The Denver Nuggets have two young, energetic frontcourt players who should enter the national consciousness of NBA fans and observers in 2013. One of them may actually already be there, but not for reasons he would have imagined.
With the Washington Wizards, McGee was a regular on the SportsCenter “Not Top 10” lists and was generally a punch line in NBA fan circles with regard to his on-court behavior.
And plays like the one below gave McGee early in his career his unfortunate reputation.
Hey, at least he was trying hard. Washington was winning that game handily at the time, too.
What Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri saw, however, was a tall, long, hyper-athletic, raw center who could be a real contributor to a playoff team.
Under George Karl, McGee did just that in 2012.
He averaged 10.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 20.6 minutes per game with the Nuggets (20 games) last season. Against the L.A. Lakers in a seven-game first-round series, McGee averaged 8.6 points, 9.6 boards and 3.1 blocks in 25.9 minutes per game. All of his playoff production came from off the bench.
He only started five games last season, and is not expected to be a starter to open the 2012-13 season. Of course, that may not matter if he ends up playing starter’s minutes.
This summer, after re-signing with the Nuggets, McGee worked on his mental game with legendary center Hakeem Olajuwon. Olajuwon liked what he saw from McGee, and Nuggets fans should agree with that sentiment come winter. Wizards fans, however, may not be thrilled to have lost an improved McGee.
The other young frontcourt Nuggets player with serious breakout potential is second-year power forward Kenneth Faried, whose infectious energy and tenacity on the boards has already earned him the moniker, “Manimal”.
Faried inserted himself into the starting lineup for Denver early in his rookie campaign, starting 39-of-46 games played in 2012. In just 22.5 minutes per game, he averaged 10.2 points, 1.0 blocked shots and 7.7 boards, including 3.1 offensive rebounds.
Faried carried his outstanding play into the postseason. Against the forest that is the Lakers frontcourt, the 6'8" Faried averaged a double-double (10.4 points, 10.0 rebounds—including 3.6 offensive boards) to go along with 1.1 blocks per game.
In his sophomore season, Faried is projected to be the starting power forward. Stretch 4 Al Harrington was traded away in Denver’s deal for Andre Iguodala (known to most as The Dwight Deal) and replaced by a more traditional big in Anthony Randolph.
If Faried gets a bump in minutes, he’ll be double-double guy in 2012-13.
The Nuggets go two deep at each position, but a young guy like Faried (he will turn 23 in November) should be allowed to run a lot this year.
His tangible contribution to the Nuggets will come in the form of possibly four or more extra possessions each game from his energy on the boards and on defense.
Either one of these players could be a fan favorite for the Nuggets this season. They both have the skills and will now have the opportunity to produce at a high level.