The Denver Nuggets are one of the most intriguing franchises entering the 2013-14 season.
With a new coach, new system and four new players, there are a wide variety of expectations. It'll be tough to match last year's record of 57 wins, but there is plenty of talent to make it 11-straight postseason appearances.
The first step in dissecting how the Nuggets will look in the 2013-14 season is how the players stack up against each other. In ranking them, a few factors must be considered.
- How much he will contribute statistically
- What non-statistical elements he brings
- How diverse he is
- How well he's played in the preseason so far
(All contract information is from Hoopsworld.com)
(All statistics are from NBA.com)
18. Kyle Fogg
With 14 guaranteed contracts already used, there's only room for one more person.
We got a short glimpse of Kyle Fogg Monday night against the San Antonio Spurs, although it was only for just over two minutes at the end of the game. Therefore, we really don't know what the rookie shooting guard from Arizona can do.
In his senior season with the Wildcats, Fogg scored 13.5 points and shot 44.4 percent from three. Since the Nuggets were tied for 25th in three-point shooting at 34.3 percent last season, putting Fogg on the training-camp roster was an appropriate move.
Although, since Fogg has been stuck on the bench, we haven't seen if he has NBA three-point range or how he looks against pro competition. Perhaps we'll get a look at it in the upcoming week, but it doesn't look like Fogg has a real chance at making the 15-man roster.
17. Reginald Becton
Even though Reginald Becton hasn't logged any preseason minutes and likely won't be on the regular-season team, I could see the rookie eventually being a second-string NBA player.
He's a 6'9" power forward with limited range, but Becton's athleticism and rim protection makes him a valuable asset, if he's next to a more versatile center offensively. With some development and experience, the rookie has a chance to be an energy guy off the bench.
Still, since Denver has JaVale McGee, Kenneth Faried and Timofey Mozgov to provide his type of contributions, Becton won't be on the team for the regular-season opener.
16. Damion James
If there's someone who will challenge Quincy Miller for the 15th-guaranteed contract, it's Damion James.
We've seen the 6'7" forward for just under 33 minutes and he's doing what most of us would expect. He's physical on the glass, converting on a few attempts and picking up fouls rather quickly.
Even though James has similar attributes to Miller, he's not as well-rounded offensively and doesn't defend as well. Unless James gets more playing time and really steps up down the stretch, it's hard seeing him land a spot.
15. Quincy Miller
Considering that Miller has already started twice in the preseason, he's the likely candidate for the final roster space.
While Miller spent time with the Nuggets and the Iowa Energy of the Development League in his rookie season, he's been getting quality preseason minutes. Not only that, according to Aaron J. Lopez of Nuggets.com, Shaw sees big potential in his second-year forward, and Miller reminds him of a young Paul George when he was at Indiana.
Miller's scoring has been nearly absent through three games (two points in just under 42 minutes), but considering that Danilo Gallinari is still out with his ACL injury and Wilson Chandler has had issues staying healthy as well, it makes sense for Shaw to select the small forward that caught his attention.
I wouldn't look for Miller to be part of the primary rotation later in the year, but he should get some a fair amount of playing time off the bench while Gallo is out.
15. Quincy Miller
While Miller spent time with the Nuggets and the Iowa Energy of the Development League in his rookie season, he's received quality preseason minutes. Not only that, according to Aaron J. Lopez of Nuggets.com, Shaw sees big potential in his second-year forward, and Miller reminds him of a young Paul George when he was at Indiana.
Miller didn't score much in the preseason, but considering that Danilo Gallinari is still out with his ACL injury and Wilson Chandler has had issues staying healthy as well, it makes sense for Shaw to give Miller some chances in the beginning of the year.
I wouldn't look for Miller to be part of the primary rotation later in the year, but he should get some a fair amount of playing time off the bench while Gallo is out.
14. Anthony Randolph
With all the competition in the frontcourt, it's tough for Anthony Randolph to play a bigger role than he did in 2012-13. Randolph was on the end of the bench for most of the year, and contributed with 3.7 points and 2.4 rebounds in 8.4 minutes.
However, Randolph did emerge toward the end of the preseason with three-straight games scoring in double figures. He's also shooting the three and perhaps stretches the defense more than any other Denver big man.
Other than his high volume of fouls, he's giving a great effort.
Even going back to last season, Randolph did have a few noteworthy outings when he was given an increased role. The most evident example was in the regular-season finale against the Phoenix Suns, where he racked up a double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds.
But there isn't one aspect that Randolph is dominant at. At 225 pounds, he's not the biggest guy at 6'11" and he's not someone you can count on in the post on either end.
With McGee, Mozgov, Faried, J.J. Hickson and Darrell Arthur on the roster, Randolph will only get into consistent double-digit minutes by an unfortunate injury to someone ahead of him.
13. Andre Miller
It's easy to say Andre Miller is in the back of the pack because he's 37 years old, but the truth is, there isn't room for him to get significant playing time.
With Ty Lawson, Nate Robinson, Evan Fournier and Randy Foye all projected to be substantial assets and the option to move Chandler or Jordan Hamilton down to the 2, it's tough to get him into the mix. Miller doesn't present a huge scoring threat and he's lost a step defensively.
While we can't look into the veteran's preseason playing time too much, he only played more than 17 minutes on one occasion, but Robinson didn't play in that contest.
To be fair though, Miller still has good vision, can make solid decisions and get people involved at the right spots. Plus, unlike Lawson and Robinson, he's a point guard that can post up, which could be valuable in certain matchups.
Furthermore, being ranked 10th all time in assists (likely ninth later this year), his experience is valuable. According to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post, Miller believes he can play until he's 40 years old and Shaw thinks he still has something left in him.
While I believe both are correct in saying that, because of the Nuggets' depth and as they move toward establishing a 10-man rotation for a run at the playoffs, Miller will eventually be phased out. He'll get 20 minutes per game for a while and chip in with six points and five assists, but those numbers will descend after the All-Star break.
It's not that Miller can't play as a primary backup. Denver just has better options at this point.
12. Jordan Hamilton
As Hamilton heads into the last year of his guaranteed contract, he has an excellent chance to prove he's worthy of 20-plus minutes this year. Again, with Gallinari out, Hamilton should play a fair amount to start the regular season.
Hamilton has shown improvement since the end of the 2012-13 season.
In the summer league, he scored 15.8 points, forced 1.5 steals and shot 44 percent from three. Without Andre Iguodala and Corey Brewer, that's a combination Denver will need going forward.
His three-point shooting was off in the preseason, but through good perimeter defense and running the floor well, he still proved to be an asset while on the floor. That's an excellent sign for a young player.
Hamilton won't be playing ahead of Gallinari or Chandler, but given the matchup and if the Nuggets get a boost from him, there could be nights where he plays 30 minutes. His playing time will fluctuate quite a bit throughout the year, but Hamilton will see an average of around 20 minutes with eight points, four rebounds and one steal.
11. Timofey Mozgov
After watching the action from the sideline for most of last season, with George Karl and Kosta Koufos out of the picture, Mozgov will have the opportunity to be the backup center.
Mozgov isn't going to blow up the stat sheet, but his defense inside is what will give him a bigger role on the 2013-14 Nuggets. At 7'1" with a newly extended contract, Mozgov showed in the preseason that he can block or alter just about every shot near him.
Offensively, there's work to do, such as his mid-range shot that Shaw wants with his big men. He also needs to work on finishing with contact.
With Shaw emphasizing defense in training camp and coming over from a defensive-minded team like the Pacers, Mozgov is a perfect rim protector to play beside Hickson, Faried and Arthur. He wont average more than seven points and six rebounds, but his plus-minus will show his impact.
Similar to Mozgov, Arthur won't have big numbers, but he will provide two necessary things—pick-and-roll defense and mid-range jumpers.
The Nuggets had major trouble in the playoffs last year against the Golden State Warriors in terms of defending Stephen Curry in pick-and-roll defense. As soon as Curry came off the high-ball screen, Curry buried the three or found an open man.
Arthur will help control that. As a 6'9" power forward who can take on the big guys, he also has the quick feet to guard on the outside.
As for stretching the floor, this could be Arthur's trademark in this Nuggets offense. While we've seen every big man pull the trigger from just inside the arc in the preseason, Arthur is one of the best at that, having hit 47.3 percent of his shots from 16-to-24 feet last year (per NBA.com's shot chart).
Even though Arthur only scored 21 points in the preseason, he's only played five games with an average of 15 minutes. He'll be closer eight points per game in 20 minutes during the regular season.
When the Nuggets brought in Foye, it was mostly directed at the Nuggets weak 34.3-percent three-point shooting from last season. Foye shot 41 percent from behind the arc with the Utah Jazz a year ago.
However, other than his outing against the San Antonio Spurs, Foye struggled to find a rhythm in the preseason. He was a poor 25 percent from behind the arc and only 35.6 percent from the floor.
Foye started every preseason game and he has plenty of starting experience in his NBA career, but he'll be in competition with young Frenchman Evan Fournier. Foye can play at the 2 and the 1, and has proven he'll take a step in and hit the mid-range jumper, but Fournier is better at attacking the basket and has the height advantage.
Either way, there's no doubt Foye is getting around 25 minutes per game and will force the defender to play tightly on him. His range is incredibly long and he can catch fire at any moment, just like he did in the first quarter against the Spurs with four-straight baskets.
One of Denver's most pleasant surprises at the end of last season was the emergence of Fournier. After spending most of the time on the bench, the injuries started to pile up, and Fournier excelled in his last nine regular-season contests with 12.3 points, 2.7 assists and 1.4 steals.
Even though Fournier was inconsistent throughout the preseason, he was very aggressive. He did't hesitate to attack the basket or pull the trigger from distance.
Obviously the better Fournier shoots, the better chance he has at starting and playing more minutes. However, his ability to drive, pass and defend will make his odds that much greater.
Even though Foye has started the first three games and has more experience, Fournier has solid potential and this is a great time to let Fournier grow.
For now, despite Foye outperforming Fournier last night, the Frenchman has the slight edge.
As if the Nuggets haven't been exciting enough to watch in recent years, Denver brought in one of the most fiery and energetic players in the game.
Robinson will see a lot of action off the bench as the backup point guard, but he can also play off the ball while Lawson or Miller are running the offense.
Robinson still hasn't found his shot with the Nuggets, only making 25 percent from the field in the preseason.
But like Foye, he's someone who can start raining three-pointers and is coming off a season-best 40.5 percent from behind the arc. He's particularly dangerous in transition because he's lethal off the dribble and the pass.
We know Robinson will bring the competitiveness every night, but his consistency off the bench is the key. Not that he'll be expected to shoot the lights out all the time, but he has plenty of scorers around him, and he doesn't need to carry the load on the outside like he did with the Chicago Bulls last year.
In his 25 minutes, Kryptonate should be posting around 12 points, but with the play-makers around him, he'll be dishing out a career-best five assists.
After watching Faried explode off the bench against the Spurs, it feels wrong to rank the Manimal this low.
Still, Faried needs more reps in his half-court game. Not that he's way off, but he's bricking the mid-range shots and isn't converting in the post consistently.
Defensively, at 6'8" he's undersized at power forward and still has issues guarding on the outside.
On the other hand, it's only one game, but Faried simply looked awesome coming off the bench Monday night. He was the best rebounder, ran the floor with intensity and slammed it home to bring life to the Pepsi Center.
Unfortunately, we didn't see much of Faried after that performance because of a hamstring injury. According to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post, Faried expects to be ready for the regular-season opener against the Sacramento Kings.
Faried is clearly capable of starting, but until his half-court offense and defensive skills evolve a little more, Hickson looks like the better fit as a starter. Plus, if the Manimal comes in with that kind of energy on a nightly basis, he could be playing a similar role this year that McGee did last season.
While the signing of J.J. hickson may not seem like a huge splash, his impact is greater than most think.
He's not an All-Star caliber player, but with his skill set at 6'9", he's capable of playing the 4 or the 5. He's more suited at power forward, but as a center last year with the Portland Trail Blazers, he averaged 12.7 points and 10.4 boards.
Offensively, he has a good touch around the rim, can hit the mid-range jumper and has a fair amount of athleticism. Defensively, he doesn't block a lot of shots, but he's decent in terms of contesting shots and his physicality. Plus, if McGee or Mozgov is next to him, he'll have rim protection around him.
I don't think his minutes will differ much from Faried's regardless of who starts, but Hickson's well-rounded game gives him the nod in the rankings. Hickson should get approximately 27 minutes and put up around 11 points and nine rebounds.
Because of various injuries, in Chandler's last two seasons, he's only logged 51 games. He needs to play more than that in 2013-14.
For that to happen, Chandler needs to get past his hamstring injury that's kept him out of the preseason While he returned to practice in the middle of October (per Aaron J. Lopez of Nuggets.com), Shaw is being very cautious in making sure Chandler is completely healthy before he returns, according to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post.
Once he's back, while Chandler had experience with this last April, Chandler will likely fill Gallinari's starting spot at the 3 until he returns.
Since the Nuggets added more depth to their frontcourt, Chandler should be able to play more on the perimeter this season. And the fact that he led Denver in three-point shooting at 41.3 percent last year should help his and Denver's production.
Considering that Chandler is the one forward the Nuggets can count on in creating his own shot, he needs to be available the whole season. Denver had trouble scoring from the small-forward position in the preseason.
While he scored 13 points last year, he should average around that number again this season.
While Denver and coach Shaw won't give an expected return date for Gallinari from the ACL injury he suffered in early April, Christopher Dempsey (who has been on top of all the Nuggets injury information) of The Denver Post reported that Gallinari says he is hoping to be back in late November.
With the New York Knicks coming to town November 29, that would be excellent timing for Denver fans. We don't know if Gallo will return to the hardwood then, but for the sake of rankings, let's say he's back for the showdown with Carmelo Anthony.
He's worthy of the No. 3 spot. The 6'10" Italian is particularly dangerous because he attacks off the dribble, shoots the three and can post up.
With Denver playing more of a half-court style and being more structured, Gallinari's diversity will show. Depending on the matchup, he can play at several different spots and find a way to score.
Since the Nuggets have a lot of depth and Gallinari might ease back into action, he won't get his 16.2 points from last season, but he'll come close.
It's McGee's time. He's in his sixth season, we know he's got all the athleticism in the world and now he's stretching the defense with his jumper.
He still needs to work on his touch around the rim, but so far, he's slowed down and he's making good decisions. At the same time, he's still rejecting shots and making plays.
We are far from seeing McGee reach his potential, but the pieces are finally in place for the 7-footer to do so.
McGee scored 11.3 points and grabbed 6.6 rebounds in just under 24 minutes for the preseason. As McGee continues to work in this new offense and gets more playing time, those numbers will increase.
He may not have the 20.8 PER like last year, but there's no reason why McGee can't average a double-double this season. He owns a monstrous amount of talent and there's no one holding him back.
It's no surprise that Ty Lawson lands the top spot to begin the year.
As the man who makes the whole team run, he led Denver with 16.7 points and 6.9 assists last season.
While Lawson has only scored in double digits three times in the regular season, he shot 50 percent and only played more than 30 minutes one time. Factor in that he's rebounding the ball better, still dishing out assists and forcing turnovers, we are seeing several positive signs out of Lawson.
He's being efficient while getting the others involved early and working together. He's contributing in other areas and not just relying on his speed to score and be effective.
Lawson continues to get better each year and it'll be tough for someone to take away his No. 1 ranking.