2012 NBA Off Season Preview: Denver Nuggets

Denver Nuggets

2011-2012 Record: 38-28, 2nd in Northwest
Stat Leaders: Ty Lawson, 16.4 ppg. Kenneth Faried, 7.7 rpg. Andre Miller, 6.7 apg. JaVale McGee, 1.6 bpg

Depth Chart

C - Timofey Mozgov, Kosta Koufos, Chris Andersen
PF - Kenneth Faried, Al Harrington
SF - Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler
SG - Arron Aflallo, Corey Brewer
PG - Ty Lawson

Restricted Free Agents: C JaVale McGee, G Rudy Fernandez
Unrestricted Free Agents: G Andre Miller, G Julyan Stone

2011-2012 Season Recap: The Nuggets had a pretty successful season, but you think it could have been better had so many players not missed time. The Nuggets were rarely at full strength, with Danilo Gallinari, Nene, Wilson Chandler, Rudy Fernandez and Kenneth Faried missing large chunks of time. Still, they were only three games out of the three seed and took the Lakers to seven games. They also got younger by swapping out Nene for JaVale McGee, which bodes well for the future.

I'm a Nuggets fan. No disrespectful caption. Just Go Nuggets!
The Good: The Nuggets have reinvented themselves since trading away Carmelo Anthony. They were the top scoring team in the NBA at over 104 points per game. Instead of one guy, they have a handful of guys who are all capable of dropping 20 points on any given night. This is a very deep, athletic team that used their bench to outrun and outlast their opponents. Ty Lawson continued his development in becoming one of the best point guards in the NBA. Kenneth Faried started the season on the bench, but by the end of the season he was the teams best rebounder and hustle guy. Everyone was calling him a sleeper in the draft and expected him to have an instant impact, but he still wasn't taken until the 20's. I guess that's why the bad teams are always drafting in the top 10.

The Bad: The Nuggets are still not a great defensive team. In the front court especially, they rely on hustle guys who can get back door blocks other then big men who can lock down the opposing center. It was evident in game 7 of the playoff series against the Lakers especially. They just do not have anyone who can stop a Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum. They miss Nene in that regard. Personnel wise, Danilo Gallinari needs to take that next step. He got a nice contract from the team and needs to become that consistent 18 to 20 ppg scorer the team thinks he can become.

Key Free Agents: JaVale McGee had a couple great games in the playoffs, and the Nuggets can't afford to let that potential get away. Unfortunately, the way big men get paid (see: DeAndre Jordan) Denver might have to shell out 10 million a year for him. Will they want to commit that much to a guy who is still very much a project and has a reputation as a knucklehead? Rudy Fernandez is a terrible teammate and should be allowed to walk, probably back to Spain. Andre Miller is 84 years old but ageless, as he was the veteran leader of this team. Denver would love to bring him back and Miller probably will want to come back to Denver.

Projected Cap Space: $8,700,351. The Nuggets have a decent amount of cap space, and could get further under if they amnesty Al Harrington or Chris Andersen. If they resign McGee and Miller, their cap space would disappear.

Amnesty Possibilities: Al Harrington is overpaid but he played a huge role for the Nuggets this season. Everyone thought he was a for sure amnesty candidate before the season but he paid off for Denver. Chris Andersen is making almost five million a year and is buried on the depth chart. He might be the guy Denver chooses to let go.

Draft Possibilities: The Nuggets will pick 20th. They won't find an immediate starter but this is a very deep draft and they should land a contributor. What Denver needs more then anything, a big man who can back guys down and play some defense, they probably won't find here. They could go with the project Fab Melo but with Timofey Mozgov always on the roster that won't make much sense. So Denver could go with best available athlete to further shore up the second unit. John Henson is very similar to JaVale McGee and could provide more shot blocking. Marquis Teague is a guy who will need a couple years to learn how to play the point but could wind up as a great scoring backup to Ty Lawson. Or someone like Quincy Miller, who has talent but doesn't really know how to play the game yet.

Free Agent Possibilities: Denver has needs but they don't really have the money to land any of the top guys, so like most playoff teams, they will have to use their exception to land a player to help the team. Chris Kaman could be had and he would provide some post offense when the team needs to play in the half court. Marcus Camby could eat some minutes as a veteran backup.

Rebuilding, Contending or Status Quo?: Status Quo. Denver is a really young and deep team, and they have committed to the guys they have now. Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Arron Afflalo will be with the team for the next few years with nice contracts, so they are hoping they an develop these guys to be the three main scorers to go along with the electrifying Ty Lawson. The front court is equally as talented, but even more raw. Kenneth Faried looks like a long time starter in this league with his great rebounding skills and non stop motor. Denver would like to develop Timofey Mozgov into a starter, but he has shown that he is still a few years away from consistent production. Denver is going to win or lose with the young group they have.

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Jonathan Carrano

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