The Denver Nuggets no longer have a superstar. Instead, they now boast a deep and formidable cast consisting of solid veterans and young players bursting with potential.
The Nuggets have a number of valuable players, but who are the players who truly stand out and carry the keys to making this team the best it can be?
Here I rank Denver’s players based on ability and value to the organization.
An undrafted rookie last season, Julyan Stone made it onto the Nuggets by virtue of his solid defense and point guard skills.
At 6’6”, Stone has the size of a wing but the handle and approach of a point guard—and he has some value in that regard. However, Stone is unlikely to see playing time this season with several preferable options ahead of him.
A first-round draft pick out of France, Evan Fournier is relatively unknown by NBA fans and will likely remain that way during his rookie campaign.
Fournier has solid shooting ability and decent potential, but he will need to bulk up and improve his all-around game if he hopes to get any minutes this season.
Fournier should strive to showcase defensive intensity and a consistent three-point stroke in practice, as there's always a chance that his particular talents could find a place in the Nuggets' rotation.
Quincy Miller was regarded as one of the nation’s top talents while in high school, but his college production during his one-year stint at Baylor was fairly mediocre.
Although this can be partially attributed to the fact that Miller was recovering from a knee injury, he looked fairly lost overall during his college career and might have benefit from sticking around for another year.
With Jordan Hamilton and Anthony Randolph ahead of him in the fringe forward category, Miller will see limited minutes next season.
Jordan Hamilton played well in his limited rookie opportunities, showcasing excellent scoring ability, shooting range and rebounding prowess. Although a bit shot-happy at times, Hamilton has solid size for a wing and scored pretty efficiently.
Hamilton has the opportunity to carve out a consistent role this season if he can outperform Corey Brewer, which is fairly possible considering his superior outside shooting and potential.
If one of Denver's key perimeter players goes down with an injury, Hamilton would be the logical candidate to benefit the most from newly available minutes.
Statistically, Timofey Mozgov doesn’t offer very much. He’s a decent shot-blocker and has the size to battle in the paint, but he lacks the scoring ability and tenacity on the boards that one would expect from a starting center. Hint to George Karl: Start McGee!
Mozgov will have value for the Nuggets as another big body to throw against Dwight Howard and other elite centers. Although he can't create offensively, Mozgov can convert open shots and at least draw attention in the paint.
Corey Brewer averaged nearly nine points per game last season despite playing the primary role of stopper off the bench. Although not particularly skilled, Brewer’s athleticism and aggression on the defensive end allow him to thrive on the fast break, which makes him a great fit for this fast-paced Denver team.
Brewer plays the passing lanes exceptionally well, and his defensive talent should allow him to scrap out some minutes despite the addition of Iguodala.
Kosta Koufos gets the edge over the fairly similar Mozgov due to his superior rebounding and finishing ability. Koufos pulled down rebounds at a very efficient clip last season and shot 60 percent from the field while posting an impressive 17.35 PER.
Although Mozgov outperformed him in the playoffs, Koufos is generally a superior defender and has near equal size to the towering Russian seven-footer.
Koufos will have to compete constantly with McGee and Mozgov for minutes, but he is guaranteed to be a useful resource off the bench against bigger teams.
The definition of unrecognized potential, Anthony Randolph has all the tools to be an NBA star, but he seems to lack the motivation to reach that level.
Randolph can do just about everything on the court at a high level, as he's a great shot-blocker, solid rebounder and explosive scorer, but his focus is simply not there.
His unwillingness to compete at both ends keeps him off the court more often than not.
If George Karl can find a way to get through to Randolph and unlock the passion behind that natural talent, the Nuggets could have a free-agent steal.
Andre Miller has never relied much on his athleticism to be an effective basketball player, and as a result he’s managed to maintain value well into his 30s.
Miller is the best passer on the Nuggets’ roster and his ability to throw pinpoint alley-oops makes him a great partner for Denver’s explosive big men. Although much of his lateral quickness has vanished, he still makes effective use of his size to defend and post up opposing point guards.
Miller is arguably the league’s best backup point guard, and he should prove invaluable in controlling the second unit for Denver while serving as a knockdown free-throw shooter in end-of-game situations.
JaVale McGee doesn’t quite have the NBA game figured out yet, but he’s getting closer. With solid coaching, McGee should rise steadily in the rankings of both his own team and amongst NBA centers as a whole.
An outstanding physical specimen who is often thwarted by focus issues and a poor basketball I.Q., McGee has proven to be both awe-inspiring and incredibly frustrating while on the court. For every crowd-raising swat or thunderous dunk, there is another play that leaves fans wondering where McGee’s head is at.
If McGee can get his mental game right, his physical gifts and immense talent will enable him to rise on this list.
Chandler is difficult to place in these rankings, since he hardly played in the NBA last season and struggled to adjust during the brief span that he did. The big question with Chandler is whether he improved while playing in China.
At 25 years old, he still has plenty of room to grow, but his skills haven’t truly been on display for NBA fans since the 2010-11 season.
Whatever the case may be, there are a few things that we do know about Chandler. He’s an excellent finisher, versatile defender and solid rebounder with a sporadic, but sometimes deadly, outside shot.
And though he will likely come off the bench next season, he should be a top candidate for the sixth man of the year award.
A surprisingly decent defender considering his lack of foot speed, Danilo Gallinari is adept at using his combination of length and bulk to keep opposing small forwards at bay.
However, Gallinari is by no means a defensive stopper. His primary calling card in his first few seasons has been his shooting ability, which, unfortunately, appeared to be on hiatus last season.
The Italian shot just 32.8 percent from deep last season, and though he made up for it with frequent forays to the charity stripe, he will need to return his shooting numbers to their prior levels if he hopes to maintain his spot in the first unit.
Highly efficient and ridiculously athletic, Kenneth Faried is the epitome of an energy guy in the NBA. Faried overcomes his lack of height by consistently outworking his opponents while dominating on the boards and in transition.
Faried posted an outstanding 21.94 PER in his first NBA season and made a whole lot of teams regret passing on him in the draft. He isn’t a particularly refined player, but his effort, instincts and brute athleticism enable him to outmatch even some of the most skilled NBA players on a regular basis.
Faried carries special value for the Nuggets, as his incredible effort level sets a high standard for his teammates and his ferocious dunks lift the crowd with ease.
Although not a top-three Denver player in terms of skill, Faried is undoubtedly one of this team’s most important players when one considers his relentless hustle and great efficiency.
Ty Lawson is a perfect fit in the fast-paced Denver offense, which allows him to showcase his blinding speed and finishing ability to the fullest.
Although a scoring point guard by nature, Lawson proved to be a capable facilitator last season. His scrappy play on the defensive end also allows him to overcome his 5'11" stature, for the most part.
Lawson has improved in each of his three seasons in the league and looks like the man in Denver for the foreseeable future. But for now, he ranks just short of being the Nuggets’ No. 1 player.
As one of the league’s top perimeter defenders, Andre Iguodala should prove immensely helpful to the Nuggets. He is a player that is capable of slowing down the West’s plethora of star wings.
Iguodala’s value extends beyond the defensive end, too. Although not an elite scorer, he is a valuable offensive player due to his court vision, finishing ability and ever-improving outside shot. Despite his low scoring output, Iguodala was named an all-star last season in recognition of his all-around game.
Iguodala plays both ends at a very high level, and though he won’t lead the Nuggets in scoring next season, his versatility and ability to impact the game on multiple levels makes him the Nuggets’ top player.