Two seasons ago, then Denver Nuggets’ coach George Karl led the team to a third seed in the playoffs. Although they saw an early playoff exit, it was still a successful season for the franchise. However, the Nuggets felt it was time to let George Karl go and begin a new coaching era in the Mile High City.
In his first year with the team, Brian Shaw and the Denver Nuggets saw a disappointing season. It wouldn’t have been as bad if they weren’t surrounded by injuries, but either way they failed to make the playoffs and fell flat.
Last season was like most seasons for the Nuggets, meaning not much changed. They scored very well with 104 points per game, but failed to play well defensively and let their opponents score an average of around 106 points per game. Before the season started, they knew the loss of Andre Iguodala to the Golden State Warriors would be a setback. Denver has always been an offensive-minded team. They have often refrained from being a defensive-minded team and have let their high-octane offense be the strategy of winning.
However, the Nuggets saw a string of season-ending injuries that put a toll on their offense, leading the Nuggets to be outscored by their opponent game after game. For the Nuggets, they either needed to add more offense to their roster or bring in some guys to help defensively. Luckily for the Nuggets, they got both this offseason.
Back to the coaching, George Karl leaving was a sad end to a great era for Nuggets’ fans. The faithful fans loved George Karl and hated seeing him go. With Brian Shaw now in his second year with the team, he must display improvement next season and bring some wins before the fans clamber for his removal. It should be possible for Shaw to deliver with the Nuggets’ new roster additions. Let’s take a look at some of the upgrades the Nuggets made to their depth chart.
The Nuggets acquired Arron Afflalo in a draft-day-trade with the Orlando Magic. They sent guard Evan Fournier to the Magic, as well as the Nuggets’ 56th pick in this past draft. Afflalo was a member of the Nuggets from 2009-2012 and will bring a lot of upside to the team.
Afflalo has shown improvement in each season after being drafted in 2007. His rookie season produced 3.7 points per game and has increased year after year. In his last season with the Denver Nuggets, the 2011-2012 campaign, he averaged 15.2 points per game. In his first year with the Magic, he averaged 16.5 points per game and increased it last year to 18.2 points per game, a career-high.
Afflalo is a defensive-minded guard that has recently become a great shooter and scorer. He gives Denver exactly what they need on both ends of the court. Not only that, but it will cause some competition at the shooting guard position with Randy Foye. Competition at any position is always good for a team because it brings out the best of the players and makes them perform better, knowing they could lose their starting spot or potentially gain a starting spot.
Jusuf Nurkic & Gary Harris
The Denver Nuggets picked well in this years’ NBA Draft. They originally had the 11th pick in the draft and used it to grab Doug McDermott. However, they later traded their rights to Doug McDermott and Anthony Randolph to the Chicago Bulls. In return, they received the 16th and 19th picks in the draft. With those picks, they got Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris.
Jusuf Nurkic was an overseas player looking to come to the NBA. At first, it was reported that Nurkic will play overseas for one, or maybe two, more seasons to develop more. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. The Nuggets reportedly bought out Nurkic’s contract with the Croatian club, sending Nurkic to the NBA next season. This is good news for Denver since they don’t have to wait to see their first-round draft pick play.
Gary Harris was selected with the 19th pick and is seen as a “steal.” Coming out of Michigan State, Harris was the leading scorer for both of his years in college. Harris is a bit small, but he brings great shooting and great scoring to a team that needs it. Playing behind Afflalo, Foye and Ty Lawson will definitely help him develop quickly into an NBA guard. It was a solid pick by the Nuggets that will definitely have more pros than cons in the future.
The Denver Nuggets’ roster is looking very good for next season, which means good things for the team. Not only did they do well in the draft and in free agency, but they are also getting a couple of players back from injury.
For the guards, the Nuggets are stacked at this point. Starting at point guard will be Ty Lawson, who has been the team’s facilitator for a while now. Alongside him will be Arron Afflalo, Randy Foye and recently drafted Gary Harris. Returning from injury will be Nate Robinson, who played well last season before going down with his injury.
Also returning from injury will be forwards Danilo Gallinari, J.J. Hickson and Wilson Chandler. Gallinari will provide excellent shooting and Hickson will bring some great defense to the team. At center will be JaVale McGee, Timofey Mozgov or Jusuf Nurkic.
One player that can’t be forgotten is Kenneth Faried. The Nuggets are trying to work out a contract extension, but nothing has been made official yet. He will be the main piece to the Nuggets’ roster next season. He is a young, talented power forward that can be an All-Star in this league. Having him back would complete the team of everything they need.
With the additions the team made this offseason, as well as the returning players, the Nuggets should find themselves back to winning basketball next season. Although it will be difficult due to a tough Western Conference, they should find a way to at least make it back into the playoffs.
With Shaw likely on the hot seat if they don’t perform well, the Nuggets should be doing everything possible on the court to make sure that doesn’t happen. I expect around 50 wins next season for the team, leading them to a seed in the playoffs. Their revamped roster will be enough and they will be seen as a threat to the rest of the league, just like they used to be.