The Nuggets have had a slow and some what disappointing pre season thus far. The Nuggets are 2-3 with wins against the Indiana Pacers and Partizan Belgrade. The Nuggets have lost to Utah, Indiana and Portland.
There are some areas of concern that seem to shadow some of the highlights of the Nuggets so far in the pre season. Some of the highlights have been the surprising performances of Renaldo Balkman and Joey Graham.
Reports are saying Joey Graham is a lock to land the 13th roster spot. Balkman is on pace to getting more minutes than he did last year and may even be the primary back up to Carmelo Anthony at the small forward position.
Some of the low-lights in the first 5 games of the Nuggets pre season have been the play of Anthony Carter and JR Smith. Anthony Carter hasn't showed me any improvement from last year and continues to be the Achilles heel of the Nuggets scoring production off the bench. His costly turn-overs and head-scratching passes lead to a major concern and liability to the Nuggets when he is on the floor.
Carter's above-average defense is starting to lose is value due to his horrendous offensive play. JR Smith has started slow as well. While his ability to get to the hoop and mid-range jumper look the same as last year, he still shows streaky play with his three ball and tends to look lazy on the court at times. His play has lead to George Karl second guessing JR's ability to start yet again.
Arron Afflalo has shown Denver his offensive skills that still tend to be streaky, but has yet to show the defensive spark Denver was hoping to get in replacement of the departed Dahntay Jones. His play has been better than JR Smith's this pre season and it looks like he could get the nod to start over Smith.
After reading reports from Andrew Feinstein of Denverstiffs.com it appears as though Mark Warkentien may use the 8 million trade exception if Denver comes out the gate struggling. The trade exception expires on November 3rd, which is in a few weeks, and I can't see Warkentien finding a player worth that and getting a deal done in that amount of time.
If Warkentien were to use the TEP (trade exception) some players that may fit the bill are Stephen Jackson of Golden State or Chris Kamen of the LA Clippers.
George Karl has said himself that "we need to wake up and start playing" in the remaining three games of the pre season. Denver can't afford to come out slow in the first several weeks of the NBA season because so many Western Conference teams have improved from last year. This year looks to be one of the most competitive years in the West.
The next three games will show if Denver has waken up from the off season slumber that they have yet to shed. If they can't shake it by the beginning of the season, the Nuggets may be in some trouble. Look for Denver to buckle down and focus more on establishing a rotation in the next three games rather than showcasing some of the new players on the roster and fooling around with questionable rotations.
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