30 preseason predictions: Denver Nuggets

USA TODAY Sports

After losing their coach, GM and best player, can the Nuggets make another postseason run?

After an eight-year tenure, George Karl has parted ways with Denver, which signals the transformation into a new era of Nuggets basketball. The highly competent and respected Brian Shaw is now at the helm of a Denver team that has a lot of raw talent.

The Nuggets have had a string of disappointing postseasons for a while now, highlighted by their loss to the Golden State Warriors. Their miserable offseason did nothing to bring hope to the Nugget fans. It was time for a change, and Shaw might be the answer to the postseason woes. Will Shaw be able to develop a juggernaut out of this athletic team, or will JaVale McGee continue to pull 'JaVale McGees'?

The Denver Nuggets

Prediction: The Nuggets will be a six, seven, or eight seed this season in the Western Conference.

The Denver Nuggets are a talented basketball team. There's no question about that. They have one of the most overall athletic rosters that I have ever seen on any sports team. When your starting center can do this:

...and your backup point guard can do this:

...you should already know that your team is loaded with athletic beasts.

Over the past decade, the Nuggets have often had some of the most athletic players the NBA has to offer -- guys like J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony, and "Chris" Birdman "Andersen". When on the Nuggets, all of these players were noted for their athleticism, but also, unfortunately, for their poor decision-making.

The problem is: brawn doesn't always come with brains. Most of the Nuggets are loaded with physical gifts, but their BBIQ doesn't come even close to matching up. When your starting center does this:

...and your backup point guard does this:

...you should know that you shouldn't trust your team to make great in-game decisions.

The Nuggets roster has had a considerable drop-off between this season and the last, particularly due to their offseason transactions. They not only lost their premier wing defender in Andre Iguodala, but also two of their other best defenders in Corey Brewer and Kosta Koufos.

In terms of their additions, the Nuggets picked up the sweet-shooting Randy Foye, Darrell Arthur, J.J. Hickson, and Nate Robinson. If you compare their additions and subtractions this offseason, it becomes easy to foresee a drop in the number of wins for the upcoming season. The worst part of all of this is the fact that the Nuggets essentially had a one-for-one trade with the Grizzlies to give up their talented starting big in Koufos to receive an undersized role player in Arthur.

Aside from their knucklehead players, what could hold the Nuggets back from making a dent in the playoffs is their defense. They have so many defensive liabilites on their team. Hickson is an atrocious pick-and-roll defender. JaVale McGee is improving on defense and does a great job of covering guards on a switch during a pick and roll situation, but he still bites on pump fakes too often. Both Ty Lawson and Robinson are sub-par defenders because they often get overpowered due to their size, and they tend to excessively gamble on defense.

The Nuggets have consistently been in the playoff picture over the past decade, and Shaw will definitely have his work cut out for him. Having one of the worst offseasons in the NBA, Denver needs to find a new means of breaking into the top of the Western Conference. JaVale could be the answer if he can develop into the key big man that he has the potential to become.

Other Nuggets predictions:

  • At some point this season, JaVale McGee will have every play on "ESPN SportsCenter's Not Top Ten", and it will be glorious.
  • Ty Lawson will have an All-Star-caliber season, but will be overshadowed by the hundreds of other talented point guards in the Western Conference (Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, etc.)
  • Despite all of the injuries and mental cases on his team, Brian Shaw will do a fantastic job and place in the top three for Coach of the Year voting (which, given the team's history, may not do anything for his job security).

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