5-on-5: #NuggetsRank reflections

Around this time of year everyone’s doing some sort of rankings series. Pundits are ranking teams, players, players on teams (as we’ve done), coaches, general managers, mascots, they’re giving out preseason awards, they’re writing books. It’s kinda crazy, to be honest. And as you might expect from a fairly traditional sports blog, Roundball Mining Company got in on the craziness as well, in the form of our #NuggetsRank series which ran alongside ESPN.com’s larger #NBARank. But unlike most other outlets, here at RMC we like to occasionally take a step back and critique ourselves. Sure, we offer you our opinion in unbridled fashion and proclaim certain players to be “definitively” better than others, but we also realize those pompous proclamations are just our opinions. We know they’re the furthest things from facts; and so, in our latest 5-on-5 we collectively acknowledge the absurdity of rankings and immediately revoke all written analysis we may have previously stated as set in stone. As always, please join us in the comments section below to dish out your thoughts and opinions on #NuggetsRank, and be sure to let us know what we could do better next time to improve.

(Note: Our final #NuggetsRank list from last to first is as follows: 15. Anthony Randolph, 14. Quincy Miller, 13. Timofey Mozgov, 12. Jordan Hamilton, 11. Randy Foye, 10. Darrell Arthur, 9. J.J. Hickson, 8. Andre Miller, 7. Evan Fournier, 6. Nate Robinson, 5. JaVale McGee, 4. Kenneth Faried, 3. Wilson Chandler, 2. Danilo Gallinari, 1. Ty Lawson.)

1. What was the most valuable lesson you learned about ranking the players on this year’s Nuggets roster?

Joel: That this season’s roster was much more difficult to rank, given that there is still so much we don’t know yet. Among the lower cluster of players, so many still haven’t had much of a chance to prove themselves, and it’s hard to project how signs both good and bad will translate when (and if) they get more burn this season. It’s also difficult to forecast how any of these guys will adapt to Shaw’s new system.

Vytis: That it was very hard to rank the players, especially No. 6 through 11. The players in that tier could be shuffled and it would still make sense. Their ranking at the end of the season will really depend on what kind of a role they assume in Brian Shaw’s system.

David: I already sort of knew it, but it took the rankings to really drive home the fact that Wilson Chandler is the third best player on this team. I really like Chandler and think he could be a good fit with the Nuggets, but there is only so much you can expect out of a roster when he’s your third best player. Last year’s team was deep but the talent didn’t plateau so much. Now there’s a precipitous drop after Gallinari.

Matt: How different depth can be. One of the things I did after I sent in my final rankings was try to figure out where the three important offseason losses would have ranked, and I realized that all of them probably would have been in the top eight. So this team is still “deep” in the sense of having a lot of guys at the same talent level, but not like last year where the group at the top was more talented.

Kalen: From the outside looking in, we feel fairly comfortable assessing players. We know certain guys are better than others and we organize them in our minds that way. But when asked to specifically rank players from one through 15, top to bottom, you start to realize just how small the talent gap is between each guy — especially on this team. I’m hoping the Nuggets front office realizes this and does something about it in the form of a trade.

2. At the end of the season, which player will have been ranked too low?

Joel: Mozgov. Shaw looks poised to give him a greatly expanded role as the only backup center, and so far this preseason he has looked mostly solid (though not overwhelmingly impressive). With his at least semi-legit short- to mid-range jumper, it seems likely that he could be well paired with Faried, who thrives on living at the rim. And if that or other combinations bear some fruit, he should end up as one of Denver’s top 10.

Vytis: Randy Foye. Yes, he is quite one-dimensional, but a lot will depend on the minutes the players get this season. Foye is the only excellent 3-point shooter on a team that desperately needs floor spacing, so that alone will get him a lot of minutes.

David: J.J. Hickson, who may very well play more than we initially thought and might actually take the starter’s spot from Faried. Hickson has a myriad of problems — his utter lack of defense being the main one — but he might fit better in a system that uses bigs more traditionally. He can hit the midrange jumper out of a pick and pop — something Faried has yet to show any sign of doing consistently — and is not out of his element posting up around the elbow. Considering the tradeoff in defense and offensive rebounding from Faried to Hickson is nil, it’s not hard to see J.J. climbing up the rotation this year.

Matt: I think Darrell Arthur. With everything Brian Shaw has said he wants to do, I think Arthur has a real shot at playing significant minutes this season. The spacing he brings is going to be important with the offense being run through the high post, and he can be trusted defensively which is huge when you look at the other Nuggets’ power forwards. I could see him being the seventh or eighth most important player on the roster this year.

Kalen: I feel very happy saying Quincy Miller will be that guy. He’s played really well in the preseason and Shaw has said good things about him in the media, even comparing him to a young Paul George. If he could secure the backup small forward spot behind Chandler until Gallinari gets back, and do some impressive things during that time, it would do wonders for the confidence of fans moving forward. 

3. At the end of the season, which player will have been ranked too high?

Joel: I’m hoping it won’t be Fournier, but I’m starting to fear that it could be. When he got his big chance after injuries pried him off the bench last spring, he exceeded all expectations. But even though he’s shown some positives this preseason, he appears to be struggling in Shaw’s offense, whereas before he thrived in Karl’s dribble-drive. If Shaw doesn’t free Evan up to play to his strengths, this season could prove onerous.

Vytis: It’s sad to say this, but probably Fournier. We all ranked him quite high expecting that he would start and that Shaw would allow him to develop. That might not be the case, which is a shame.

David: Faried. He’s an energy big who derives value by beating out others in transition and gobbling up rebounds. Denver played that way under Karl but Shaw is slowing things up and that could mean Faried will be delegated from starter to a change-of-pace role player. Also, Robinson is a little high considering what he did last year for the Bulls is unlikely to happen again.

Matt: I hate to say it but I’m pretty sure it will be Faried. Through the first four preseason games he has played well once, when he wasn’t forced into the post and was instead allowed to just do energy things. One thing that has become very clear this preseason is that Shaw wasn’t being truthful during the summer when he said he still planned to run. This team will play slow and that just doesn’t fit Faried’s limited skillset.

Kalen: Nate Robinson. It’s not that his current ranking is undeserved, but by the end of the season I expect a lot of players on the lower end of the list to make a big push ahead of the starters and immediate bench players. Guys like Fournier, Q. Miller, Mozgov, Arthur and Hickson could all make huge strides this season, and unless Andre Miller gets benched, there’s just not that much room for an unpredictable 5-8 shooting guard on this team.

4. Which player in the bottom third of the rankings (10 or lower) will have the best season?

Joel: I wish I could say Hamilton (and I hope he proves me wrong), but aside from the aforementioned Mozgov, it may be Arthur. Despite sparse minutes at the four, as the only power forward who’s a competent defender and screen-setter, he should at least see limited playing time. If he does, the fact his offensive forté is shooting jumpers from the elbow should fit in well with Shaw’s offensive system, and hopefully provide McGee with some spacing in the post.

Vytis: Either Mozgov or Foye, again, depending on minutes. Mozgov was glued to the bench last year but will almost certainly have an expanded role this season. Still, I think Foye has the highest chance of making the most of his playing time. He could very well find himself in crunch-time lineups and should have opportunities to knock down some big shots.

David: Darrell Arthur. He’ll have to find his way into the rotation but if he returns to his 2011 form he’ll be a much-needed weapon. He’s the only other big besides Hickson who can hit that midrange jumper and his pick-and-roll defense can be superb when he’s fully healthy. But unless Denver wants to go huge and play Arthur at small forward, it’s hard to see where he’ll get his minutes.

Matt: Foye. While I like Arthur and his fit on this team, Foye will play so many more minutes that I can’t bring myself to put Arthur ahead of him. Foye will bring much-needed shooting to space the floor and let Lawson and McGee work inside. If he hits 100 threes, which he’ll have a great chance to do, I can’t see how anyone else in the grouping can have a bigger impact.

Kalen: Again, I would love to say Q. Miller, but I think Arthur could surprise us. As of now, I see no way Mozgov stays in the rotation all year. He’s just not that good. He never has been. And between Hickson, Faried and McGee, there’s hardly any defense to go around. I could see Arthur playing the role of a solid, reliable big man who comes off the bench, plays good defense and stretches the floor. The Nuggets need that.

5. Which player’s rank (either too high, or too low) do you ardently disagree with most?

Joel: This is tough, as I’m roughly in agreement with most of the rankings, but it’s now apparent that Hickson should probably be ranked higher. While the preseason is mostly worthless in predicting regular season performances, it has become abundantly clear that J.J. will likely be right up there with Faried and McGee as one of Denver’s three most prolific scoring and rebounding bigs. Despite his glaring defensive weakness, he looks to be one of the team’s better, and more important players.

Vytis: This is very hard, as the rankings are so close. I suppose J.J. Hickson should be ranked higher than ninth. He will get his minutes and did average a double-double last season. As bad as he is defensively, I see him matching Kenneth Faried’s offensive numbers, who is ranked fourth.

David: Andre Miller. I had him fifth in my rankings, and while I understand why everyone else had him lower, I still maintain that he’s a better NBA player (at least at this point) than Fournier, Robinson and McGee. What you’re seeing in those players is potential, and nobody gets excited for a player who’s upward growth stagnated half a decade ago. But Miller can command an offense more consistently than anyone on the team outside of Ty Lawson, and if you factor how poorly Karl utilized him, many of his biggest weaknesses go away.

Matt: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but based on what we have seen so far this preseason, JaVale McGee. Between his improvements in footwork, feel for the game and professionalism, as well as his fit in the new system, if we did this again, I would probably have him in the top three. Though, part of that is based on Chandler’s injuries already becoming a problem, and Faried’s systematic limitations which are becoming clearer and clearer by the day.

Kalen: I really can’t bicker with the rankings overall. Sure, you could make the case someone should be higher, but it’s always gonna come at the expense of a guy who probably deserves to be right where he’s at. If I had to pick someone, it would be Mozgov. I’ve never seen anything from him that suggests he should be higher than Randolph or Q. Miller. He’s been in the league for three years and still hasn’t improved.

  • Len Nunes

    my over-reacting to the pre-season this far player rankings:

    15. Jordan Hamilton
    14. Darrell Arthur
    13. Timofey Mozgov
    12. Quincy Miller
    11.Anthony Randolph
    10. Randy Foye
    9. Kenneth Faried
    8. J.J. Hickson
    7. Andre Miller
    6. Evan Fournier
    5. Nate Robinson
    4. Wilson Chandler
    3. JaVale McGee
    2. Danilo Gallinari,
    1. Ty Lawson

    • alex47666

      This is a great list

  • Scott

    What are your opinions on the apparent faried trade rumors?

    • Marv

      Likely to happen. Faried is a great player but doesn’t fit into Shaw’s system at all. With Hickson and Arthur on the roster we can get more production out of the PF position in this system than with Faried. Faried will have very high trade value and could get us that one piece that we are missing (a consistant 3 point shooter, Foye won’t be that great this year in my opinion).

  • dagus1976

    Q Miller won’t be in the NBA in 2 years. Neither will Mozgov. And unless something changes soon, neither will Hamilton. Randolph has a shot, which is my biggest beef with the rankings. Mozzy is our worst player, not Randolph.

  • Thomas

    So all you guys + Kizla (no compliment being grouped with him) see Faried as not to important to the team and think he should be a 6-man.

    If you wanted to try your luck in the draft, that would be the way to go. Hopefully Shaw has different plans.

    You may or may not like statistics, but they prove what anyone that sees the game objectively saw the last 2 years – Faried wins games for you. Not by scoring, not in style points, not in defensive positioning.

    http://www.boxscoregeeks.com/articles/the-nuggets-the-new-regime

    Limit his minutes and the Nuggets win 5 less games this year.

    Put him in for 38 minute/game, along with Ty, and we remain a top 4 team in the west. It’s that simple. I hope Shaw doesn’t pull a GK and starts to invent too much.

    • John

      Personally, I believe statistics such as win% and WAR are overrated. Anyone who watched all the Nuggets games last year should realize Faried’s glaring weaknesses despite what those two statistics say about him. His poor free throw shooting, inability to box out defensively, inability to guard on the perimeter or in the post, lack of a jumpshot, inability to play big minutes, and lack of skill with his back to the basket were all huge problems last year that will be greatly magnified in Shaw’s post-oriented system. You were using those same statistics to hate on Gallo in another article. However, anyone who watched games and saw what happened against Golden State could tell you how integral Gallo is to the team. Efficiency is great, but without ability to create for it – it is meaningless.

      • Thomas

        I get it, you are into Gallo. But bashing Faried’s offensive skills when he is one of the best offensive rebounders in the league and gets 75% of his points on putbacks, layups and dunks is silly. Because of this he is a more efficient scorer than Gallo, despite not having a jump shot.

        Efficiency is great, period. Faried is not there to create shots – do you think every player is a playmaker? How is he going to get rebounds if you want him to create?

        You will get have a worst team if Hickson eats too many minutes of Faried’s playing time. Hickson as a PF won’t have the same kind of offensive numbers as last year when he was center – he will revert to his career average as there will be less layups and dunks and more outside shooting. For the 4 years of his career (out of 5) when he played mostly as a PF, his jump shot % is not better than Faried’s…

        Inability to play big minutes?

        I think Gallo is a contributor to this team, but nowhere near what most here assume. My main concern with him is the fact that we rely on him as a shooter and/or a slasher. If you look at his record in the playoffs, or in the last 3 minutes of a game, his shooting percentage is significantly lower than his average.

        In other words, he has a hard time creating his own shots when the other team is paying attention. As we rely on him for scoring late in games and particularly in the playoffs, this is a big problem if he can’t improve upon it.

        Lawson doesn’t have that issue – he can deliver even when opponents collapse on him.

        • John

          I agree with you on Gallo late in the game. He struggles mightily when he is the focus of the defense. I think Lawson has had his share of problems closing in the past – this being Karl’s fault – but Lawson is the closer going forward without doubt.
          Faried relies on energy. When he played big minutes, he struggled after he began to tire and became a non-factor at times.
          Hickson is basically Faried, but with the ability to score better.
          Now I’m not bashing Faried. I just think he shone brighter in a system like Karl’s.

    • Zack

      You really think that just by playing Faried 38 minutes per game, the Nuggets can be a top 4 team in the West.
      In no particular order: Spurs, OKC, LAC, Houston, Memphis, GS. All of these teams will be ahead of DEN at the end of the season.
      You also have Minn, Port, Utah, Dallas, NO etc. fighting with the Nuggets for the 7/8 seeds.
      No way in the world the Nuggets get a top 4 seed in the west, unless injuries are huge for most of the other teams above. Even then, I don’t see it happening.

      • John

        I may be a bit biased, but I think you are overrating the Western Conference.

        The Spurs and Clippers are 1 and 2 in my opinion. But OKC and Memphis both got worse. OKC is not a deep team anymore after losing Kevin Martin and they will miss Westbrook for some time. Memphis lost Lionel Hollins – their identity as a team. Dallas is being grossly overrated – picking up Monta Ellis is almost certainly never a good thing. Houston is basically an 8 seed that added Dwight Howard – that doesn’t bump you up 4 spots. I think GS will be top 4, but SCHONE for example has them missing the playoffs altogether. Utah will be bad. NO could make some noise if Davis continues to make progress. Portland is same old Portland and could challenge for a 7 or 8 seed. Minnesota’s success is contingent upon the health of Rubio and Love.

        I can realistically see the Nuggets ceiling this season being the 5 seed. Shaw’s coaching and player’s health are the wild cards.

        I just don’t see why everyone is so down this year. Because we lost Iguodala? The guy was a great(really great) defender, but brought zero on offense besides creating sometimes. Because we lost Karl? Everyone wanted him gone!

        We have a good, young point guard running the team, a center with seemingly unlimited potential, two borderline all-star wings who just need to get and stay healthy. The depth is also still here. Nuggets will be fine.

        • Zack

          I may be overrating the West a bit, but you’re definitely underrating it then.
          OKC will still be a top 4 seed because of KD and Westbrook (when he’s healthy). They got worse but are still really good.
          Houston will be a top 4-5 team this year. Harden, Howard, Parsons, Lin, Beverly. That’s a tough team. And yes, a healthy Dwight Howard makes an 8 seed (and tough out in the first round) into a top 4 team in the West.
          Memphis will still be tough to beat.
          I see the final standings being something like this:
          1. SAS
          2. LAC
          3. OKC
          4. Houston
          5. GS
          6. Memphis
          The rest of the teams will be fighting for the final 2 playoff spots and getting booted in the first round.

          • John

            I don’t think anyone can challenge San Antonio and I see them going back to face MIA/IND/CHI

            • Zack

              I agree with you for sure, the Spurs are the team to beat in the West.
              I live in Indiana, so I’m definitely hoping the Pacers make it out of the East. I just don’t know if MIA can lose if everyone is healthy. Now, that is a big IF because of D-Wade and Bosh.

              • John

                Haha i’m from Indiana to. We must be the only Nuggets fans in Indiana.
                And yeah, MIA when healthy is tough to beat. However, an improved and matured Indiana team that pushed them to the brink last year could be a big challenge to them.

      • Thomas

        I’ll correct that – I think that with a core of Ty-Fournier (Chandler)-Gallo-Faried-Mcgee we may at best fight for the 4th spot, but we won’t slip to 7th or 8th.

        I think GS is overrated and Memphis will slide.

        Most importantly, if we come in #5 or #6 I think we have a chance to move to the 2nd round in the playoffs. That’s an improvement over GK’s squads without stars.

        • John

          GS is what the Clippers have been and still are – the trendy pick. These teams will always be overrated compared to a team like DEN or MEM because of the media’s fascination with them.

        • Marv

          I think Memphis improves. I see them a top 4 seed this year. Dangerous team with all those bigs. Conley will have a career year.

  • Ceisel

    You should do another ranking at the end of the season that compares how they started and how they ended the season. See who moves up and who moves down.

    • Zack

      I second this, I think this is a great idea. Especially if trades are made.
      Re-ranking at the end of the year gives us a sense of who improved and who didnt.

  • Marv

    15. Jordan Hamilton
    14. Darrell Arthur
    13. Timofey Mozgov
    12. Quincy Miller
    11.Anthony Randolph
    10. Randy Foye
    9. Andre Miller
    8. J.J. Hickson
    7. Evan Fournier
    6. Kenneth Faried
    5. Nate Robinson
    4. JaVale McGee
    3. Wilson Chandler
    2. Ty Lawson
    1. Danilo Gallinari

    • pgwarner

      The Nuggets were trying to get an idea of what his new contract should cost. He is going to be asking for huge money. They are not thinking of trading Faried. Its been reported by many people who actually know what they are talking about.

      Further nobody has any clue as to what Shaw’s style is yet. Has he coached a real game yet? Wanting to have bigs who can post up at times is one thing. Running his offense through them is another.

      • Marv

        Oh they aren’t thinking of trading Faried eh?

        • pgwarner

          One guy making one comment is hardly a trade in the making.