Who's New?: G Emmanuel Mudiay (draft), C Nikola Jokic (draft rights), G Nick Johnson (trade), F Mike Miller (free agent)
Who's Gone?: G Ty Lawson (trade),
Off-season Grade: C. Completely dependent on how Mudiay develops, obviously, but I don't understand why they didn't commit to a total rebuild by trading Kenneth Faried and Danilo Gallinari for whatever young talent and picks they could get.
2015-16 Slogan: "Like ... wins and losses are just an artificial construct of the mind, maaaaan."
What Else Is New?: Once they selected Mudiay in the draft it became readily apparent that the Nugs were going to make sure that Lawson was kept as far away from their prized rookie as possible. Lawson figured it out immediately, though he guessed wrong on his future employer. NBA players sure do seem to be into hookah these days. You ever wonder if uncultured rookies get all excited when veterans invite them to a hookah party in their hotel room, only to find out it's something totally different? "So, uh, this smells good and all, but when are the girls comin'?"
Yeah, me neither.
Oh, and new uniforms, because the NBA became European soccer when you weren't looking.
Your Likely Starters:
C Jusuf Nurkic
F Kenneth Faried
F Dalino Gallinari
G Randy Foye
G Emmanuel Mudiay
It took the better part of last season, but Gallinari finally found his rhythm in March and April after missing all of the 2013-14 season recovering from a torn ACL. He'll be the unquestioned first option now without Lawson and could be wrecking fools all year long if this preseason clip is any indication.
Danilo Gallinari pulls a Stephen Curry on Stephen Curry. http://t.co/oPjZHGJy24— HoopsHype (@hoopshype) October 14, 2015
If he stays healthy, I'm predicting "The Rooster" averages at least 25 a night, though it's possible Mike Malone may grow exasperated with his defense.
I'm out of anything original to say about Faried. He's one of the league's best offensive rebounders... and that's about it. His shooting range relative to his size is really poor, he can't really guard anyone and there's no statistical or anecdotal proof at all that he makes his teammates better in any way. As a starter he's severely limited, but maybe as a 18-minute a night bench guy on the right team he'd be valuable. Weren't there any suitors for his services, or do the Nuggets just overvalue him?
Nurkic had a solid but hardly spectacular rookie season, showing flashes of potential. The best thing I can say about him is that he's tough and absolutely intimidated by nobody. He was foul-prone, however, averaging 6.8 per-36 minutes and that's not gonna fly. He had off-season knee surgery, but should be good to go by the opener.
Foye's still around, the "steady veteran" who doesn't make waves in the locker room. He'll start some and come off the bench some. It doesn't seem to bother anyone in Nuggets management that he's shot below 40 percent in four of the past five seasons, but it baffles me he still has a steady gig over there. Malone has to be praying that Gary Harris or Will Barton will give him a reason to make a change here.
The front office made the decision to not only draft the 19 year-old Mudiay, but to essentially hand him the car keys. It's gonna be his show. Everything I've read says he's got the vision to be a special point guard some day, but his ball-handling, shooting and overall athleticism aren't anything special. The whole squad will be suffering through his growing pains, but it's not like winning is going to do them much good long term. Playing Mudiay 35-plus minutes a night sounds like good tanking strategy.
Your Likely Bench:
F Wilson Chandler
G Jameer Nelson
G Will Harris
F Will Barton
C Joffrey Lauveregne
F Darrell Arthur
G Nick Johnson
F Mike Miller
Chandler, Barton or Harris may wind up starting over Foye but the first two aren't quick enough to handle the defensive side of that equation and Harris lacks ideal size. Chandler is a streaky long-range shooter and solid on the boards, but doesn't provide much else. Barton is someone the Blazers gave up on in the Arron Afflalo trade. His frame is reminiscent of Corey Brewer, just reed thin, but despite that he rebounded well and his overall play was on the upswing in his couple months for the Nuggets last year. He's got to add more range to his jumper though. Harris, the 19th overall pick last year, had a miserable rookie season but showed some improvement in the Summer League and the preseason. Nelson was re-signed to serve as Mudiay's mentor and I'm guessing he just wants some stability after being shuffled around three different teams last season. He played by far the best for Denver and it'd be fair to suggest he's the best point guard on the team right now. It's just not the role the team needs from him. His job is to be Crash Davis to Mudiay's Nuke Laloosh.
Then there are the fringe guys. The fascination with Arthur is a bit baffling to me. He had one good season five years ago, as an integral part of that Grizzlies team that upset the Spurs in the first round in 2010-11. Since then he's been sub-replacement level, but Denver re-signed him to a two-year deal. J.J. Hickson, one of the most reviled players in the basketblogger community, is also in the mix here, though I don't imagine Malone will put up with him for long. They signed Miller for some more of that veteran leadership, but he literally looked like he couldn't move after two or three minutes of court time in the Finals last year. How does he keep getting work? Lauveregne had a less-than-impressive first season in the states but he looked decent during the Eurobasket tournament and will get the first chance to back up Nurkic. Jokic, a second-round pick the previous season is really his only challenger. They're both more shooters than grunts. Johnson, somehow, was the only guy they kept from the Lawson trade. He hardly played for the Rockets but was quite bad during the regular season and then historically bad in the playoffs.
Your Coach: Mike Malone
Malone got the Kings off to a promising start last year but was unceremoniously fired once DeMarcus Cousins took ill. He has a defense-first mentality, which will be interesting for a Nuggets team that's historically used its atmospheric advantage to run, run, run. Also, there doesn't seem to be any defensive talent on the roster. Or much shooting. Or driving. Or... well you get the idea. I guess Malone wanted to strike while the iron was hot, but I don't understand why he didn't just take an assistant gig somewhere and bide his time for a different job.
Bottom Line: It's hard to make a case for anyone in the West to finish with a worse record than Denver, even with their built-in home-court advantage. I just don't see much to be excited about here. Even if Mudiay and Nurkic develop into starts, Gallinari will be past his prime to help them. Eventually it's expected that he and Faried will be moved to kick off a youth moment.
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