2009-10 Denver Nuggets Preview – TrueHoop Network Style

Every TrueHoop Network member site will be posting their season preview today so make sure you check out as many as humanly possible either via the the drop down menu up above or the blogroll along the right sidebar.

Last Year’s Record: 54-28

Crystal Ball
The consensus prediction of the TrueHoop Network bloggers … and the best hopes of Roundball Mining Company.

Crowd Says: 53-29
RMC Says: 58-24

Yes We Can!
The sun is out. The seas have parted. The basketball gods are shining upon us!

It is easy to be down on the Denver Nuggets’ chances heading into the 2009-10 season. Their response to this summer’s Western Conference arms race was to continue to slash their payroll.

Some of you may think the Nuggets were disappointed that Linas Kleiza will play in Greece next season, but I suspect the front office was sending Linas bro­chures from the Greek department of tourism. Then again maybe it was the fact they never offered him more than the $2.7 million qualifying offer. Whatever they did, the ploy worked, as Kleiza signed with Olympiacos and will not be on the Nuggets’ payroll this season.

The Nuggets also were thrilled for Dahntay Jones when he signed his four year, $11 million contract with the Pacers. I think Mark Warkentien showed up the next day and personally carried Dahntay’s piano into the moving truck.

It might be difficult to be impressed with a team whose primary goal is to save money, but the Denver Nuggets are becoming quite adept at bolstering the roster while cutting costs. Last season they rummaged through the bargain bin and came up with Chris “Birdzilla” Andersen and Dahntay Jones. This year they brought in more cheap talent in Aaron Afflalo and Joey Graham. They are both cheaper options and better fits than Jones and Kleiza were. Plus the addition of Ty Lawson to backup Chaunc­ey Billups will pay dividends as soon as George Karl chooses to give him the job over Anthony Carter.  Above and beyond the players currently on the roster and even though it appears the Nuggets have passed him over, until he signs with another team I continue to think that Wally Szczerbiak might find his way to Denver.

If the upgrade to the bench is not enough to sway you, here is an interesting little fact to keep in mind. The only players still on the roster who exceeded expecta­tions in 2008-09 were Nene and Birdman. It is reasonable to expect every mem­ber of the Nuggets, other than thirtysomething Chauncey Billups, to improve on their performance next season. Carmelo struggled with injuries, Nene was still feeling the effects of his chemo treatments in the fall of 2008, Birdman had not played regular minutes in over two years before last season and J.R. Smith is still learning how to exploit opposing defenses with his array of diverse talents.

For those who still doubt me, hear this. The number one reason why Denver will be better next season is they have learned how to win. The team made a commitment to play better defense heading into last season, but they were still a work in progress. They now have a year of playing a more balanced style of basketball under their belts and they experienced how far it can take them.

This Nugget team is hungry and ready to prove their Western Conference Finals appearance was not a fluke like Utah’s was in 2008. Common NBA knowledge dismissed the Nuggets prior to last season. Do so at your own peril this season.

No You Can’t
A rousing dissent from a rival blogger.

Fun fact: No team has ever won a championship while featuring a power forward with a woman’s lips tattooed on his neck. Yes, I’m looking at you, Kenyon Martin.

– Matt McHale, By the Horns

All-A-Twitter
A 140-character insight into the soul of the team.

Here are two tweets from @BirdmanAndersen:

Spent some of my signing bonus. Got a boat. If I was on drugs? A flamethrower. A purple one…with an Ipod dock.

Porn gets a bad rap. It’s essentially Discovery Channel for humans. I know I’VE learned stuff from it.

On the Record
Single best quote concerning the team during the last 12 months.

For me averaging 28 points or something like that against the Lakers in this series, that’s tough to do. I do not know if you wanted me to average 30 or 35, I really don’t know. I am thinking there is nothing else that I can do.

– Carmelo Anthony following the Nuggets’ Game 6 defeat to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals

The 2008-09 Almanac
Some key stats from last season.

Offense: 7th
Defense: 8th
Pace: 6th

Team Factor Strength(s): Free Throws (1st), Shooting Allowed (5th)
Team Factor Weakness(es): Turnovers (25th), Free Throws Allowed (25th), De­fensive Rebounding (23rd)

The Play
Down a single point with 9.2 seconds to play in a must-win game. What’s the play?

Even with players like Mr. Big Shot Chauncey Billups and J.R. Smith, who can make any shot at any time, you give the ball to Carmelo Anthony and clear out. I might even run seven more seconds off the clock and call a timeout just to increase the level of difficulty. Carmelo has developed a well-earned reputation in the NBA as a Defiler of Dreams. He broke hearts in Oklahoma City twice last season and I am sure you all remember the 3-pointer in the playoffs to beat Dal­las in Game 3 of the conference semifinals. Having Melo means you never have to run a play, just get the ball inbounds.

The People’s Choice
The fan favorite the crowd will be chanting for to see some action.

Karl has said he does not trust Renaldo Balkman because he cannot hit a jumper — although Karl does not seem to mind playing Kenyon Martin. The truth is Balkman brings energy and makes plays that do not show up in the box score. He helps Denver win games and fans cannot get enough of him.

If You’re Watching the Bottom Line, You’re Watching This
The single biggest spreadsheet issue hanging over the team.

The Denver Nuggets have done a great job of cutting payroll while still improv­ing the team the past two seasons. The real trouble is going to come in 2010-11 when the Nuggets’ current starting five will make about $65 million. As John Hollinger has pointed out, those five players may put Denver over the luxury tax line by themselves with at least eight more players to pay. There could be a fire sale in Denver next summer.

  • snafuthai

    “Having Melo means you never have to run a play, just get the ball inbounds.”

    Easier said than done apparently. Hopefully GK works on some actual inbounds plays this year.

    Also, I cannot stand watching Melo stand around and heave 20 foot jumpers with a hand in his face…even if he tends to make them at the end of games. It’s a low percentage shot and I wish they would run more involved plays at the end of games to try and get better looks (even if it means someone else shooting).

  • stephenmp

    Yes, I keep meaning to ask, with all the training camp updates and preseason reports — did Karl finally learn his lesson? Will the Nuggets actually be prepared this season if they need to make an inbounds pass in a tense situation?

    One could argue that this very thing cost them their best shot ever at an NBA Championship.

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