Is Denver’s Roster Deep or Just Full?

As time continues to pass on the Nuggets offseason and people start looking ahead to the coming season one ideal seems to be carrying the belief that the Nuggets will make the playoffs and be successful there; the Nuggets are just too deep to fail.

After all the team is full of good proven players like Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, and healthy Danilo Gallinari and led by a really, really good player in Ty Lawson.

Next to those proven players they have even more guys, like Evan Fournier and Jordan Hamilton,  who at the moment are unproven but have shown tools that lead to the belief they can join the ranks of the good.

And just to make things even more complicated, rounding out the roster are the polarizing JaVale McGee, Nate Robinson, Andre Miller and JJ Hickson. Players that have led to a series of debates, especially on this site, as to whether  or not they are actually good.

Realistically someone could say that the Nuggets will be anywhere from 10 to 13 deep with good players once everyone is healthy and it wouldn’t bring much of an argument.

But when you start looking at realistic combinations of those players that depth gets murkier.

After all what good is having a bunch of good players if those  players can’t translate into productive lineups?

As I have looked at some possible lineups trying to figure out what rotations will look like, I keep finding myself pondering a not so simple question.

Are the Nuggets deep or do they just have a collection of good players? Is there a difference?

After all three of the four big men likely to see the most minutes for Denver this year have the potential to cause horrific defensive problems.

We already know that Faried and McGee proved to be a disastrous combination on the defensive end last season and now JJ Hickson, who may be the worst of the three defensively, is bound to play significant minutes.

Offensively, the starting bigs have no real way to score points outside of directly in front of the rim and neither can consistently create their own look there.

Things don’t get any easier in the backcourt where the potential for Lawson/Robinson, Lawson/Miller or Robinson /Miller lineups exist.

All three groupings would be defensive nightmares, though the Robinson/Lawson lineup has the potential to be a dynamic offensive pairing.

Even on the wings are things a bit uncertain.

Jordan Hamilton will enter the season as the favorite to get minutes backing up Wilson Chandler but can he do enough to earn them?

Some people are clamoring for Darrell Arthur to start the season as the backup three but realistically it doesn’t seem to make much sense.

Arthur has played at least 1 percent of the Grizzlies minutes at small forward just one time in his career and will clearly struggle with the athleticism of those he would have to guard at the position. On offense Arthur would end up floating on the perimeter, cramping Denver’s spacing unless he magically becomes a capable three point shooter after never taking many threes before.

Combine that with the fact that he is really the only big man on the Denver roster that can be trusted defensively and taking his minutes and moving them to the three doesn’t make much sense.

Will Denver move Evan Fournier down to the three for stretches where he would play alongside Randy Foye even though both are known to have defensive problems.

All of this takes into account things before Gallo returns from injury. Once he does that what happens to other player’s minutes?

Does Chandler move to the four for stretches? Which of Fournier and Foye loses minutes as time at the three for Fournier disappears? Does Darrell Arthur lose minutes at the four to Chandler?

But the Nuggets biggest problem isn’t necessarily the regular season.Lawson and their amazing home court advantage will help them win their fair share of games.

The Nuggets biggest problem is the playoffs, where depth at the 7-10 spots is significantly less important as rotations get shortened and stars play more minutes.

So ultimately does it matter how good players 8-10 are when they see a combined 15 to 18 minutes a game come playoff time?

And in the Nuggets case for this year how much of a problem is it that those players 8-10 may be as good as those players 4-7?

Because as Matt Moore and Zach Harper talked about recently in their Nuggets offseason review podcast the Nuggets don’t stack up so well in regards to their best player compared to teams projected to be in their range this year as LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, and Kobe Bryant are all better players than Ty Lawson.

It doesn’t stop there though. Take a look at the Blazers starting five of Damian Lillard, Wes Matthews, Nic Batum, Aldridge and Robin Lopez compared to what combination the Nuggets may start when healthy.

Yes Lawson is better than Lillard, but Matthews and Aldridge are both clearly better than both Foye/Fournier and Faried. Batum and Gallinari are about as close as two players can be and Batum is entering the year healthy so the edge goes to him. At center Lopez won’t be as flashy as JaVale but is a sound team defender and rim protector that can be trusted unlike Mr. McGee.

So when a team is that much better in the starting lineup does it matter that Wilson Chandler is better than Mo Williams? Especially when Dorrell Wright and Thomas Robinson are close to the non-starter of Foye and Fournier and Hickson?

Things aren’t any different when comparing the Nuggets starters with the Wolves who are better at shooting guard with Kevin Martin, power forward with Kevin Love and center with Nikola Pekovic, all by substantial margins.

In the end that matters. As much as people want basketball to be a team oriented game how good your best players is obviously very important.

Will the Nuggets players 2 through 7  be good enough to bridge the gap between Lawson and their opponent’s best player?

Is it good that the Nuggets don’t have a clear number two player with Lawson out?

Can the Nuggets even field a lineup of their five best players that makes sense?

That group would probably be Lawson, Foye, Gallo, Chandler and Faried, a small lineup with undersized players at both big positions and weak defense at three of the five positions.

Does that lineup scare any contender, especially away from Denver?

All these questions seem to garner one of two answers and both answers seem like stretches.

First that Denver is gearing up for a trade.

As I have mentioned before, while the roster seems to make it look like a trade is coming the logistics of an actual trade don’t make sense.

Gallinari probably won’t garner anything close to his full value until he returns from his injury and proves he can continue to grow as a player.

Lawson is the team’s best player and seemingly the one they want, and should want, to build around.

Foye, Hickson, and Robison can’t be traded until December 15 and Mozgov is unable to be moved until January 15 thanks to rules in place in the CBA.

McGee and Chandler both are the only starting caliber players at their positions on the roster right now leaving Denver almost forced to keep them for the time being.

Which leaves Faried, the two Millers, Arthur, Fournier, Hamilton, and Anthony Randolph as the assets Denver potentially can have moveable this season.

While Faried on the surface would bring back the most assets what he would realistically bring back is questionable.

After all his skills are his high motor, incredible athleticism and excellent rebounding. But he is also going to be due a contract extension soon and if a team wonders if he ever develops beyond what he is right now, still a big question mark, will they really be willing to give up a lottery pick for him?

Which leaves contenders to vie for his services, meaning no currently valuable player will come back in the trade.

So is it worth it for Denver to move him for a late or protected first round pick?

If not what does a package built around one of the guys left get you?

Even if the answer is waiting until December, why should it be expected that the same teams that were not interested in Hickson, Robinson and Foye when they were free agents will suddenly become willing to give up valuable assets for them?

So looking for a trade to clear up a logjam doesn’t seem viable.

Then the other answer comes into play.

Brian Shaw will fix it.

I like Brian Shaw a lot. I think he has a chance to be a really good coach one day.

But asking him to create a great defense without more than one good defender to start the season is hard enough.

Asking him to do that and keep players who probably aren’t going to play as much as they want is even harder.

Asking him to do both and win 50 plus games in an incredibly deep Western Conference like some fans expect may be impossible.

After all even good NBA coaches can struggle at first. Doc Rivers, considered by many to be one of the best coaches in the game today, got fired once and almost a second time. Sometimes it just takes time.

Maybe Shaw doesn’t need it. Maybe he is one of the special ones that it clicks right away for, but no one knows yet.

So on an offseason full of questions for the Nuggets it may be time to add one more to the list.

Is depth, depth when the pieces don’t seem to fit?

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  • Scott

    I say we are deep. My personal definition of a deep bench is one where you have players that could start on other teams coming off the bench. We have that at nearly every position.
    PG- I’m for sure NOT a Miller fan but he could start for a number of teams, as should NateRob who is grossly underpaid, but hey I’m not complaining about that.

    SG- our worst position yet we have 2 starter at least challengers if not called starter worthy players in E4 and Foye. They could both start as well for us and a number of teams.

    SF- We are GOLDEN at small forward. A healthy Chandler coming off the bench is a dark horse 6MOY candidate who is incredibly versatile as he could play and guard almost every position. He is seriously underrated.

    PF- Hickson is obviously a good player who fits the nuggets model of getting boards and running and attacking the rim. He could start for most teams in the league.

    C- and Moz is Moz.

    • Bricks

      I like your definition of a deep team, but probably a little optimistic about some of our bench guys being able to start on a number of NBA teams. To me, those in question would be Miller, E4, NateRob and Foye. All 4 are perpetual backups anywhere they’d land (at this stage in their careers) — albeit pretty good backups, but any team who would need to start any of them, I would say, have deficiencies at the 1 or 2 . . . just like the Nuggets do.

  • Gordon

    Yeah, I like how diplomatic you guys have been with respect to the new management, but I think we’re all on the same page here: the Nuggets have been shifted from the right track to the wrong track. Really, they didn’t even have to do anything this offseason–Ujiri pretty much set it up to run hands-free; maybe just develop the younger guys like JHam and McGee more, let Mozgov and Brewer walk. Instead, the mgmt. decided to severely limit our financial flexibility–not for draft picks or potential, but guys who have established themselves as average or worse. The potential lineups make NO SENSE, as you pointed out, and are set up to fail in the playoffs even worse than what George Karl was working with. No matter how you look at it, the offseason moves this year were a disaster. Unless McGee and Faried magically transform into All-NBA defenders, we’re not getting better than last year anytime soon.

    • Trevor

      I agree, the momentum we had towards success has been severely derailed. We needed to let Karl go, say bye to Brewer and Moz, attempt to trade Miller, and preserve our flexibility as a young talented team willing to make trades. All they had to do was find a coach to develop the young guys and install a legit scheme that could have success come playoff time while keeping their feelers out for a LMA/KLove type player to trade for.

  • LBJ

    Clearly, we are full – and if there is no trade on the horizon we will be mess during the regular season. We have players that are virtually duplicates of others – and trying to play 12 guys is a recipe for disaster. Furthermore, our accumulation of a bunch of journeymen is going to interfere with developing our young guys.

    • Trevor

      Truth be told!

  • toluene hawk

    D Arthur and W Chandler are such assets, they will be the hidden gems of this team this season.

    • Bricks

      I hope you’re right about Arthur. We need him at backup 3. MattRMC is right, it may not make sense for Arthur to log a lot of backup mins. at 3, but we desperately need him there until Gallo returns. JHam should not be that guy, he is not ready to be logging big minutes.

      • toluene hawk

        I am almost back – keep your fingers crossed. How are things at the KSE Arvada office?

        • Bricks

          Glad to hear it, ‘Hawk. Good up here.

      • loops

        Depending on your definition of big minutes, why do you say JHam is not ready to log significant backup minutes? I think he’s just as if not more deserving of minutes over Fournier

        • Bricks

          JHam should get 9th-11th man mins. He needs another year or two to crack 6th-8th man mins. First, as much as many Nugs fans seem to like JHam’s iso game, he does not understand team-play yet. Second, he hasn’t learned to be patient, controlled, nor demonstrated the ability to “play within himself,” in other words, he’s easily rattled when his shot’s not falling, and winds up overcompensating, taking stupid shots and making bad passes. Unfortunately JHam is still a project and needs a couple years to mature.

          Fournier is an anti-JHam — naturally understands the GAME (off the charts hoops IQ for his age), gets his teammates involved, remains calm under pressure, etc. . . . can’t teach this stuff. JHam’s the far-better athlete, E4 is, to me, the better player who can help the Nugs more NOW than JHam is able to.

          • loops

            I know it’s not much to go off of, but the exact opposite explanation both applied to both players in the summer league. JHam after dealing with the death of his cousin played completely within himself, played way better team ball than Fournier, wasn’t rattled when his shot wasn’t falling and didn’t keep jacking them up, made fantastic passes, played good defense, etc.

            Fournier on the other hand was just awful. He kept jacking up shots, he kept trying to take on double teams and would either jack up a poor shot or just throw a terrible pass, he just looked down right awful outside of the 1st game. He wasn’t calm under pressure, JHAM was. He didn’t play smart, JHAM did. I personally think JHAM deserves more minutes than Fournier and I believed that last year. I guess we will see this season who’s on the money with their observations.

            • gimpcom187

              Summer league is virtually useless in terms of discerning nba team skills. Its glorified rucker league in terms of team play. Perfect for hamilton, no good for fournier.

              • loops

                I don’t understand how it’s good for one and not the other. If you are a good player, you perform in summer league because the competition is garbage. I had high expectations for Fournier and said he was clearly the best on the team after game 1. He went in the opposite direction after that as JHAM did. Yes, SL doesn’t predict regular season success but if you are the player that the fans are making you out to be (Fournier) it’s a little concerning you are that bad the majority of the games.

              • gimpcom187

                It doesn’t tell you anything about either was my point. You can take VERY Narrow things from summer league (are they shooting better because of a change in their stance, better perimeter dribbling, better footwork on one vs. one defense, skill based changes). Gleaning overarching ideas is a waste of time because the summer league doesn’t resemble the talent, coaching/team emphasis, intensity/focus or structure of NBA regular season or Playoffs. It’s similar to the difference between Good high school ball and Division 1 College. If you see the HS senior rankings often there are major differences in the top 30 and how they do in NCAA.

                It’s the equivalent of attempting to determine a teams ability from the first pre-season game or maybe worse a practice. In the limited time he got last year Fournier’s game showed much more team oriented. Hamilton has shown nothing other than being a chucker with good perimeter dribbling. Hamilton’s game is much more conducive to the relatively unstructured and inconsistent talent of the summer league. Summer league is for basketball junkies or if you see it in person the ability to celebrity watch. Josh Shelby WON the MVP a few years a go if I recall correctly. He may not get a roster spot on an NBA team this year.

                Not to mention the 2 year age difference and extra year hamilton has had in the league (it’s relatively rare for nba starters to get time in the summer league after their second season) Im saying it doesn’t matter what your assessment of their games is because it would barely matter if a good NBA scout was giving the assessment. Did you have fun watching the summer league? If so then it was a success for you and that’s about all you can take from it.

              • loops

                Again, I have acknowledged SL isn’t much to base the future on in the least bit. Correct me if I’m wrong though, good SL performances can score players training camp invites. So it’s not like there is absolutely nothing that comes from it

              • gimpcom187

                Youre acknowledging it is virtually worthless as evaluative for regular season projection but then seemingly suggesting it has value. Thats called lip service. Camp invites? Of which most teamsbring in 4-7, one or two of which make the roster and almost never (5%?) Play more than 200 minutes in the season. Where else would nba teams get invitees? Rec leagues in omaha?

              • loops

                You said there is no value in SL. You would be wrong. You act like its just for fun, if its for fun then why do teams insist on having young talent they drafted playing in it? Why do the likes of every top 10 pick play summer league for a year or two? If it has no value, then they wouldn’t. I said its not much to base regular season on but Fournier should not have been making the absolutely garbage mistakes he made in SL. He was consistently one of the worst players on the court. He was making corn ball mistakes and I know he’s better than that. Evan Fournier came out and said he needs to use his time with the French National team
                To get everything back together. The same people defending Fournier were bashing Hamilton the first few games for his performances and how “he didn’t make a lot of progress” as for rec leagues in Omaha, that’s just silly. There is an NBA d-league and players also sign contracts to play overseas. We used summer league to evaluate whether Erick Greene needed more time to develop or not. When it was made obvious he did, we went out and signed nate rob and had him sign with Sienna so we can bring him back to SL next year and gauge his progress to determine whether he is ready or not, yet again.

              • gimpcom187

                D leaguers play in summer league as they have a team designated for them and some guys are put on nba summer league rosters. Europe hypothetically though rarely are guys coming who have not been drafted. And omaha. Of course I did not say there was “no value” just little to none in predictive value for nba season. My argument is that basing assumptions on how fournier and hamilton will do on nugs next season based on summer league is silly. You did that and argued for it inconclusively. Please stop taking my c8omments one step beyond what was said.

              • loops

                No I didn’t do that. What I did was say that I thought last year JHAM deserved just as many minutes and I still believe that going into the season. I simply pointed out that JHAM wasn’t playing as he has been characterized to play in the SL as a collective whole and Fournier wasn’t playing as he is predicted to play the entirety of the SL. A place where if he is as good as some of us are believing he is, he should have performed. Fournier didn’t make the final cut for the French National team as well because of poor performances in practice. I’m simply stating that there were some positives to take away from JHAMs performance and some negatives to take away from Fournier. If Fournier can’t perform in the SL and can’t perform well enough to make the french national team then I can’t sit here and assume he will perform in the regular season just yet. I didn’t see enough out of him in the regular season (Limited minutes) to declare he has as bright of a future as some of us are assuming he has. I love Fournier and I love JHam. I just don’t believe either have separated themselves from one another.

            • Bricks

              I only watched parts of two SL games. Didn’t get to see JHam excel like you’re saying he did (but I believe you). And E4 was nothing special from what I saw. But this was Summer League — in which the most athletic guys usually excel. This is not real Association basketball, when games matter. Borderline bench-players (subs like both JHam and E4) don’t “deserve” playing time, they earn it by proving to their coaches that they cannot afford to NOT play them, and by showing that they will help their team win games more consistently than 5 to 8 other subs on the roster.

              • loops

                Why is it that athletic guys excel and guys who aren’t as athletic don’t? If Fournier was really a step above JHAM and other players, he would be playing well. If Andre Miller played the SL he would put on a clinic because the talent is garbage

              • Bricks

                gimpcom said it pretty well in his post just above my last one. Team play is tossed out the window in SL. It’s all about iso play. Hope you’re right about JHam, loops, I want to see him improve enough that Shaw can’t afford not to play him. And I agree with your comment about AMiller, he’d clinic the guys in SL because he’s boneyard scrappy, can play iso if he has to (love it when he posts up bigs) but versatile enough that, when his team needs him to distribute, he can and does.

              • loops

                I hear you. I really hope to see more post up game from Miller this year. He was rather inconsistent in utilizing it. An occasional rotation of Andre Miller with JJ Hickson, Darrell Arthur, Fournier, and Foye (Very small line up but when I say occasional I mean, occasional) where he can work his post game more and dish it to spot up shooters who space the floor in all 4 of those guys. As much as I initially was questioning keeping Andre around, he will definitely come in handy on the offensive end with the amount of guys we acquired that can shoot a J.

  • Daniel Nicks

    I’d say we’re deep. It’s a talented roster. But it was built to play at George Karl’s pace. I just don’t know how many of these players can thrive without that uptempo system.

    I just hope we have some trade value outside of Faried or Lawson, because there’s no way in hell we’re moving them.

  • Charliemyboy

    We lost Iggy, KK and Brewer. So the question is whether the acquisitions can replace them. We didn’t get assets with their skills, so the coach will have to adjust. This means the mindsets of Ty and the gang will be turned instead of going stronger toward the same direction. Hopefully KK and Brewer can be compensated for. I’m worried about losing Iggy unless someone pops up who is a real smart defender.

  • slugdugg

    The crap with Iggy and Masai aside, I’m not too surprised with where we are. Those of us calling for GK to be fired knew we would receive fewer regular season victories as compensation. GK sold his soul to the devil in order to get regular season wins, at the expense of a system that cannot be successful in the post-season. I would rather enter the post-season as a lower seed and have a system that can actually work in the playoffs. The question is whether the moves we have made are a plus or a minus… and honestly who can say until we see what kind of system Shaw is going to run.

  • Ckwizard

    Ty Lawson is unique in that saying Aldridge or Love are better players is a stretch because Lawson paired with either of them would make them better but not necessarily make Lawson better. Kobe on the other hand would make Lawson better. Each player isolated in a vacuum isn’t a top player in their position aside from Lawson and Gallinari but Lawson makes those other players better, heck that is the job of a good point guard! I think the roster shakes out on how the players compliment Ty or Nate because Miller does more to distract from the success of the team even though he is the better distributor. The other question is who becomes the anchor on defense? That person may become as valuable as Ty and looked at a just as good, last year that was Igoudala this year I hope Shaw demands it from someone. This is going to be a “fun” year! Go Nuggets!

    • Native Nugget

      I’m not clear how Ty makes others better. His assists are one of the weakest aspects of his overall game and that is one of the key measures of a point guard’s impact on other players. Ty has great potential to get his teammates more involved, but currently he hasn’t tapped it.

      • Ckwizard

        Ty makes the Denver system go, he is the engine and he does make the defense react to him. Last years Ty was on a poor shooting team so his assist number reflects that but I would wager that in a better pick and roll system Ty will show you why I say the things I do, we as Nuggts fans have seen him out play Westbrook, Rondo, and Paul not to mention go toe to toe with Curry, and Great Laker teams.

      • Bricks

        That’s actually a fair comment about Ty. He needs to improve at getting his guys more involved on offense. Seven dimes a game isn’t bad (within one rebound of most of the top PGs in the league), but Ty can improve. Karl was grooming Ty to become the best dribble-drive PG in the game, and encouraged him to take the layup or draw the foul, rather than kicking it out to the perimeter. Watch for Shaw to refine Ty’s ability to find the open man in a dribble-drive set, while maintaining his otherworldly attacking-the-basket abilities. We should see more assists from Ty in Shaw’s system.

    • gimpcom187

      Umm I COMPLETELY disagree with this assessment. Love creates tons of space for a penetrating with his pick and pop stellar 3 pt range and also amazing rebounding forces the opponent to pay attention to love constantly. Similar with aldridge with less range and rebounding. Also good passer off post ups for ty spot up 3s.
      On the other hand kobe is a ridiculously bad combo for ty. Kobe turned one of the top 5 half court offensive weapons in nba history into steve kerr last year. Kobe needs the ball in his hands constantly. Is a mediocre cutter. Lazy moving without the ball and his flat shot works well for 16-20 footers but has proven mediocre from 3 suggesting kobewouldnt cash in on enough ty penetration kick outs. Not sure how you came to your conclusions.

  • Andrew Streight

    Although he’s not Iggy, I feel like everyone is forgetting about Wilson Chandler as a lockdown defender. I don’t have his defensive numbers or anything so I really could be off base, but it seems to me like Chandler could really end up being a huge asset to the team on defense and may save us from being as horrible of a defense as everyone thinks we will be. Couldn’t he develop into as good or (nearly as good) of a defender as Iggy? He is only 26…

    • Bricks

      Love Chandler, but I wouldn’t say lockdown, esp. not at wing. One thing Iggy had/has going for him on D is freakish hands — cat-quick hand-eye coordination. Rare innate ability that can’t be taught or coached. Gary Payton like.

      • Scott

        The only problem I have with Wil’s D, and pretty much his overall game, is that he is too laid back and chill. He would be an elite defender if he brought the same intensity that Brewer had. Maybe Nate’s intensity will rub off on him. I would say the same thing with Ty as being too chill but he definitely grew more and more confidence and a stronger mentality the second half last year.

  • kwelitysoul

    Its a deep team with guys that may or may not fit into Coach’s philosophy. These are NBA players we’re talking about, and if given the right situation anybody can shine. All it takes is a winning mentality and i think Coach brings that to the table. Winning = fun = talent optimization. With that said everybody but Ty and Gallo are on the block lol

  • Bricks

    Matt, as much as I’m sure you were trying to be objective here (and I do always enjoy your posts) . . . damn, that was depressing. My first thought after reading was, “Well, I guess reality just bites, my team just pissed away any momentum they may have gained last season.” But, know what? I’m far from ready to take that tack. Main reason: Coach Brian K. Shaw. The more I learn about this dude, the more I’m buyin’ in. And I have no doubt he’s gonna get his guys to buy in too. In fact, I’m betting he already has! This is a gut-check guy whom his peers claim was/is far-and-away the best motivator of players (and developer of young talent) of any available coach this offseason. It’s no secret what Shaw has done to elevate guys he’s coached/mentored — both as players and as men: Paul George, Roy Hibbert, Lance Stephenson, Andrew Bynum, even Kobe. Doesn’t hurt that as a player and assistant he has 5 rings with the Lakers, played in 2 other NBA finals with the Magic, and has dozens more playoff games under his belt. And according to every coach or GM he’s ever worked for, he is the real deal and will be the best in the business if and when he gets his chance. I, for one, have my money on Shaw and like the odds of him getting the optimal best from Ty, JaVale, Manimal, Gallo, and Ill Wil — and perennially leading them to Rd. 2 and beyond . . . Kool-Aid, anyone?

    • MattRMC

      I didn’t mean it to be depressing but I just thought it was a question that had to be addressed. As for Shaw I absolutely loved the hire. Every single thing points to this being a great hire and that Shaw can be successful but I just think asking him to do it with a flawed roster and without his second best player to start the year is really tough. It may take a year or two to figure things out but I have a really good feeling about Shaw. Just not so much this year (by no fault of his own).

      • Bricks

        I know depressing wasn’t your intent. In fact, the question about the depth of the Nugs needed a discussion, and you did a fine job of bridging it. Of course, your points were based on measurable data . . . and, to me, that’s the rub. I agree the empirical stuff doesn’t look all that promising, but the wonderful thing about sports is the immeasurable stuff, the intangibles: i.e. guys digging deeper inside themselves than ever before to get better, committing to do the work necessary to improve the deficient areas of their game . . . or a coach who inspires courage and determination in his players that they never knew they had, and consequently brings his guys together as a unit and begins creating a culture of winning. From what I’ve heard and read about Shaw, he’s the kind of guy who can get that out of his team.

  • Evan Woodruff

    Is this a Nuggets bashing website?

    • jiaeosfj

      Nope we were all creaming our khakis the day we got iggy

  • asdqqq

    So many things here.
    1. On the front court defense. I’m fairly certain that Shaw will ask the big men to do different things than Karl did on defense. McGee will be told to sag towards the basket to protect the rim, going under all pick and rolls, like Noah in Chicago or Hibbert in Indiana. He should be a lot better at that then he was in Karl’s system. A lot of the problems with playing Faried (or Hickson) with McGee will thus disappear.
    Of note, the only loss from last year’s front court personnel was Koufos, who was a below average defender himself (for example, he posted a negative defensive RAPM last year). He was better than McGee and Faried in Karl’s switch crazy system, but would be worse in the style of defense I’d expect to see from Shaw. And we still managed a decent defense last year.
    2. On lineups. I think the playoff rotations might turn out something like this. The starting PG is obviously Lawson. Lawson is a top 10, borderline top 5 PG.
    In my opinion, the starting SG should be Chandler unless Fournier outplays him. Chandler has played substantial time there in his career, and would provide the length on defense that was so critical to the Indiana defense.
    By the playoffs, Gallo should be back starting at SF. Unitl then, I’d give Hamilton a chance.
    Reserve combo guard: Robinson. One of, if not the best, player in the league at this role right now. Sorry Miller, you probably get 3rd PG minutes in most matchups.
    Reserve Wing: Whoever emerges as the best player from Foye, Fournier, or Hamilton. Foye isn’t a bad floor for this position on the depth chart.
    Starting PF: Faried. The manimal. Somehow still widely undervalued even on a Nuggets blog. Projected by ESPN to add more wins than a certain LaMarcus Aldridge.
    And at C, Javale McGee, who it is hard to argue isn’t at least a top 10 center.
    Backup big: JJ Hickson or Arthur, depending on the matchup.
    3. The value of depth in the playoffs. Did you watch the playoffs? It’s all about matchups. And the Heat and the Spurs were the best at playing the matchups. A few examples: Splitter key and dominant in series win over Memphis, non factor against Miami. Miller a non factor until needed in SA. The depth is significant so that you can adgust the rotation to the matchup, instead of having to roll with your only 7 or 8 rotation level players.
    4. The comparison to Portland. Just embarrassing. Lawson is significantly better than Lillard. Mathews is neglibly better than anyone we throw out there at SG, worse than Chandler. Healthy Gallo is significantly better than Batum. Aldridge is marginally, if at all, better than Faried. And McGee is just flat better than Lopez, Robin, the one on Portland. I’d take that Nuggets starting 5 over that Portland starting 5 all day, and I think just about every objective evaluator would too.

    • LBJ

      Looks like someone has seriously overrated our talent…
      Lawson a borderline top 5 PG??? Better than Rose, Parker, Paul, Rondo, Curry, Westbrook – I don’t think so. Even Conley, D-Will, Wall and Jrue is questionable…

      • LBJ

        I forgot Kyrie Irving!

        • asdqqq

          Let’s just assume I agree with everything you’re saying there (which I don’t necessarily). That’s 7 guys, Rose, Parker, Paul, Rondo, Curry, Westbrook, and Irving, who you think are clearly better than Lawson. Well, Rose, Rondo, and Westbrook are coming off significant injuries, Parker is entering the tail end of his prime, and Curry has chronic ankle injury problems. Given the undpredictable outcomes of all those factors, I think its fair to say that, at any given time druing the next season, Lawson may very well be one of the top 5 pgs playing. That’s borderline top 5 (notice I didn’t just flatly say top 5) in my book.

          • LBJ

            Watching the NBA finals, I didn’t see any indication that Parker is at the tail end of his prime. Yes, injuries happen in the NBA (I recall that Ty was dealing with Achilles issues last year).
            More importantly, Lawson is moving from an offense geared to his strengths – to one that is not (more half court sets).
            Finally, a pretty could argument could be made that D-Will, Conley and John Wall are as good (if not better than Ty).

    • MattRMC

      I don’t have high hopes that I can change your mind on any of these points but I will try to explain myself a bit towards the points you raised.

      1. We have no idea for sure what Shaw’s defensive system will be but we do now that at no point in their careers have Hickson, Faried and McGee ever showed some type of defensive consistency as far as being in the right place at the right time. Sure Karl switched a lot last year but that doesn’t excuse missing weakside rotations like Faried and McGee did time after time last season. Also the only reason the Nuggets defense was decent last year was thanks to Iggy who is no longer on the team. When he was not on the floor the Nuggets had the worst defensive efficiency in the league. In fact without Koufos on the floor they had the fourth worst. So those players both need to be replaced.

      2. I have no idea how the lineups will play out besides being Ty clearly being the starting point guard and McGee being the starting center. Everything else points to Chandler as the starting SF and Faried as the starting PF which makes sense since they both saw significant minutes at those positions since they have been in Denver. Also you seem to be a expecting a lot from Gallo including a return to exactly the player he was before his injury despite missing at least half the year. He probably won’t be back to fully himself until next year.

      3. Yes I watched the playoffs, every game of them and yes matchups are very important. But those teams also had 6-7 set players and changed the rotation for a small amount of minutes to get that change in. It wasn’t like LeBron or Wade suddenly were only playing 20 minutes a game. Also the skill sets for Denver don’t seem to be drastically different at most spots outside of SG. Otherwise most of the players have much of the same strengths and weakness which means it is harder to play matchups since there is no significant difference.

      4. Finally I respectfully disagree with your take on the Blazers lineup. First I love Ty but he is more borderline top 10 then top 5. Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, and Tony Parker are all in the top 5. That doesn’t even mention Deron Williams, Steph Curry (who torched Lawson in the playoffs), John Wall, Lawson, and Rajon Rondo, who in the next group with players I probably forgot. Lawson is a big negative on defense (despite his best efforts) because of his height and that matters. Also as another commenter said his passing can get better.

      I feel like you may be underrating Wes Matthews who is a very good defender and knocks down the 3 well which puts him clearly above Fournier or Foye who are effective at the moment on only one end of the floor.

      Here is a comparison of Batum and Gallo through last year:

      They are the same age, have played the same amount of years in the league and are essentially equal in every category with Batum posting a higher EFG (.536 to .504) because he shoots the three a bit better and finishes at the rim better. The two otherwise are essentially equal.

      Clearly you don’t like LMA but the guy is one of the best 2 or 3 power forwards in basketball and capable of carrying an offense. Faried does energy things well but is nowhere near the more complete player.

      As for McGee I would take Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol, Roy Hibbert, Omer Asik, Larry Sanders, Brook Lopez, Nikola Pekovic, Chris Bosh, Al Horford, Dwight Howard, Greg Monroe, and Tyson Chandler over him and that is just 12 players off the top of my head. They all do at least 1 thing at an elite level something JaVale hasn’t come close too. As I said I trust Robin Lopez defensively (where he was very good last year) over JaVale.

      Like I said I am not sure any of this will change your mind and if not so be it but I felt that I should address your complaints with my article. If you still disagree then that is your right and I will agree to disagree.

      • loops

        All very valid points IMO

      • asdqqq

        A few responses:

        1. That’s all data from last year in a different system. McGee is already one of the finest interior defenders in the league. See, for example,

        I agree that Iggy was a great defender last year and will be very hard to replace. I disagree that Koufos was a great defender in the abstract, neither my eyes nor the stats back that up, just a much better fit than the alternatives on the Nuggets in the system last year. Hence the splits last year. Time will tell how the players work out in a new system.

        2. Gallo has been our best player. I’m hoping he will be close to form by the playoffs. He certainly could be. If he isn’t, there’s nothing we could have done this offseason that would be able to make up for that.

        3. The Nuggets have 6 or 7 players that will play against everybody. Lawson and Gallo aren’t sitting any more than Wade and LeBron. I’m just pointing out that, while depth doesn’t matter as much in the playoffs because of shortened rotations, it still plays a critical role in permitting rotation flexibility. So the depth does make them better in the playoffs even if they go with a shorter rotation because they can change the rotation based on the matchup. Playing Memphis? You can bet Mosgov and Hickson will be playing over Arthur. Playing that Golden State team last year? Arthur will be in there all over Barnes. Teams like Indiana and Memphis were good, but they didn’t have the depth to matchup well when they ran into a team that could adjust to their set lineups. And that’s why they got eliminated.

        4. I’m confused. You named 5 guys you think who are better than Ty, (2 coming off serious injuries, see above), and then put Ty in the next group of guys in the top 10. That’s by definition borderline top 5. He’s right on the border to being in the top 5. And according to RAPM, he was a league average defender, not a defensive iability at all. Anyways, it looks like you agree he is in a different class from Lillard.

        Mathews was a league average defender last year, according to his defensive RAPM. Nothing special on that end.
        Batum was a significant negative on the offensive end last year, while Gallo was a strong positive. In addition, Gallo was also a better defender. He’s just a better player. Injury issues aside, would you rather have Gallo or Batum? I’d much, much rather have Gallo.
        As for LMA, I’m not denigrating him at all. I think he is great. I think he is probably better than Faried right now. I just think the difference is not nearly as big as you seem to think it is, because you are underrating Faried.
        As for McGee, I don’t know how you can’t say that he is an elite rim protector. He was far and away the league leader in blocked shot on a per minute basis last year. If you think that Robin Lopez and McGee are even remotely comparable players, well, then I think this coversation is over and we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

        • MattRMC

          1. Kosta was great. In those studies you bring up to prove JaVale’s worth Kosta finished ahead of him in almost every single list. The team was also drastically worse defensively when Kosta came off the floor. To you neither of those things matter but JaVale being a great rim protector does. Also that study kind of proves what I said about JaVale. He can be a great rim protector, when he is around to contest a shot. But in the listing of players being close to shooters JaVale was horrific, ranking 81st in the players studied. Meanwhile Robin Lopez who you believe to not be in JaVale’s class was in the middle of all the shot effecting stats and top 20 in the being close to a shooter. Clearly we disagree then on how to value the two players. You would rather have a guy who can change a shot drastically when he is around it even if he may not be around the shot often over the guy who effects the shot a bit less but is around the actual shot much more. Fair enough.

          2. I am not as high on Gallo as you (I thought both Lawson and Iguodala were better last year as did others). But he is a great addition to the team when healthy and I hope he gets back to his old self fast.

          3. Again though does having 10 players can play if many have the same flaws? Chandler and Gallo both haven’t proven to be secondary creators, Hickson and Faried are negatives defensively and the only main difference is Hickson shoots a bit better. Mozgov is a body that hasn’t proven to be any better than JaVale or even Koufos who could have been kept. If you want depth to play matchups you need guys with different skill sets and I don’t know if Denver has that outside of Foye and Fournier, and Arthur compared to Faried and Hickson.

          4.I mentioned 5 players clearly better than Ty. Honestly I would take all 5 of those players, Williams, Curry (who destroyed Ty in the playoffs and has throughout his career) and Wall over Lawson without thinking. I probably would take Rondo too. Ty is a great player in an era of great point guards so it isn’t meant as a slight on him but there are 7 or 8 players most people would take at his position over him. He is a top 10 point guard to me without a doubt, but he is closer to 10 then 5 I believe. As for his defense it may not be awful but it isn’t good and again it is no fault of his own, he is just short. That matters. As it has been demonstrated before on other sites point guards tend to shoot better than normal against Lawson because of his height. It happens, he makes up for it offensively but he is small and it matters when looking at his defense.

          5. As for Matthews I never said he is an elite perimeter defender or anything but he is at least average and Foye/Fournier are not. It matters.

          Gallo and Batum numbers from last year:

          Batum shot better from the field, essentially the same (.001 worse) from three on one more attempt a game, had better TS and EFG (.566/.522 for Batum .561/.495 for Gallo), dished almost 2.5 more assists a game. Gallo turned the ball over less and got to the line twice more a game. Batum also played injured almost the whole year. So again with numbers that close why is Batum a negative and Gallo a positive? They were almost identical players in almost identical roles (the third offensive option).

          To put the LMA/Faried thing into perspective I believe the gap between LMA and Faried is close to if not bigger than the gap between Lawson and Lilliard. LMA can carry an offense. Faried can’t. LMA is also better on defense. Yes Faried is an elite rebounder but what else does he do above average? LMA is an elite offensive player and I find it hard to say Faried does much of anything well on the offensive end outside of rebounding. And he sure doesn’t make up the difference defensively.

          As for Lopez/JaVale as I said above we value defensive players a bit different. Give me the guy who is in the right spot exponentially more over the guy who effects a shot a bit more. In fact in block percentage last season (the percent of 2 point field goals blocked by the player when he was on the floor) both Robin and Kosta finished in the Top 20 (Robin was actually 9th) and JaVale was absent from the list. JaVale may block shots but he also kind of isn’t around a ton of the ones being taken when he is on the floor.

          Again I may be wrong, maybe Ty turns into a top 5 point guard this year, maybe JaVale becomes this season Larry Sanders, who knows. While I think both are unlikely things like that happen year after year.

          I get being passionate about the team and I am glad you are and that you continue to read at the site but I can assure you there is no deep seated Nuggets hatred in me. I loved watching the team last year, I am just stating what I honestly believe. No bias, just opinions based off what I saw and what some numbers that help clarify things show. It is meant to create discussion and I am glad when it does. We may not always agree and that is fine, the great thing about basketball is that people don’t have to and can enjoy different things.

          Like I said I don’t mind disagreements, it will happen but as a journalist (which is what I do outside of blogging and what my degree is in) lines that imply some sort of bias as the final sentence in your original post seemed to bother me. I don’t mean to get into a great back and forth until one of us changes our mind since that never seems to work and waste both of our time but just wanted to show where my thought process was to show you it wasn’t influenced by any bias.

          • asdqqq

            Just a couple comments, mostly about the stats.
            1. I think you are misinterpreting the stat where Koufos and McGee differ significantly. Being on the top of that list like Koufos is isn’t necessarily a good thing. It means he’s not discouraging anybody from shooting while they are close to him. McGee, at the bottom, is.
            I’m not debating that Koufos was by far the better defender in Karl’s system last year. But a measure like RAPM can tell us that he wasn’t actually contributing anything to the defense as much as his replacements were failing.
            I’ve thought the same as you for a long time on the value of being mobile and well positioned on the perimeter and in pick and rolls vs. being a rim protector, but a lot of the advanced stats have made me think that I’ve undervalued the value of rim protecting in that analysis.
            2. I think it was close, but RAPM put Gallo on top. Not that that’s the be all, end all, but he was clearly the best 2 way player. Iggy was nothing special on offense, and Lawson nothing special on defense.
            3. Chandler and Gallo and Hickson and Faried are all going to be in the rotation no matter what. What matters is that flexibility at the end with guys like Miller and Foye and Arthur and Mosgov. Those guys are bringing different skills.
            4. I don’t think we really disagree here.
            5. With Gallo and Batum, I was misreading the numbers, I apologize. Batum was a postiive offensive player, just not as positive as Gallo. Where the big difference came was on the defensive end. Despite his reputation, Batum was actually a huge negative on that end, as in bottom 10 in the league according to RAPM, far worse than any Nugget. Whereas Gallo was a solid positive, 2nd best on the Nuggets behind Iggy. Maybe Batum gets some of that back if he is healthy.
            And Javale’s block percentage was nearly twice that of Koufos, 8.5 to 4.4, so I don’t know what list you were looking at. He lead the league by a significant margin. Koufos was ranked 38th. McGee is the best shot blocker in the league.
            As for implying bias, I am sorry if that’s what came across. I was trying to express that I think most talent evaulators around the league would take the Nuggets starting 5 over Portand’s next year, not just those who are Nuggets homers. I do think there is room for objective disagreement.
            Looking back at my original post, I agree some of the tone was inappropriate, particularly the “embarrassing” comment. I just get riled up about my Nugs.

  • Mr Jabooja

    When gallo comes back our lineup should be lawson, chandler, gallo, hickson, mcgee. Gallo and Chandler are good defenders, who can guard multiple positions. ive seen gallo guard chris paul and do a decent job and chandler guarding centers and not doing terrible considering his size. Im not too worried about the Nuggs we are super deep and Shaw will figure it out. Only hoping Andre only plays 5-10 minutes… Im thinking JHam if given the opportunity will be an x-factor for our team, and could be a sixth man of the year candidate. Im hopeful, but we shall see

  • Rdc

    When the rosters looking healthy:
    PG – ty, all star this year, any bets iggy was holding him back, much like holiday
    SG – chandler, can shoot the 3, athletic enough to be 2 guard, best perimeter defender now that iggy left, now a matchup nightmare for opposition, +ft shooter!
    SF- gallo, 3’s. Is an underrated playmaker, watch his assists spike up this year
    PF – hickson, only cause hes got a more consistent midrange jumper really.. Also has like 2 inches more height then faried
    C – mcgee, better make a leap this year
    6 – faried, was always suited to be more of a sixth man of the year, replaces brewers energy, 25~ mins
    7 – foye, reliable 3, not a starter
    8 – nate, watch out for this guy, seriously
    9 – arthur, teach the bigs some d! Will be a key cog defensively, nice midrange j
    10 – fournier, will have his moments, will not be a reliable starter for the time being
    11 – mozzy, barring injury to others, i dont see how this guy will see mins
    12 – j ham, probably wont see more than 10 mins a game consistently, again.
    13 – randolph, see mozzy
    14 – q miller, liking this guys potential, but benchwarmer

    – 7-10 are really interchangeable (playing time wise) on any given day
    – Mozzy and randolph also interchangeable? These two are really just insurance for injuries..
    – team is far too deep! Not enough playing time to go around!
    – all in all, with an optimistic view – with roster and 1st time coach, minimum of 40 wins and max of maybe say 52, 5-8 seed.
    – #andremillermustgo
    – #gonuggets!

    • LBJ

      Mozzy will get at least 15-20 minutes a game. We didn’t re-sign him at $4m per year to not play. You are right about PT – not enough to go around. Playing more than 10 guys in your regular rotation usually doesn’t work.

  • MitchellJames

    ***need a copy editor***

  • Paul Griggs

    This team will struggle to win 40 games unless Shaw can get a large number of the poor defenders on the roster to play D together. Karl got the most out of the roster and the player moves were an overall drain in talent. Foye is marginal. Robinson is not a team player. Hickson is OK. Mozgov is not as good as Koufos. McGee is uncoachable. They’ll have to outscore the other team.