Roundball Roundtable: Reflections from June 2014

The Denver Nuggets have played two games. Neither has been pretty. And though there’s still 80 more games to be played, the first two outings have gotten our writers to thinking: Just where exactly will the Nuggets be eight months from now? In our latest Roundball Roundtable five of our writers have attempted to answer that very question. These are the answers they’ve presented…

David

I’m sitting down in front of my TV, feverishly awaiting the Miami-OKC rematch everyone has been waiting for, when the Denver Nuggets tumultuous 2013-14 season appears like a reflective epiphany before my eyes. I remember the beginning, the doom and gloom of a near winless first month and a half, chalk full of horrendous defense and incohesive offense. I remember Gallinari’s triumphant return and the tentative hope that things were getting better, and how that hope was reinforced through a fantastic January. I remember the time JaVale McGee hit two back-to-back threes in an early February game, and then hiding under my bed waiting for the inevitable apocalypse that was sure to follow. I remember Nate Robinson making me throw things at my TV at a rate usually only reserved for J.R. Smith, and I remember forgiving him in a way I never did with J.R. I remember the Ty Lawson takeover, a mid-February stretch of games unlike any we’ve seen from the point guard, a blinding display that made us all believe that the superstar we’ve all been searching for may have been right here the whole time.

I remember the incredibly fun season, feeling all for nothing when Denver just missed the playoffs, an ill-timed Wilson Chandler injury derailing all the progress that was made. I remember feeling sad for a time, at how far this team had fallen from 57 wins, before shaking it off and embracing the future. Because, despite everything, the future still looks bright.

Joel

The Thunder and Heat are about to tip off in the Finals, but Nuggets fans’ eyes are already turned to Denver’s offseason roster moves after a season filled with equal parts disappointment and optimism. Gone was the freewheeling speedfest they had long known and loved, replaced by Shaw’s more deliberated, half-court oriented offense. Designed to bolster the team’s success in the postseason grind, it ultimately resulted in yet another bemoaned first-round loss, this time to the Spurs.

Adjusting to the new system was painstaking, and not until after the All-Star break did it begin congealing and producing winning results – boosted by Gallinari’s return from injury and Lawson’s borderline All-Star season. The team rewired its culture on the fly as players learned from both the coaching staff and their own mistakes, and the cost of transformation was a slew of early season losses which had the Nuggets on a lottery-bound trajectory until their midseason turnaround propelled them to a 45-37 record and the seventh seed in the West. And while fans hated to see Faried get traded (less so Mozgov), Thaddeus Young proved to be a much better fit in Shaw’s system, helping tremendously in improving Denver’s defense.

The year had its share of frustrations. But the team has already put that behind them, and Shaw’s done well to lay the foundation for future success. With the continued development of Denver’s young players and some further roster retooling, the Nuggets will be entering a brighter future than appeared at season’s start.

Matt

As the Heat and Thunder are about to tip off in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, those in charge of the Nuggets organization are talking about the same things they have all season: potential, promise, hope, and most importantly, patience. The Nuggets won 38 games in the regular season, finishing a few games behind the Pelicans and Trailblazers for the final two playoff spots in the West.

Ty Lawson was great all year but missed a few games as he got banged up fighting over screens in Brian Shaw’s new defensive system. Evan Fournier emerged as the answer at shooting guard, knocking down almost 40 percent of his threes as he stuck to catch-and-shoots and slashing instead of pull-up jumpers. Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari unfortunately didn’t combine for 82 starts, leaving a clear hole in the Nuggets lineup. Kenneth Faried was never moved but played well off the bench as a pure energy player and not a post player. JaVale McGee had moments where a future star shone, but wasn’t consistent enough. J.J. Hickson was J.J. Hickson. Mozgov and Anthony Randolph quickly fell out of the rotation. Quincy Miller took advantage of injuries and showed flashes of a productive NBA player. And the offseason trade market for Faried looks healthy.

Most importantly, the Nuggets have a lottery pick in a loaded draft. And in reality missing the playoffs might have been a good thing as the roster will finally be shaped around Brian Shaw’s vision.

The future still looks bright.

Vytis

While most NBA fans are about to enjoy watching the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs slug it out in the NBA finals for the second year in a row, there is a deplorable sadness amongst Denver Nuggets fans. After mustering 42-40 record, Denver just missed out on postseason action and are going into the offseason without cap space and without much hope to immediately improve the roster.

Sure, there were some positives as well. To the delight of Nuggets fans, JaVale McGee developed into a more dependent rim protector and averaged 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds. Ty Lawson took another step towards the elite point guard club, being in serious consideration for an All-Star spot. Danilo Gallinari’s return gave the team a huge lift but it took the Italian forward too long to get into shape to salvage the season. The Nuggets’ desperate attempts to move Kenneth Faried proved futile, as the team ultimately asked for too much in return and the energetic forward survived past the trade deadline. Andre Miller found his minutes very limited as Nate Robinson captured Brian Shaw’s trust with a couple of game-winning buzzer beaters early in the season, despite his erratic play for the rest of the year.

Ultimately, the Nuggets’ 2013-14 campaign was an entertaining one. Despite the team heading into the lottery, the player development aspect has been encouraging and the front office has promised that a trade or two is in the works.

Kalen

It’s been a long day at work and I can’t wait to watch the Heat face off against the Thunder in the NBA Finals. Life is good, but not as good as it should be, because I still can’t help but ponder why the Nuggets didn’t make it back to the playoffs for the 11th time in a row.

I start thinking about how crazy this past year was. I resent Josh Kroenke for breaking apart the best regular season Nuggets team off all time, and for no apparent reason. I think about what the Nuggets could have been and immediately feel disgusted about what he’s done. He’s only in his early 30s yet he’s running a professional sports franchise. That’s just not right. He’s not wise enough. He hasn’t had the necessary business experience to be in this position.

But I know I can’t think like this. The life of a sports fan is like a pendulum, constantly oscillating from one side to the other. There are good times and there are bad times. It’s just like life, really. And I need to be thankful for what I have. When I focus on the good I realize the Nuggets have a good draft pick in one of the most stacked drafts of all time. I think back to the season Ty Lawson had. He was almost an All-Star. Almost. Then I remember how good Gallo was when he came back and how awesome Chandler was all year, when he wasn’t injured. I remember the signs of life the Nuggets had after the first few months and how at the end of the season they were kicking ass.

These are the things I chose to remember about the Nuggets 2013-14 season: the good times. Though they missed the playoffs and played awful basketball in the early part of the year, there was a lot to be excited about for next year. And though it’s only June, next year can’t come soon enough.

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Kalen Deremo

Kalen was born in Durango, CO, in 1988 and graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2013 with a degree in journalism. He's now an itinerant hoping to travel as much as possible before eventually succumbing to the "real world." Aside from writing Kalen likes movies, music, spicy food and the great outdoors. Edward Abbey is his current idol.
  • gimpcom187

    I hope it includes:
    a 25 minus win season and a top 3 lottery pick
    Trading ty to milwaukee for picks and john henson
    Making another trade for hopefully a 10-18 pick in 2014 draft

    Full commitment to a rebuild and hope to be back in the playoffs in 2017 with a couple of up and coming all-stars.

    If you believe in delayed gratification and having a team that is a legit title contender this is the most optimistic scenario. There’s nothing worse than a medium/small market team with a mediocre front office, mediocre coach and mediocre talent. Ask Wizards, Raptors and Bucks fans.

    • CD Pascual

      Ty traded to the bucks? pfft. Thank god you’re not the GM

      • gimpcom187

        So you’re one of the people that overvalue Lawson. A slightly above average PG making just under max money who will keep your team from losing games is not a best case scenario. There aren’t A LOT of teams that have a starting PG who is significantly behind Lawson or don’t have a youngster they are hoping will become as good as Lawson AND want to win now. Milwaukee is one of the few, has playoff aspirations and a good young talent to trade and potential for a decent pick in this draft even after adding Ty.

        If you prefer a 35-44 win team all-power to you.

        • CD Pascual

          give me a game this season where Ty sucked. It’s not like he’s having a rough start like last season. give one, I dare you. And Denver has better goods than all of what you said about Milwaukee. And you don’t have enough points to convince that there are many point guards in the league that are better than Ty because the last time I checked, there are only 7-8 (7-8!!!!) PGs that are better than him at this point.

          • gimpcom187

            PGs ZERO GMs would give up straight for Ty: CP3, D williams, John Wall, Westbrook, Rondo, Mike Conley (far superior defense, slight edge to ty on offense), Curry, Derrick Rose, Tony Parker, lillard, Kyrie Irving
            That’s 11 (11!!!!!!!)

            Guys most people would consider a wash with Ty:
            Rubio, Holiday, Kemba Walker, george hill, eric bledsoe,

            • CD Pascual

              Rondo is overrated. He had so much firepower to pass which is where he gets the assists, which masks his lack of good shooting. And “LOL” at Conley and Williams better than Ty. Give me a game where Conley was able to match up with Parker in last season’s West Finals, I dare you. Williams suddenly has a broken shot, and is playing on a bad, bad contract. And if John Wall is better, then why hasn’t the Wizards won a game yet?

              To revise your list, PG’s that are better than Ty: CP3, Westbrook, Rondo, Curry (slightly better), Rose (because of reputation), Parker, Lillard, Irving

              -So if you count out Rose’s questionable knee, that leaves seven.

              Rubio can’t make a jump shot to save his life, Holiday tends to shoot to much with discouraging results (no wonder his team tends to lose the game), Kemba Walker is much like a poor man’s Lawson (whatever that means), George Hill is “meh”. That leaves Bledsoe, who can be an all-star but not ’til Ty gets there first.

              • gimpcom187

                You are biased. And you dont understand defensive value when you talk about conley, rondo rubio williams and george hill. The difference between lawson and any of those guys on defense is VAST. Rose even rusty isnt close. Ps nba rank agrees with me.

              • CD Pascual

                sadly I don’t. And don’t tell me you don’t know about the bias NBA has when it comes to ranking. And you are talking Conley as Bruce Bowen’s long lost brother. Williams is average defensively and suddenly has some injury issues. And Rose not rusty? Look at his games coming back from injury. He can’t take care of the ball to save his life.

              • gimpcom187

                If by bias you mean objective observer who takes into account stats, defensive value and other people’s rankings then we agree I have a “bias” for accuracy. I said even rusty he is better and we know it is beyond silly for you to suggest he won’t become much better over the next few months. Everybody being better on defense is more about Ty’s poor defense.

                Ty is a superior transition offensive player, good half-court offensive player and a below average to poor defensive player (and likely will always be so as he is short for his position, not long armed and not strong nor a great steal guy). He needed to develop his half court game to a controlled change of pace dribbler and creator in the class of a poor man’s Chris paul to develop into a legit top 5ish point guard. He hasn’t and one can only assume he never will. He’s barely even an average 3 pt shooter for a PG the past few seasons.

                SI.com also agreed that Conley and Wall were rated higher and Deron Williams is WAY higher. You’re just wrong.

                The point was they should trade ty to one of the few teams that meets all the following criteria:
                1. Ty presents a significant upgrade from their current PG, 2. Has an intention of winning this year, 3. Has the young talent and a pick or so to trade that a tanking nuggets would benefit from.

                NONE of the teams I named the PG as better or even equal would consider trading for Ty. Given 5-8 teams are clearly tanking and a few others don’t have the rights to their 1st round pick this year you’re down to 5 or so teams that even would consider trading for Ty and could meet the Nuggets demands. I came up with a perfectly reasonable scenario that another poster agreed with. You scoffed and offered nothing constructive and a relatively inaccurate and clearly biased assessment of Ty’s value.

              • CD Pascual

                Relatively inaccurate and biased assessment you say? If you think Ty won’t be the difference-maker you are thinking of, you are just plain wrong. He has been improving by every season. And SI agreed, good, is there any other sports site that agrees?

                Let’s say we get Conley in exchange for Ty, does that mean our defense improves? Maybe, but offense becomes piss-pathetic. Conley is not as aggressive as Ty. I’ve seen it from the Grizzlies, he is a good player but not worthy of a franchise player. Conley was supposed to step up against Parker in last season’s West finals, but no, which led to the Spurs sweeping the Bears.

                And look at the stats through four games (see Bball Reference). If you take out the shooting percentages, Ty is better at most stats than Conley. There! numbers don’t lie. And where did all this “Conley is the WAY better defender” nonsense come from? It’s not like Conley has a WAY better defensive rating than Ty (Conley has 105 while Ty has 107, a slim 2-point advantage). Just shows how overrated steals are (a stat where Conley is better at). But the stats do show that Ty slightly gets the edge in offense. Ty is currently averaging 20ppg while playing in a slowed down offense (in terms of pace) that’s POORLY EXECUTED AT THIS POINT. His assists would have gone up if: 1)our best players return from their injuries and 2)our PFs get it done on offense.

              • gimpcom187

                FOUR GAMES. Thats enough. Im done talking to someone who would utter the words look at stats through 4 games. Sample size. Why not look at stats over 4 quarters or minutes. Preposterous response.

  • heykyleinsf

    This will be a year of upsets for the finals.
    Rockets over Thunder
    Pacers revenge vs Heat.

    Brian Shaw’s old team takes the title.

  • Andrew

    Ha. I was just looking at the Nuggs first 21 games, and assuming they have to struggle for this first quarter of the season to learn Shaw’s system, figure out rotations, etc, they will be somewhere between 4-17 and 7-14 through those first 21 games. So, even if they turn it around (which I believe they will), they would have to go somewhere between 41-19 and 38-16 to get the 8th seed (assuming 45 wins is the cut off like last year). I’m one who thought Shaw was a decent, though unproven, choice, but This is not going to happen. I see them just missing the playoffs, making a bold trade with some combo of players and getting one or two lottery picks. I can deal with that for this year, but only if it pans out next year.
    We’ll see.

    I also wanted to comment on the Iggy argument that has been going on. I have to side with kyleinsf on this. I can actually deal with Iggy misleading the team into believing he wanted to stay. Whatever, they are pros, they took a chance on him, and it didn’t work. What I find reprehensible, though, was his actions last year in the playoffs. If your argument is that the facts were misrepresented in the newspapers, I’ll hear you out. However, my understanding is that he went to the prayer meetings with the other team, provided info to the other team on the Nuggets, and then proceeded to bad mouth his own teammates publicly when things got chippy saying “it wasn’t his style to play like that”

  • Andrew

    To follow my post below, after Iggy made the disparaging comments about his teammates’ play, he conveniently was nowhere to be found to support his own teammates when they were getting mugged (like when Faried took a flagrant elbow that almost took his head off). Iggy is a weakt*t coward. Had he played on any of my rugby teams, we would have kicked him off the team…playoffs or not. Loser. He is at the top of my list of most hated NBA players…and it is not a long list.

  • CD Pascual

    Seeing Joel saying that Faried will be traded just hurt my eyes. I’m fine with getting Thad Young though as long as Young does become a rising star like Faried

  • CD Pascual

    I don’t like predictions. I tend to get jinxed and I just look at the present and I’m just hoping for the future. I’m was and is optimist for JaVale McGee, so it’s not a surprise why I liked Vytis’ prediction.

  • slugdugg

    Nobody mentioned how we traded McGee back for Nene because he was a perfect fit for BShaw’s system…

  • airvaid

    So everyone thinks we are headed for mediocrity. Yay! Thanks Josh.

  • trank

    kalen’s second paragraph says it all

  • TeeNasty

    You guys are insane! The Nuggets will be fine! We haven’t even played a SF so far this year, and JJ Hickson WILL BE JJ Hickson… He will average near a double/double and provide serious energy, including a jump shot. If I remember right, the Nugs started out 0-3 last year and something like 4-8 by December. Didn’t we finish with a franchise high 57 wins? Get over yourselves Denver, not everyone can start out as hot as the Avs and Donco’s! IT’S JUST TWO GAMES!

    • Josh Chin

      Haha that is very true actually! We’ve played Randolph at the 3, and Fournier at the 3. And Shaw is getting a lot of heat for playing with a bad team right now. 2 of our 3 best players are missing! Not only do they both average around 15 ppg but they are also 2 of our better defenders on the wings which would help our 3 point defence by a margin.
      Look at the big picture guys. Its easy to get lost in the current struggles

  • rigpa44

    It’s going to be a tough slog for Denver this year. They have a collection of good players, but good doesn’t make it in a star-laden collection of NBA players and teams. If they hit .500 by the end of the season, it’ll be about right. About 40 games into it, they’ll wonder why they dumped GK, and traded away some of the core players on the team. They’ll be rebuilding for years.

  • Warner Dean

    While I despise the idea of GM’s deliberately making moves to make their team worse in order to tank, once the lack of talent is there you might as well sport your younger guys and see what you have. The Nuggets aren’t anywhere near as talented as they were last year. I’d rather win 30 games and play Fournier, Q. Miller, and a bit of Hamilton to see what we have in these guys. A .500 season playing Arthur, Foye, and Randolph is truly a lost season in my eyes. At least in the other scenario, our young guys can gain experience and develop. Heck, I’ll throw Mozzy in there considering he hasn’t played a lot in the past and he’s still young. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no reason for Shaw to not play a starting lineup of
    Ty, Fournier, Miller, Faried, and McGee. Foye and Hickson are solid bench guys and once Chandler gets healthy, Miller will come off the bench as well. I understand Fours has looked raw but that won’t change until he gets some time under his belt. Let’s build this team from the core!!

  • Aaron Durkin

    we are missing are two best players we are not going to lose
    all of our games. Plus any one that wants to build through the NBA draft has
    either never followed the NBA or is just incompetent. Think about it the same
    teams are bad every year and the same teams get the lottery. The Draft is such
    a in exact science you would have to be stupid to hope to get a pick. The fact
    that people always think a draft is loaded in November before the NCAA season
    starts is a joke as well. These kids that are 18 and have beaten up on other
    high school kids always look good. Remember Shabaz Mohammahd yea he was a can’t
    miss prospect this time last year. What needs to happen is the team needs to
    hope are players develop and we trade for proven NBA players. Then supplement them
    with draft picks that we don’t expect the world from.

  • john

    This is entertaining and all, but just a friendly reminder: Denver will not have their 2014 pick unless you play worse than the Knicks-who look TERRIBLE and are a Carmelo injury away from the deep lottery. The pick is owed to the Magic otherwise.