are still there and maybe that was the deterrent to his game. He's healthy now, it's time to step up and help lead the Nuggets deep into the playoffs.
Kenneth Faried surprised a lot of scouts during his rookie year with the Nuggets. The first few months were less than impressive simply because he had no opportunity. He was slated behind Nene on the team and playing time was scarce. Nene was sent to Washington and Faried got his chance and ran with it. The first game after Nene was traded, Faried notched 18 points and 16 rebounds - a spectacular coming out performance that made the NBA take notice. The Nuggets had another young player ready to do some damage in the league. He plays with that reckless abandon that all fans adore watching and it's magnified by the fact that Denver got this guy with the 22nd pick of the 2011 Draft. Not bad for a guy who was 3rd overall in Rookie of the Year voting.
If you’re new to the NBA this season or know someone who is and want a team to follow, I’d say take Denver. They aren’t a powerhouse, but they’re very good and have a ton of promise. The potential is there and they could mimic the season the Indiana Pacers had last year. The West will surely take notice of the Nuggets this year and they will be a very viable team come playoff time.
Season Outlook: Andre Iguodala fits with the team seamlessly and the Nuggets flirt with 50 wins. The Nuggets push whatever top 4 seed they face in the playoffs to the brink and possibly even upset them. They’d be a top three team in the East.
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