With Andre Iguodala and Kosta Koufos no longer with the Denver Nuggets, Brian Shaw has some work to do in assembling his starting five. On top of that, Danilo Gallinari most likely won't return to action until at least December, according to Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post.
With all the free-agency acquisitions and Wilson Chandler's emergence as a valid starting option, Denver has plenty of routes it can go in the 2013-14 season.
One of the reasons George Karl was dismissed in the offseason, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne, was because he didn't give JaVale McGee enough playing time. Putting him next to Kenneth Faried in the starting five would make one of the best flying duos in the league, but is it best to put the two motor players side-by-side?
There isn't anyone that can fully replace Iguodala in the starting lineup, but is Randy Foye or Evan Fournier the best way to complement the starters and be the most effective?
If Chandler gets off to a hot start, does Shaw go back to Gallinari, who has started 156 of his last 159 games? Or does he make the bold choice and stick with Chandler?
At this point, Ty Lawson is the only guaranteed starter for next season.
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The Nuggets have two of the most acrobatic big men in the NBA with Faried and McGee. Both players run the floor, are active on the glass and reject shots into the stands.
But they are similar players and provided a dangerous one-two punch in the rotation last year. McGee was effective off the bench in his 18.1 minutes by bringing a burst of energy that couldn't be matched.
Can he bring that on a nightly basis as a starter next to Faried?
Both players were in the starting lineup for Game 5 and Game 6 against Golden State, and both had solid performances. Faried posted two double-doubles, and McGee racked up 19 points and 18 rebounds combined.
The problem is that Golden State went on its terror late in the third quarter and early in the fourth. Since Corey Brewer was ineffective and Kosta Koufos was dominated down low, Denver had no boost when things went wrong.
It's a small sample size, and the bench looks different for 2013-14—but it is a concern.
So who would Shaw put in the starting lineup instead? While it is a possibility, it seems unthinkable to take Faried out of the starting five after his productive 2012-13 campaign.
As for center, J.J. Hickson started at the 5 for Portland last season, but he's only 6'9" and the Nuggets would be severely undersized if he started. Denver recently re-signed Timofey Mozgov to a multi-year deal, according to Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post, but can Mozgov instantly jump back into a starting role after spending last season primarily on the bench?
Considering the options, it's best to put Faried and McGee together, but Shaw will need to rotate his frontcourt players at separate times. Having the two playmakers on the court at the start of the game could get Denver off to some quick starts, but until McGee proves that he can be a more diverse post player each game, he should only be playing between 20 and 25 minutes.
With Hickson's athletic ability and mid-range shot, Mozgov's rim protection and Darrell Arthur's defense both inside and outside, the Nuggets have sneakily developed a balanced frontcourt.
With Andre Iguodala out of the picture, someone needs to step up and give Ty Lawson support in the backcourt. Iguodala played the most minutes on the team and did a little bit of everything last season with his 13 points, 5.4 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals.
No one will be able to match what Iggy provided, but Randy Foye and Evan Fournier are the likely candidates to take his spot at the 2.
Foye has more experience and has spent a majority of his seven-year career as a starter. While he's an underrated defender, Foye's main asset is his three-point shooting with massive range—and that he's particularly dangerous on the catch-and-shoot.
Fournier spent most of last season on the bench, but when Gallinari went down, he made the rotation and eventually started a few games. Fournier is more explosive than Foye and also displayed some long-range shooting.
Since the Nuggets will have plenty of attackers in the starting lineup as it is, Foye is the better choice.
Foye is not only more familiar with being a starter, he has the experience of joining a new team and making an impact. The Nuggets will be the fifth different franchise Foye has played for.
Not only that, two of the biggest deficiencies Denver faces are three-point shooting and perimeter defense. The Nuggets were 25th in the league from behind the arc at 34.3 percent last season, while Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson tore Denver apart in the postseason from the outside.
Foye is the more proven player at this point. If the Nuggets continue to push the ball, he'll be an excellent option as a floater to the wing for three, while the rest of the starters fly at the rim.
Fournier will have plenty of room to grow off the bench with what should be a more increased role this season. As he improves on his defense and the rest of his game, he could become a starter down the road.
Unless there's some crazy development, Chandler will likely be starting when the regular season kicks off. Chandler took Gallinari's starting spot at the end of last season after Gallo went down with his ACL injury.
The question is, when Gallinari completely recovers, who should Shaw start?
There are a lot of similarities between Chandler and Gallinari. Both have a lot of starting experience, like to attack the rim, shoot the three and had very similar numbers last season.
Assuming Gallinari is ready by December, Shaw should go with him. Gallo is 6'10" and his height serves an advantage in this starting lineup.
Since neither Faried or McGee can stretch the floor outside the paint, Gallinari's range is vital, and some power forwards will elect to defend him. This will give Gallinari a chance to take those defenders off the dribble and get into the paint.
This also makes Faried's job easier on the offensive glass and getting second-chance points.
Chandler has the slight advantage off the dribble and executing in isolation. Had he been healthy for all of the 2012-13 season, Chandler would have been recognized as one of the best sixth men in the league.
Furthermore, when you have Mozgov (7'1"), Hickson (6'9") and Arthur (6'9") coming off the bench, Chandler (6'8") could play at the 3 or even the 2 pending the lineup.
The starting five of Lawson, Foye, Gallinari, Faried and McGee give the Nuggets the best chance at winning next season. Luckily, they have one of the deepest teams in the league as well.
Projected Starting Lineup: Lawson, Foye, Gallinari, Faried, McGee
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