With the 2013-14 NBA Season just around the corner, Ball So Hard is bringing you the definitive ranking of every NBA team, counting down each conference from 15-1. Think we’re wrong? Let me know in the comment section below.
Western Conference no. 9 – Denver Nuggets
Rookies: Erick Green, Joffrey Lauvergne
Free Agents: J.J. Hickson, Nate Robinson
Trades: Darrell Arthur, Randy Foye
Free Agents: Corey Brewer, Julyan Stone
Trades: Andre Iguodala, Kosta Koufos
The Story So Far
Last season the Nuggets won a franchise record 57 games during the regular season and secured the third seed in the Western Conference, and in the past 20 years only seven teams that won at least 55 games missed the playoffs the next year.
This season, Denver will become the eighth team on that list.
During the offseason, the Nuggets lost arguably their best player in Andre Iguodala, and fired head coach George Karl after their playoff flameout against the Warriors.
Denver’s offence last season revolved around their ability to lock down teams on defence and then score in transition.
This season, new head coach Brian Shaw is implementing a slower paced offence. However, he retains players like Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried who are better suited to Karl’s up-tempo style. While the additions of Nate Robinson and J.J. Hickson hardly compliment a halfcourt heavy offence.
Denver also lost their two best defenders – Iduodala and Corey Brewer – and while JaVale McGee and Faried are capable rim protectors, they are going to have their hands full with guys like Chandler, Lawson and Foye trying to guard the likes of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard and Ricky Rubio (and that is just within their division).
The other factor working against the Nuggets is the absence of Danilo Gallinari who remains on the sidelines indefinitely with an ACL injury. Gallinari was Denver’s second leading scorer last season and his ability to create his own offence and hit outside shots will be missed until he returns. Chandler will be a serviceable replacement in Gallinari’s absence, but he has not been starter in the league since his days in New York.
Because of the high altitude in Denver, the Nuggets usually walk into around 30 home wins each season, so you can’t completely rule them out of the playoff race. But with all of the uncertainty and changes surrounding the franchise coming into this season, they will struggle to make the post season in such a deep conference.
The Big Question
How will Denver’s undersized backcourt perform during the season?
Both Ty Lawson and the newly acquired Nate Robinson are under six feet tall, while Randy Foye, Jordan Hamilton and Evan Fournier are all on the smaller side for playing the two-guard.
Once again, this is one of the remaining legacies of Karl’s fast paced offence that would push the ball at every opportunity last season.
The Western Conference is loaded with some of the leagues best guards, and none of the Nuggets backcourt are particularly good defenders. So it will be interesting if Shaw’s slower paced offence can work without the tenacious defence that triggered Karl’s offence onslaught last season.
The Nuggets’ trio of point guards does give Shaw options to go with the passing and leadership of Andre Miller, the speed of Lawson, or the explosive scoring of Robinson.
Regardless of how effective they are, one thing is for sure, the Nuggets will certainly be an entertaining team to watch.