#NuggetsRank No. 10: Anthony Randolph

Anthony Randolph tops the trio of enigmatic seven-footers on Denver’s roster at no. 10 in our #NuggetsRank series. It’s going to surprise a lot of Nuggets fans that he ranks ahead of incumbent centers  Kosta Koufos and Timofey Mozgov despite being the least likely to receive playing time among all three.

I’ll admit, something about it doesn’t seem right. Perhaps it’s a sad reminder that draft hype can carry an NBA career for a while. Randolph and fellow 2008 draftee Kosta Koufos both signed long-term extensions with the Nuggets despite neither having much success as rotation players.

After three teams and four years, the one thing we can say definitively about Randolph is that he knows how to disappoint. While Randolph is supposedly headed to a wide-open system best suited to bringing out his talents, the same things were said upon his arrival in New York and Minnesota. He teased and disappointed then, so why should things be any different with another change of scenery to Denver?

With Anthony Randolph there are no guarantees. The Nuggets knew that going in and risked very little to sign him. I was surprised he chose a bargain three-year deal with Denver after apparently fielding offers from Dallas and Atlanta. At the time, he looked like a solid addition to the Nuggets’ depth but faced an uphill battle for playing time in a crowded frontcourt.

Needless to say, that all changed just a few weeks later with Al Harrington being swapped in the blockbuster Dwight Howard trade. Suddenly the Nuggets had a clear need for a longer four to compliment Kenneth Faried and their more traditional centers. Randolph’s acquisition started to make a lot more sense as you started seeing playing opportunities open up for him with the Nuggets.

Part of the Anthony Randolph experience is getting caught up in all the hype. He really could be a fantastic player with the right plan of attack. The Nuggets are getting him at an age where he can still become a piece in a developing young core. Fans of Golden State, Minnesota and New York have all heard this before, but with Randolph now signed to a cheap deal in Denver it’s just too hard to avoid the temptation. Is he all hype?  I’d argue there’s still time to figure that out. The bottom line is there are just too many reasons to get excited about his possible fit with this Nuggets team.

First, he’s coming to a coaching staff with a solid record of getting young players to produce in the Nuggets’ system. Randolph has an existing relationship with assistant coach Melvin Hunt and specifically mentioned the coaching staff when asked about choosing the Nuggets.

Although he missed opportunities to play in Minnesota and New York, Randolph was overshadowed by great power forwards in both situations. With only Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee loosely entrenched in the future frontcourt, there is no Kevin Love or Amare Stoudemire hanging over Randolph’s prospects in Denver. At 23, he’s in a unique situation in that this could be his last shot before reputation catches up and earns him the label of career benchwarmer.

Statistically, Randolph is a complicated player to figure out. As John Hollinger noted in his player previews, Randolph produces efficiently and looks the part, but his teams tends to be better without him on the floor. He is not a very creative player on offense and offers no consistency outside of being a monster finisher at the rim. It’s clear he isn’t the playmaking threat his draft buzz suggested he might be and if we know anything about Randolph in Denver, it’s that he’ll probably play the four or five exclusively.

If the Nuggets can focus his game instead of trying to showcase his versatility, Randolph might become a lot more useful the court. Offensively, he rushes everything and makes poor decisions with the ball. Most frustrating is his natural instinct to turn and put the ball on the floor after catching it. As a result Randolph is never squared up to the basket when shooting, often resulting in lots of head fakes followed by clumsy dribbling and a turnover.

If he stopped shooting off the dribble so much, Randolph might develop a serviceable midrange game. As it stands now, he can’t create anything with his passing and is an unreliable driving threat. Teams know they can force Randolph to put it on the floor and he’ll struggle to make the right play.

In Denver, Randolph won’t play if he doesn’t get a lot better at moving the ball quickly. I think he can grasp the Nuggets concept of not holding the ball and letting the guards do the work, but he’ll have to do more to crack the rotation. Becoming either a shooting or passing threat from the perimeter is essential to setting himself apart from the other bigs on this roster.

How he does it is less important than just being able to earn the coaches’ trust. Randolph is a supreme athletic talent now starting from scratch in the mile high city. Is it foolish to keep buying his story of hope and redemption and after four years of empty promises?

Yes, it probably is. One of the side effects of being a cynical NBA fan is obsessing over the hype that surrounds young prospects like Randolph. As a fan, you know it’s wrong to rank him above less spectacular players but you can’t resist.

It’s all part of the Anthony Randolph experience. I am not saying the Nuggets need Randolph to develop in order to succeed – they clearly don’t. It will, however, be incredibly disappointing if Randolph doesn’t work himself into a better place than where he is now.

You need to take a risk on players with the highest potential ceilings in professional sports. Anthony Randolph still looks like a worthwhile shot at that prized jackpot for a very reasonable price. Eventually youth loses its luster and NBA players are who they are at a certain point in their careers. Fortunately for Randolph, there’s a still a year or two in Denver to try and figure out who that is.

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Charlie Yao

Contributor at Roundball Mining Company since 2010. Unhealthily obsessed with Nuggets basketball since 2002. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at the links on the left.

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  • Will the NC Nugget

    I think this is the perfect place for Randolph….he is a bit of a head scratcher sometimes but so was Javale Shaqtin a Fool McGee n look at where he’s potentially headed ….I like how the Nuggz are lookin this year and having 4 capable 7 footers is a luxury that if I’m not mistaken NO other team has….Randolph will either be a pleasant surprise on the court, or some cheap trade bate to go after ….J Smoove maybe ? Either way I like where we are headed right now

    GO NUGGZ!!! See u in Charlotte

    @WiLL_B_iLL

  • Rdn

    As a TWolves fan whose watched Randolph for almost two years, I’ll tell you the reason why the team was worse with him on the floor: He doesn’t have good instincts for playing with a team. He’ll drive right into a double or triple team and right past a wide open teammate, then get caught up and be unable to make anything happen. He has a particular style of playing and has trouble fitting into some offenses. He hasn’t been in the right one for him yet.

    You get flashes of Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee when you watch him, and that goes for both the positive and negative. He definitely doesn’t seem like he has a bad attitude, though he seems like he has some confidence problems and trouble communicating and getting in sync. His stats make you think he should be a pretty good player, and once in awhile he really can make a big difference…but he doesn’t get on the floor because he hasn’t been good at getting into the flow of an offense. Because he gets pulled when he starts having “trouble”, it kind of makes his stats look a little better than they should be. When you take him off the bench after sitting him on it for awhile, he’ll produce really good stats and effort. Then the next game, he’ll be so-so, followed by trouble…then back on the bench. But he’s still young.

    He’s not completely natural at playing with a team and can take himself completely out of a game. But he’s also pretty young, and obviously still has tremendous potential (which he shows every so often with 20 point/15 rebound games that he’ll have twice a year), so hopefully he can turn it around for you guys. He really wasn’t a good fit for Adelman’s system (I think Rick liked him more than Darko, and that was mostly because Randolph gave a real effort to try and get playing time), and was totally confused in Rambis’s custom triangle (like every other player on that team). In the right offense, I bet Randolph could end up being a pretty good bench big…he can play 3, 4, and 5. (Though he’s a little soft for a 4 in some systems.) Can’t really see him starting for prolonged lengths of time, but if he starts to “get it”, he could do it. I don’t know what kind of offense that should be, as he’s played in offenses that should have been tailored to his athleticism. Maybe he was overthinking things and unable to react fast enough in uptempo offenses.

  • dynamo.joe

    Shooting, Perimeter, and Anthony Randolph should never be mentioned in the same sentence. His 3pt shooting is an abomination before the Lord.

  • CJP32

    One of two things will happen:

    1. AR has an amazing Training Camp and Pre-Season and really shows commitment and the coaching staff give him a chance.

    2. AR just plods along and does whats required without really giving 110%.

    As much as I want to see AR succeed in Denver, I find it hard to believe that he will survive under George Karl. Unless significant injuries start to happen, I cannot see AR getting minutes in front of McGee, Faired, Mozzy, Koufos and Chandler.

  • jake

    Yo. Check this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3mDtkgFXEY&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    I have no idead how to fancy ESS like embed, or properly format a take. I do however see JaVale McGee point8. Not a better revelation of a questionable beast, definitely a lesser version, and that includes headroom. I do however see a fire in him, and a ruthless bully that crowds the personal space of respected veterans. Headcase.

    I once watched the Colorado Avalance, and as I watched them, I saw that they could not have won the first title and subsequent playoff series without a serious headcase (at least for other players) in Claude Lemieux. Now, I met him at work once. In the bathroom as a 15 year old, I crowded him for an autograph. A 2 person bathroom with 3 people and a baby being changed. He graciouslt signed and left. Seemed like a great dad and obviously a dude not afraid of getting his hands dirty.

    Missing link. Between the Anthony Randolph on the link above, and the Anthony Randolph of a Larry O’Brien is a sense of professionalism, and a firm grasp of how to use his badass face. He dunks as hard as McGee, and sometimes rebounds great. If Mutumbo dunked like him while with the nuggets, or even wanted it as bad, we would have been champions already.

    AR has big growing to do. Maybe an Olympian can turn him. And maybe someone steps up with a big mean voice and scares the terrible out of him.

    Just a thought.

    • nida

      Good stuff. Dude’s ceiling is a poor man’s McGee. He’ll need some more strength, a good work ethic and terrific coaching to get there.

  • Richard Greenslade

    Many of us have noted that it might be better to bring Faried off the bench as an energy beast. If Randolph looks decent, why not start him at 4 the way Utah used to start Marc Iavaroni? That is, play him 6 minutes (7 if he’s hot) to open the 1st and 3rd quarters.

    I suggest this as I think Gallo and Chandler are both 3s, and I’m not really sure I want them on the court together too much.

    BTW Randolph is nothing like 7 feet: he is 6-10 with shoes. And he weighs like 200 lbs. Look at the video of him, Faried and McGee working out together, and it’s clear that he shouldn’t play the 5.

    • CJP32

      Not sure if bringing Faried off the bench really helps us, we need him cleaning up Gallos, Tys and Iggys missed shots, plus we need his defensive rebounding in the starting 5 as Mozzy and Gallo are weak rebounders.

      I think energy wise, bringing Brewer, Chandler, AR and McGee off the bench works well. With Andre Miller setting them up, it will be fast breaks galore.

      People are going to hate on GK if he brings McGee off the bench, but it actually works in his favour, as Andre knows exactly where he needs the ball.

    • nida

      Karl played Gallo at the 5 last year, I wouldn’t Put anything past him. Besides, the NBA is changing. If Randolph can put on a few more pounds, he’ll be about as big as Bosh.

  • GK4Prez

    I read a quote in the DP that said GK was thinking of starting Mozzy and bringing Javale off of the bench with Dre Miller, here it is:

    Q: You’ll likely start Ty Lawson at point guard, Iguodala at shooting guard, Gallinari at small forward and Kenneth Faried at power forward. What about center?

    A: Training camp is going to tell me who plays. My idea right now is Mozgov would start with Faried and JaVale would stay with (reserve point guard) Andre Miller. But again, I don’t (care) about starting lineups, and you guys are already stirring the pot. It’s all about how many minutes you play, who you play with, how well you play and how we play (when you’re on the court). Kosta Koufos is in the mix, too. Let’s make sure you understand that. In the last 15-20 games of the season, when Timo got hurt, Kosta not only played well but good enough to get us to the playoffs.
    _________________________________

    If this is the case, Faried needs to start or the team will get crushed on the boards. Mozzy isn’t a very good rebounding big man, and while Randolph can grab some boards, he really isn’t anything close to the Manimal at crashing them.

    I think you guys ranked him right about where he should be ranked on the team. I do believe that he is a better talent than Moz/Koufos and he has proven it several times in his brief career.

    Randolph will be playing for his 5th coach in 5 years, at every stop that he has had, he has been stuck behind a more talented player, which Charlie pointed out. Even in his rookie year, he started the year out stuck behind Buckets. Buckets was traded to the Knicks early in the season, but the Warriors still had several other players at the 4 and 5 spot competing for minutes with Randolph. He has also had some injuries in his first 4 years of action that have limited his progress.

    He has played in 170 games in 4 years. That is an average of about 42 games a year, which means he misses half of a season every year due to DNPCD’s or injuries, so hopefully he can stay healthy while he is with the Nuggets. Of those 170 games he has played 20 minutes or more in 75 of them.

    In those 75 games where he averaged 20 minutes or more per game, he has put up some decent numbers. They look like this:
    47% fg percentage
    7 rebounds per game
    12.7 points per game
    1.6 blocks per game

    These numbers are almost identical to the numbers that Nene put up on average with the Nuggets, and Randolph is under a much more manageable contract than Nene. I am not saying that Randolph is as good as Nene, but the numbers are very similar. For a big man Randolph is very good from the free throw line (74% for his career).

    The problem with Randolph is he can make some boneheaded plays and GK won’t put up with some of them, and there really isn’t any middle ground with Randolph or at least there hasn’t been so far in his career. If he gets quality minutes, he puts up quality stats, but if he is given limited minutes, he doesn’t produce much at all. This is the area that concerns me because he likely won’t get 20 plus minutes a night on this team. Hopefully, a defined role will help him overcome this concern, but will he even have a defined role on this team? The minutes will be difficult to come by imo.

    I like his game and I think he can still become a force in this league, but I am not sure that the Nuggets are the perfect team for him to take that next step. He needs minutes and I just don’t see him getting a lot of minutes while he is sporting the powder blue.

    • dynamo.joe

      No one, as far as I can recall, has said AR isn’t a good enough athlete to make it in the NBA. It’s your decision making abilities that determine whether you are a good NBA player or not. If it was the other way ’round, JR would have been a perennial All-Star.

  • http://Denverstiffs.comSlader Richard Greenslade

    When I suggested bringing Manimal off the bench, I was presuming McGee would start. I may well be wrong about that, as was pointed out.

    “Brewer, Chandler, AR and McGee off the bench works well. With Andre Miller setting them up” is prolly true as well, and a pleasant reminder of our depth. It brings us up to 10, with Jham and K2 still looking on. Hope Fournier and Quincy enjoy the D-league.

    GK4prez makes a good point above, and I’m sure the Nuggs brass knows that when given minutes AR can produce. 20 mpg? I doubt it too.

  • Nugnugz

    If Randolph finishes the year ahead of Moz and Koufus on the depth chart, something has either going terribly well or terribly wrong for the Nuggets, but I’m not sure which.

  • jake

    “Number9? Number9? Number9? Number9?”

    Dudes, even the Beatles are asking