Final Offseason Grades for the Denver Nuggets
With all the offseason craziness the Denver Nuggets went through, new head coach Brian Shaw has brought a change in style to the franchise. The pace has slowed down, there's more ball movement on offense, and there's a stronger emphasis on defense.
Because of this new-look Nuggets squad, it's important to grade their offseason in three categories—players obtained from the draft, players acquired from free agency and Denver's preseason overall.
As we grade the Denver players from the draft, since they weren't involved in the preseason, we must look at their statistics from the summer league and their regular-season numbers with their respective international teams.
For the guys from free agency, we must examine their preseason stats, the non-statistical elements they bring and how much of an impact they should have in the regular season.
As for the preseason, record and stats will be used, but Denver's new scheme and injury considerations will also be a factor.
While neither of Denver's draft picks are on the 15-man active roster, both players have already started their 2013-14 campaigns overseas. Erick Green has recorded four contests with Montepaschi Siena in Italy, while Joffrey Lauvergne has logged seven games with KK Partizan in Belgrade, Serbia.
Green, the 46th-overall pick from Virginia Tech, led the nation in scoring with 25 points per game last season for NCAA Division I. He's started three of his four games with Montepaschi Siena, scoring 7.75 points on 41.4 percent shooting in 19.2 minutes.
While Green wasn't a participant in the preseason, we did get to see the talented point guard in the summer league. In 21.6 minutes, the rookie posted 9.33 points with an impressive 44.4 percent from behind the arc.
Meanwhile, Lauvergne, the 55th-overall pick, wasn't part of the preseason or summer league. However, the 6'11" Frenchman has a lot of playing experience with Evan Fournier (also from France), according to Aaron J. Lopez of Nuggets.com.
In seven games this season, Lauvergne has played a lengthy 31.1 minutes, significantly more than his 18.9 last year. He's scored 9.71 points and grabbed 7.86 rebounds.
We know Green can score and break down opponents off the dribble, and Lauvergne is active on the glass and has good touch around the rim. But, it's unclear how they would fare against the better players in the NBA.
Considering that both players were second-round picks and weren't expected to be huge contributions out of the gate, they can't be graded too negatively. However, since neither made the team, it's an average grade.
All of Denver's newcomers from free agency saw substantial action in October.
In the backcourt, Nate Robinson participated in five of the seven preseason games and struggled shooting the ball. He was just 25 percent from the floor and 31.6 percent from three-point range.
While Robinson is one of three point guards on the roster, he should get most of the playing time behind Lawson. His ability to attack, shoot and provide energy make him a necessary component to fill Denver's bench scoring.
At the 2, Randy Foye started every preseason game, but like Robinson, Foye couldn't take the lid off the rim. Not only was Foye just 35.7 percent from the floor, he was a poor 25 percent from three.
With three-point shooting being one of the areas the Nuggets need to improve on, Foye can't afford to shoot like this in the regular season. This was the primary reason he was brought in.
Foye also can't turn the ball over 19 times and force just one steal in a seven-game stretch.
Nonetheless, he has plenty of starting experience and is a 37.7 percent three-point shooter in his career. He'll likely turn it around and be the starting shooting guard.
As for the front court, of the new arrivals, J.J. Hickson was easily the most impressive in the preseason. His 10.9 points and six rebounds were solid, but shooting 54.1 percent from the floor and forcing 1.3 steals in just over 22 minutes is just as noteworthy.
That's the kind of efficiency the Nuggets need, but they are also getting it with an athletic big man who is used to playing in a half court offense and hitting shots from the elbow. Plus, he can run the floor well.
Pairing him next to a rim protector like JaVale McGee or Timofey Mozgov brings great balance. Given how much he provides offensively, Hickson should be starting at power forward.
Darrell Arthur didn't do a lot statistically with his 4.2 points and four rebounds, but since he only played 15 minutes per game, it's not too shabby. Arthur also displayed he can play in the pick-and-pop as well as defend some of the quicker opposing big men.
Arthur should continue to do the little things in the regular season and play just under 20 minutes.
While a 2-5 preseason record isn't a positive sign, the Nuggets were far from healthy. Danilo Gallinari is still out with his ACL injury, Wilson Chandler has been resting a hamstring injury and Kenneth Faried suffered a hamstring injury during practice nearly two weeks ago (per Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post).
The good news for the Nuggets is that according the franchise's official Twitter page, Coach Shaw says Faried will be back for the regular-season opener against the Sacramento Kings.
The bad news is that the Nuggets Twitter feed is not only reporting that they might be without Chandler on Wednesday, they could also be missing Lawson and Foye.
#Nuggets coach Brian Shaw says it's possible Denver could be w/o PG Ty Lawson, F Wilson Chandler and SG Randy Foye for opener.— Denver Nuggets (@denvernuggets) October 28, 2013
While installing a new system in training camp, Shaw spent the entire preseason implementing various starting lineups and rotations. It's a tough situation when you don't start with a healthy team and the injuries begin to pile up.
Having said all that, the Nuggets looked fairly sloppy in the preseason with their 18.9 turnovers. They only shot 40.5 percent from the field, 25 percent from three and 64.8 percent from the free-throw line.
How would you grade the Nuggets' preseason performance?
Granted the circumstances weren't ideal and it's a small sample size, all those numbers are far from acceptable. It's why Denver was only able to beat the Los Angeles Lakers without Kobe Bryant and the San Antonio Spurs minus Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
There were some bright moments, such as McGee's overall post game and the aggressiveness of Fournier, but the Nuggets have a long way to go in putting the pieces together.
Once Denver gets everyone back, the players find their roles and develop chemistry with each other, the numbers will be much better. It's just going to take some time.
(Preseason statistics are from NBA.com)
(Summer league and international statistics are from RealGM.com)
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