Denver Nuggets Positions That Must Be Upgraded Before 2013-14 Season
A team that was once thought to be a serious contender for a Western Conference title didn't even make it out of the first round.
So, where do the Nuggets go from here? As a young team, in-house development could be the key. They could also add rotation players through the draft. Free agency offers some interesting options as well.
Here are four positions at which the Nuggets need to get better, and some ways they can do that.
Andre Iguodala was a critical contributor to the Nuggets this past season. He's one of the league's best perimeter defenders, as well as a very underrated distributor (five assists per game for his career).
But it's usually pretty nice to get some shooting from your shooting guard. Iguodala hit just 32 percent of his three-point attempts, and the Nuggets were one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league throughout the year.
The Nuggets should do what they can to keep Iguodala on board for everything else he does, but a backup who is a capable long-range shooter would go a long way.
Two free agents who could be had without breaking the bank are J.J. Redick and O.J. Mayo.
Redick was having a career year in Orlando before a midseason trade seemingly threw off his rhythm (prior to the deal, he was averaging 15.1 points per game and hitting 39 percent of his threes).
Mayo also started the season hot before tailing off a bit down the stretch. He still finished the season shooting 41 percent from downtown.
Either one could be signed outright if Iguodala's early-termination option is put into effect. If he takes his $16 million and stays put, the Nuggets would have to use a mid-level exception on any free agent.
With Andre Iguodala and Corey Brewer potentially leaving and Danilo Gallinari returning from a torn ACL, Denver may be a bit thin on the wings next year.
One potential free agent addition that would help here would be Chase Budinger. He's an athletic wing who would fit into Denver's fast breaking identity, but he would also help stretch the floor (36 percent three-point shooter for his career).
They could also address this need through the draft. Former California Bear Allen Crabbe has a 6'11" wingspan and shot 38 percent from downtown in college. ESPN draft guru Chad Ford currently has him listed at No. 23 on his big board, so there's a chance he could fall to Denver at 27.
Glen Rice Jr. or UNC's Reggie Bullock could also be wing possibilities for Denver late in the first round.
Power forward is a position the Nuggets can definitely upgrade through in-house development.
Kenneth Faried, at only 23, has a very bright future. Even a casual observer can't help but be entertained by the motor with which this guy plays.
Over two NBA seasons, Faried has averaged just under 12 rebounds per 36 minutes, but he typically doesn't play that much because he has almost no offensive game to speak of outside of putbacks and alley-oops.
With his strength and athleticism, one or two go-to moves in the post would be sufficient for now, and some improvement at the free-throw line (63 percent for his career) wouldn't hurt either.
They could also upgrade the position by adding a more offensive-minded backup through free agency.
Paul Millsap would be expensive, but possibly doable if Iguodala doesn't come back. He has a well-rounded offensive game (16 points a game since he became a full-time starter in 2010) and isn't far behind Faried in terms of motor or rebounding ability.
Former Lakers and potential mid-level exception guys Antawn Jamison or Earl Clark could help as well. While Millsap would likely compete for the starting job, Jamison or Clark would almost definitely back up Faried.
Each has the ability to shoot from the perimeter, which would help space the floor for penetrators like Ty Lawson, Iguodala and Wilson Chandler. Jamison has always been a pure scorer and shot 36 percent from three-point range last year and Clark had a breakout year, averaging over 11 points a game.
Center is another position at which the Nuggets have young (albeit inconsistent) talent. Combined, Kosta Koufos and JaVale McGee averaged 40 minutes, 17 points and 12 rebounds a game. If that's one guy, he's an All-Star.
It could be difficult to keep both players long-term, as McGee is set to make nearly $35 million over the next three years. He needs to step up, become more consistent and earn the kind of starter minutes you associate with a $10-12 million/year contract.
He can do that by eliminating mental lapses and staying focused on each individual play, and by improving the same areas highlighted for Kenneth Faried (free-throw shooting and general offensive arsenal).
They can also try to upgrade through the draft. Denver currently has the No. 27 pick, but Nuggets blogger Nate Timmons has written about the possibility trading up in the draft to select a more complete big man.
If they could move into the late lottery portion of the draft, they might be able to snag former Gonzaga big man Kelly Olynyk. Like McGee and Koufos, Olynyk is a true seven-footer, but is much more versatile offensively. With his ability to play away from the basket, he could spend some time at power forward as well.