Potential found in a lost season

Much has been made this season about what the 2013-14 Denver Nuggets are not. They’re not a good team, first and foremost. They’re not healthy. They’re inconsistent. They lack defensive fundamentals that are often a hallmark of championship-contending teams. But for everything the Denver Nuggets are not, there are many things they are — which deserve recognition as dusk approaches on the season.

As it stands the Nuggets are poised to finish with the 12th worst record in the NBA. They’re not even close to making the playoffs in the West and wouldn’t even make them in the abysmal East either. In the early part of the season, while hovering around .500, the Nuggets won seven straight games in a row at one point. But that pseudo-glory was short lived as the Nuggets soon fell on hard times, losing eight straight and 11 out of 12 on separate occasions from late December to early March.

All in all the Nuggets season has been up and down in terms of results. When you combine season-long injuries (Lawson and Chandler have both missed a quarter of the year) with season-ending injuries (McGee after five games; Hickson after 69; and Robinson after 44) and those who’ve missed the entire year due to injuries (do I even need to say it?), you’re already put in a position where simply staying afloat is commendable. But when you consider that of the six players mentioned above, four were at one point starters and the other two the first to come off the bench for Brian Shaw, staying afloat then becomes more of an ideal than a reality.

Of the additional myriad obstacles entrenched between the Nuggets and the road to success this season, including Brian Shaw’s own progress as a first-time head coach in the NBA, an entire roster constructed to run like a coalition of cheetahs instead of running set plays, a lack of innately defense-minded players, raw youth, midseason trades and season-long inner friction as the team transitioned away from transitioning, it’s no wonder the 2013-14 Denver Nuggets have resembled more the amusement park rides next door to the Pepsi Center than the steady, 50-win squad we’ve known in years past.

Call me a Karl hater, a Shaw apologist, outwardly infallible or just plain crazy, but I believe the Nuggets needed a season like this. They needed to see which players could step up to the challenge of altering their game to conform to a new system, and that they have with the recent developments of their holdovers from the Ujiri era — Lawson, Faried and Mozgov to be exact. The Nuggets needed a season of “development” to see what Brian Shaw is made of. They needed to see which role players were dispensable and which were deserving of big pay days. They needed, in what appears to be one of the better drafts in the last decade, a lottery pick to groom and incorporate into the rotation at a very meager hit against the cap. Granted, it would have been nice to do all this while winning many games and making the playoffs for the umpteenth time in a row, but given the unpredictable nature of injuries as well as the changes administered by Josh Kroenke last summer, it was virtually unrealistic all along to think the Nuggets were on track to make the playoffs, especially given the quality of basketball played in the West.

What we fans must realize is that the reset button on this team was pressed in the summer months of 2013. Not the “Changes” button, nor the “Alteration” button, but the “RESET” button — the big, fat red one where once you push it there’s no turning back. And as is often the case when you push the reset button, you tend to reset — totally. Although many, including yours truly, would have liked to believe the transition from one generation to anther could be seamless, that was never really a possibility and this season was a harsh lesson in acknowledging that fact.

Brian Shaw is not George Karl. He cannot win as many games as George Karl can at this point in his career, but there is room for improvement, and we’ve seen much already. Same goes for Tim Connelly. Lord knows he is not Masai Ujiri. Hell, nobody is Masai freakin’ Ujiri. But perhaps Connelly has learned a lot already since taking over as general manager of the Nuggets last summer. Perhaps, in truth, he’s a lot more talented than we’ve been led to believe. I know that I, for one, have certainly enjoyed the additions of Randy Foye (who after only one season in a Nuggets uniform has already established himself as one of the best 3-point shooters in franchise history), Aaron Brooks and Darrell Arthur. And I know many of you have delighted in the arrivals of Nate Robinson, J.J. Hickson and even Jan “Airwolf” Vesely, even if I have not quite as much.

Taking into account all that’s been mentioned above, this season then appears more than anything to be about one incredibly valuable human characteristic: growth. As fans, we haven’t done too much of that over the last decade or so. Each year has been about the same, with the same results, and we always knew that next year wouldn’t be much different either. But now we are seeing things in a new light, through a different kaleidoscope of powder blue and gold. What we have before us is no longer an equation, where a highly unconventional model of basketball is played, amplifying certain philosophies while brazenly omitting fundamentals in order to deliver a tightly packaged number of wins at the end of the regular season no matter how times it was it exploited for its flaws in the long run. No, what we have now is wide open space, a verdant pasture, room for growth, improvement, possibilities, and we’ve already caught a glimpse of what that future can be like this year.

Brian Shaw is not a perfect head coach. I’ll be the first to admit that for much of this season I wasn’t even sure he was a good coach, one worthy of manning an NBA franchise. And though I’m still reluctant to fully endorse him as someone who should take up permanent residence as head coach in Denver, it’s critical we acknowledge how far the Nuggets and Shaw have come in a little over five months. They’ve gone from oscillating pendulum of dysfunction (thanks in large part to, again, everything mentioned above) to a disciplined, well executing team that plays with a sense of vindication, pride and spirit. In other words, they’ve grown.

Each and every player on the Nuggets roster has expanded his game this year — some more than I ever thought possible — thanks to Shaw. Faried is leading fast breaks (albeit, somewhat recklessly), scoring hook shots over taller players in the post and dishing out dimes like a point guard, playing by far the best basketball of his life. Under Karl, Faried couldn’t even get off the bench his first two months with the Nuggets and was otherwise seen as a one-dimensional energy guy. Ty Lawson has far eclipsed the best numbers of his career prior to this season, making a strong push for the All-Star game and ranking second in the NBA in assists per game behind only Chris Paul — all while operating in a slower, more traditional offense than the frenetic pace administered under Karl that Lawson was supposedly tailor made for. Then there’s Mozgov, who just absolutely stormed, pillaged and devoured the expectations of Nuggets fans everywhere when he nearly registered a 20-30 game just a few days ago. I guess now is as good of a time as any to note that, under the watchful eye of George Karl, Mozgov could barely even get off the bench thanks to Karl’s infatuation with Kosta Koufos.

Prior to his arrival in Denver, Shaw was seen as a player development coach. After one year in Denver it’s becoming apparent that that notion should be confirmed. What he once did with Paul George and Roy Hibbert he’s now doing with Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried and Timofey Mozgov. Shaw is taking chances. He’s putting in the necessary work to ensure long-tern success, even if it’s costing the Nuggets a possession here, due to a Timofey Mozgov 3-point attempt, or even a whole game there, thanks to a concerted effort at getting Kenneth Faried post touches for 48 minutes straight. Remember, growth is not growth without struggle, occasional backtracking, trial and error. One season — his first, it should be noted… if it wasn’t glaringly obvious already — of 30-something wins, abound with injuries, roster malfunction and a transitioning between nearly disparate styles of play does not make Brian Shaw a bad coach. Not by any stretch. Especially given the development of key cornerstones and role players in such a brief amount of time. Let us not forget that at the inception of his career, through his first four years as head coach in the NBA, George Karl won an average of 30 games per season, resigned once and was fired once.

So while the pessimist may point to Denver’s record as an omen for an ominous future, and the optimist may petition for Jan Vesely to be a viable contributor on next year’s squad, I say let’s try and call this season exactly what it was: growth. There are signs of potential for the future; they should not be ignored. Shaw is a coach who has proven he can squeeze the most out of his players, and the Nuggets — barring catastrophic injuries — still have lots of talent coming back next year. But to look at this season as a failure, I think that’s a mistake. A failure is a season with no bright spots, no trademark wins (like the one the Nuggets had against the Warriors the other night), no promising improvement from linchpin players, and above all, no growth. The 2013-14 Nuggets may not have won many games, had multiple All-Stars or secured home-court advantage in the playoffs, but they grew, and I think that’s something worth being excited about.

  • Kyle Wurtz

    very good and well thought out reflection on the season. a nice balance between the extremes many fans tend to gravitate to.

  • SportzPig

    Should be an interesting off season, starting with the draft. Would love to see some team take McGee and his bloated contract off the books, but I doubt it will happen.

    • avarra

      I think they’re going to give Javale a shot next year to show what he can do. He may not start at first and making him fight for the starting spot might be good for him. Remember that it takes time for big men to develop.

  • heykyleinsf

    AMEN.

    TY Kalen.

    • Heisenberg

      JR Smith a legit starter? What the hell are you watching? He was terrible this year. Last year he was solid, but that was from off the bench, which is where he belongs. He is a 6th man at best.

      Birdman is a decent role player. That’s it. He absolutely deserved the amnesty provision.

      Andre Miller is an NBA vet that’s been around for close to 15 years. He deserves an explanation for a DNP.

      If anything Afflalo has been better since he left but it’s easier to stuff the stat sheet on a bad team.

      • heykyleinsf

        you’re crocked on all three accounts

        JR terrible this year?
        SET A KNICKS ALL TIME RECORD FOR THREES MADE IDIOT.

        Birdman, role player?
        Won a championship with regular minutes..
        A championship idiot.

        Andre Miller.. NBA vet?
        that’s done exactly what?
        that deserves exactly what?
        to act a complete immature punk?
        to show people who act like they’re freaking 12 years old
        that they can do it until they’re 36?

        your’re crocked.

        • Heisenberg

          JR Smith had one good game. He’s been bad for most of the season, barely cracking 40% FG. He also can’t play defense that well.

          Andersen got about 15 minutes per game last season with the Heat. He’s a role player.

          Miller deserves to be given a reason for a DNP. When you’ve played in the NBA for that long you deserve that.

          • heykyleinsf

            one good game.
            That’s BS dude.
            he was integral to the Knicks all year and when he went in the starting lineup they went on their streak.

            You can’t just pull whatever out of your butt to save face..
            just take a second.. next time when you feel compelled to do that.. and don’t .. research first.. retard less… yeah??

            Miller doesn’t deserve nor own anything.. at the very least to yell at a coach in front of 15,000 live people and millions on tv.. he threw the players and the coach under the bus after last year. Miller is a spoiled jerk that got away with way too much under GK. Now finally.. he gets what suits him..
            Thank God he’s gone. A vile cancer. GOOD RIDDANCE.

            • Heisenberg

              The Knicks started winning when they put Amare into the lineup. You’re conveniently cropping out JR’s horrible first 3 months where he shot well below 40%. He’s played a bit better lately but still belongs on the bench. He really can’t play very good defense, which you also seem to ignore. Kobe absolutely eviscerated JR in that 2009 series. Not that many guys could have stopped Kobe that year, but that was still his best series.

              I don’t think Miller handled the situation the best, but I understand why he was pissed. Ironically Miller probably fits Shaw’s style best at PG.

              • heykyleinsf

                that’s more reasonable.. thank you.

                JR still was past the Nuggets last year as well though.
                Point is.. George Karl treated him and Birdman like dirt..
                but they went on to have the last laugh by far.

                Miller was GK’s pet. I was disgusted about that.
                I don’t think it’s hard to imagine that the players would be somewhat resentful at the very least.

                These are all just my opinions.. but I don’t like the way GK and his bias dealt with his players. Shaw may not be as good of a coach at this point right now.. but I see the way the players being treated as far more even.. and that will help improve things over the way it used to be.

              • gimpcom187

                Birdman got amnestied because of some psycho woman attempted to blackmail/get him put in jail. I would just assume any issues that came up right around that time (his benching) were related to that unless you have CLEAR evidence otherwise (he may have played poorly or been inappropriate toward team as a result of stress with this woman, who knows, it’s impossible to speculate either way). He averaged 15 minutes per game his last season in Denver and 14.9 with Miami last year. This season he is averaging 20 but that is mostly due to Joel Anthony not playing on the team anymore and Haslem is essentially not playable anymore. The heat have no other options at center other than Chris Bosh who is a PF naturally and Greg Oden who they play sparingly. and still he doesn’t play even half the game. The nuggets always had 1-3 other bigs similar in overall impact on game at his same position.

                JR smith: It’s a MYTH that he played better with the Knicks than the Nuggets.He played an extra 6 minutes per game so his aggregrate stats look better but rate stats not so much. His PER was slightly better last year than his last 3 in DEN (mostly due to increased usage of shots). Win shares/48 the exact same. His 3pt% in Denver 4 of 5 last seasons was 39% or better. He hit 35% last year. His usage rate went way up last year but his True shooting percentage spiked down (meaning he was a MUCH less efficient player). Turnover% was slightly down (because the knicks run so much isolation and don’t pass as much) otherwise all other statistical aspects were the same or close to it. AND this all ignores the fact that this was a contract year for Smith so he was on his best behavior. It’s pretty clear he was faking it based on this season.

                People pretend Karl didn’t develop players, but he was developing on 50 win teams. These are playoff teams unlike this year. Faried was playing significant minutes the entire second half of his rookie year on a 50 win team with multiple hard working bigs. If you read/listen to coaches and scouts except for the rare freaks it takes most players 2-4 years at least to maximize their defensive scheme abilities. Karl was not a great defensive coach, but he understood the veterans were going to play that end without as many mistakes. In addition faried has slightly better numbers for the year compared to last. This is expected growth from a 24 year old 3rd year player. He was working on his jump hooks last year with Karl. He was starting to dribble better last year with Karl. I don’t think these developments have much to do with Karl or Shaw. They are natural developments for a talented hard working young player like faried. Fournier was a 20 year old who was assumed not coming to the NBA when he was originally drafted. Statistically speaking he hasn’t made any real progress this season and has regressed in numerous areas.

                Ty lawson has made minimal improvements on the season. He looked great the first 6-8 weeks or so, but has regressed to his mean. Lots of people were suggesting his development was due to Shaw and talking about how he was a surefire all-star. At the time I said Lawson had shown months similar to his start in previous seasons but over the season it averaged out. I said wait until the season is done to decide his improvement. It’s clear now the improvement is minimal. The only area he has shown significant growth is Asst% but he has also had a significantly higher turnover%. The only development i have seen is a slightly better pocket pass to bigs on PnR. Otherwise the differences are probably due to him initiating the offense more frequently (the current team has MUCH better spacing than last year given Hickson is an OK pick and pop guy Arthur is better than any of their bigs and foye has his flaws but he is a better shooter than any of their wings from last year including Gallo).

                This season was done in January and the injuries have led to younger players getting more action. When the team still had playoff hopes fournier. Until April Mozgov has been consistently around 21 minutes per game The only guy you can realistically contend got ripped off by Karl was Mozgov which in November/December (I believe) he said on radio he felt bad he wasn’t able to play him more. It was kindof a no win situation. Koufus is a similar talent (and younger) who fit the running style better and passed better in their offense. Mcgee’s minutes were prescribed by his contract. And let’s not go crazy on Mozgov he’s 27 showing moderate progress until the last 3 weeks of the season. He’s a good not great rim protector. He’s an OK shooter and finisher for a center who rebounds well. With no improvement he is currently a 5-7th best player on a 55+ win team (koufus is a 6th-8th best). Realistically He maxes out as a 4th best player unless he becomes a 35%+ 3 pt shooter.

                In addition Koufus developed significantly with Karl. JR who is an extreme headcase he kept under control the entirety of his career (Smith went crazy in 2010 when Karl went out). Melo hasn’t shown any improvement and when you compare their opponents has actually done worse in aggregate in terms of playoff runs. Aflallo developed here and really hasn’t developed much further. Like his defense Karl is probably about average as a developer, but some people on here like to pretend it was worse through some magical thinking.

                I would say the two most positive things you can say about shaw that point to potential development are that he has given Mozgov a better chance and that he has adapted to the team the last 3 months. He is making the game fun for the players and less pressure. The team is BACK to being a hard working team. The second part is a positive for shaw when looked at in a vacuum of his own growth. People that are comparing him to Karl this is still an area he is clearly behind.

                And I take exception with Kalen’s no growth statement toward Karl. The team was growing in wins every season since Melo left. The playoff loss was easily explainable with the loss of one of their top 3 players and Faried played mediocre in that series as well at least partially due to injury. Which doesn’t include the knowledge that the best player in that series was on the other team and the best defender in the series was a tie between Bogut and Iggy. (and the second best defender was Klay thompson). Clearly it was a disappointing loss, but when reviewed WITHOUT BIAS it was understandable (especially given the context that the only 3 teams in the past year to keep up with the spurs over the last 2 playoffs are the Miami Heat with a top 5 all time player, Thunder another probable top 10-15 all timer and GSW through game 4 when Curry injured his ankle)

              • heykyleinsf

                Well.. it wasn’t exactly quite like that.

                There was a game vs Sacramento in Sacramento..
                that the Nuggets scored 92 points in the paint..
                it was a record. It was a January game.

                I was there.

                I noticed that Birdman wasn’t in the huddles..
                wasn’t with the group.. visibly he was ostracized.
                That particular game.. he was never to play again
                except for a few spare minutes here and there
                which were completely garbage minutes.

                That was January 2012 to be exact.
                He was amnestied after the season..
                which was when the ridiculous stuff from a psycho stalker chick came up

                was he amnestied because of that?
                who knows.
                The truth is though.. he was in the deep freeze bench
                at least 4 months before all that happened.
                Either way..
                GK tossed him aside.
                Birdman was definitely a pariah to GK.
                We could have used him.
                I don’t care what you think about Birdman..
                we could have used him.

                It was completely GK’s idea to not only not use him..
                but to go out of his way to avoid using him.
                Shame on George Karl for that.

              • gimpcom187

                Not sure what to say about your memory. Luckily we can look things up. He in fact played his last game with the nugs on March 25th 10 days after playing 15 minutes. I would say this is not “January to be exact.” They played Sacramento 2 times in January and once in March. He played 15+ minutes 4 times after the March Sacramento game.

                http://www.suntimes.com/sports/basketball/12464908-419/nuggets-chris-birdman-andersen-investigated-for-child-porn.html#.U00znfldV1Y

                He was asked to leave the team OFFICIALLY on May 11th less than 2 months after he was no longer allowed to play in games. karl says they had been talked to about the situation, but declines to comment further as the investigation is still going.

                Karl does suggest that the benching was related to all the bigs they had on their team at that point that they were trying to get minutes for. So again being the HORRIBLE developer of talent you think he is he decided to focus on getting time for Faried (rookie), Mozgov (second year player) Koufus (3rd year?), Mcgee (4th year and hoped for C of the future). And al Harrington who was a spacing big who played a significantly different role than Anderson. From a basketball perspective it is at worst debatable.

                So the 3 choices are: Karl looking to give the young bigs time to develop (this runs contrary to your “concept” of Karl being a bad developer of talent). OR the benching was related to these issues as the team may have been given notice about this scenario. Obviously it turned out that Birdman was the victim of this scenario, but a public entity like the Nugs can’t take the chance of being seen as supporting someone involved with statuatory rape and child pornography. Apparently there was a second woman in Canada involved with that stuff and the frame up who is probably in jail now. Birdman was put in the toughest position, but the team was as well. 3rd choice is it was some combination of the 2.

                They couldn’t amnesty him until July because that is the rule in the CBA. They couldn’t waive him before that or he would have cost against the cap. Obviuosly a trade was pretty unlikely.

              • gimpcom187

                just to support your JR smith stance the new stat on ESPN Real plus minus (it’s value is probably still in progress but is probably one of the better defense oriented stats at this point). JR Smith is rated 46th for defense for SG at -1.00. That is similar to randy Foye and dion waiters. Given there are 29 teams in the league I would say it is safe to assume MR smith is significantly below average on defense.

              • LBJ

                Still remember the game the Knicks lost early this season when JR jacked up a shot in a tie game with 15 seconds left and a full shot clock. Of course, he missed the other team scored and won. After the game Woodson blamed the PG for passing JR the ball (apparently, when you play with JR you are required to know that he has zero mental acumen for the game of basketball).

            • gimpcom187

              mcgee started off this season MUCH worse than last. MUCH. You don’t know what you are talking about in terms of JR smith. Prior to that 3 game stretch where he went off from 3 point land He was playing at essentially replacement level this season. Like quincy miller. Even with that stretch his rate stats imply a below average backup for this season.

          • Sharkboy242

            Reason for DNP: One of the worst defenders in the league.

            It only took me a second to reach this conclusion, and it should have only taken Miller a second to realize it too.

            • Heisenberg

              Lawson and Robinson can’t play defense either.

        • gimpcom187

          Realistically Andre is probably slightly volatile and being unrealistic. Im not sure what shaw did do, but having a conversation with Miller about the fact that he would have some games he might miss a week or so before it happened might have made sense. That is one of the coaches MAIN jobs, personnel relations. Having it blow up in your face like that is in no way a good sign. Especially given Andre isn’t seen as a malcontent or lunatic (Comparing to spurs is unfair, but Im sure they could have used stephen Jackson last year, but decided it was better to just drop him rather than attempt to have him earn his more limited role because he was a more functioning headcase type. Or maybe they just asked him straight up.)

        • LBJ

          Calling Ander Miler – a guy who shows up for work every night – an immature punk, while defending JR Smith – the biggest immature punk in the NBA? Wow, you have outdone yourself here (and that’s saying a lot).
          JR showed up high for a NBA playoff, got suspended for untying players shoes (after he was T’d up for it) and is a general dumbass. This moron doesn’t give a damn for his team or teammates.

          • Andrew

            I actually like, and agree with, much of Kalen’s post, but your comments regarding JR reminded me of the time he had the guy pack K Mart’s new ride with popcorn. Marginally funny gag…except it was BUTTERED. Ha ha. I thought K Mart was going to kill him. I’m not so sure I would characterize JR as a punk as much as just an oblivious dunce.

        • Paul Griggs

          I agree with Heisenberg. Smith is a good supplemental player and had a mediocre year. His defense is almost non-existent. He’s always been a stats first guy and not a team player. Who cares if he scored a bunch of 3’s if his team consistently lost with the second highest payroll in the NBA. Birdman is the very definition of role player off the bench. The fact he won a title doesn’t mean he’s not a role player. He would not survive on a good team as the starting center or power forward–he comes off the bench and provides energy and fouls. Miller has HOF stats–take a look at them some time. His attitude stank but Shaw screwed up the situation.

    • Erlingur Grétar Einarsson

      I always read your comments as if they’re slam poems. Sometimes out loud. It worries my workmates.

      • Andrew

        Ha! I just tried it. Pretty funny.

      • heykyleinsf

        Thanks I think..
        at least I entertain someone.
        whether you think I’m crazy or not..
        glad it’s amusing no matter what you think..

        btw.. how did that right there just sound?

        • Erlingur Grétar Einarsson

          Just perfect. I just need a cigarette, and some freejazz in the background, and the picture is complete.

          About what you’re actually saying, then I agree with a lot of your statements. I think we’re better off in the long run without George Karl, as what the Nuggets ultimately want is success in the postseason. It may take some painful turns on the way, but as long as the team, coaches and front office keep their ‘heading’ so to speak, we can get there. If Brian Shaw is the answer, we still don’t know, but I’m more than willing to give him the opportunity, especially after seeing the team rallying around him in the second half of the season.

          I do think you wildly overrate JR Smith, though. Dude’s a streaky shooter, has horrible basketball IQ and and a volatile on-court personality. He’s a fantastic athlete, but give me the smart Goran Dragic-like guy any day over the extreme athlete like JR.

          • heykyleinsf

            I think you should make a youtube video of this.
            Take my most ridiculous post or parts of them..
            and do it.
            I’m not above making fun of myself either..
            you have free and total reign.
            Go for it.

            I know JR is a hot mess.
            But I also hated the way Karl treated him.
            You don’t tell the press that a player cost you a game.
            If he couldn’t contain his composure in public
            I can only imagine how he treated them privately
            not a good sign of a coach who is supposed to
            build a relationship with his players.

  • avarra

    Wonderful article, Kalen and I couldn’t agree more.

    I will freely admit that I lost faith early on in the season, even though I still kept up with the team. As the season went on though I began to see signs that Shaw knew what he was doing. I began to see that the players began to play harder and that they were playing with pride. I LOVE the attitude, the commitment, the passion and the progress that our team has made over the year.

    All of that being said, our team defense is atrocious. However, I’m more than willing to be patient. I’m thinking that it will take another 2 to 3 years before the Nuggets start to look like championship contenders. I know that’s probably more me being a fan, but I’m not sure I’m wrong here. Even Greg Popovich said that he likes Shaw and what he’s doing and that it takes time to build a contender.

    Once that starts to happen we’ll be able to attract a superstar or two. I am proud to say that I am all in as far as Shaw being the right coach for this team.

  • Erlingur Grétar Einarsson

    Good piece, Kalen. Shaw’s an inexperienced head coach, but he managed to get the team to rally around the cause when he could have lost them for good, which makes me hopeful for the future. Let’s just hope they draft smart and get a few defensive principles set straight during the offseason, and they’ll slot right back into a playoff spot.

    However, to get to the next level and become a legit contender for the title, we need to see some real vision by the front office and a trade for a good-to-great player. Darrell Arthur, Nate Robinson, Anthony Randolph (all expiring summer 2015) could be packaged with Wilson Chandler ($7 mil in 2015-16) for a $14 mil player or with JaVale ($12 mil in 2015-16) for a max player. Which players to pursue, and whether anyone would take that package without looking at it as pure salary relief, I don’t know. But I’m still hoping KronCon can outwit someone out there. There’s always a Khan or Dolan type somewhere.

    • COfoEVA

      Kevin Love. Nuff said. We need to go get him.

      • Heisenberg

        Love would probably take Lawson/Gallo, Faried, and Fours…

        • COfoEVA

          He will be a free agent soon if he wants to, we would only need to make the space for his contract and give him a reason to come here.

          • Heisenberg

            If he opts out after next season Denver won’t be able to afford him. Their best shot would be to trade for him (and have an extension signed so he doesn’t walk).

  • Furious_Stylez

    Good article. It makes many good points. I think I’m the only Denver fan that doesn’t think Ujiri was that great of a GM. After the Melo trade and drafting Faried, his record of transactions is very below average.

    Ujiri, along with the rest of the front office, didn’t let the Birdman saga play out. They benched him, didn’t support him, and then Amnestied him (the only one available for the current CBA). His contract was only at $5m per season and Ujiri wasted the amnesty provision on him. Very stupid move on such a cheap (and tradable) contact, especially when he was fully exonerated a few months later. I can think of a certain overpaid Center they could’ve used the amnesty provision on this offseason.

    Ujiri signed Randolph to a 3yr deal. 3 freakin’ years of guaranteed money to a guy that had no defined position on the floor. Enough said.

    The trade for Iguodala was also really dumb. When players come from big markets to smaller ones, they usually never sign there. That’s common knowledge to most NBA fans Ujiri shipped a now top 10 SG and a first rounder in the deepest draft in years for a 7 month rental (who wasn’t a Superstar or a leader). If the Nuggets had that pick, they would be a major player for a trade this offseason.

    The arguably worst move was giving Javale McGee $40m+. That contract is untradable until it’s expiring. He had two good playoff games and somehow that warranted big money. That bad contract sent the Nuggets into cap hell, and then after realizing what he did, he bailed for another job.

    • Andrew

      You are not the only Denver fan that thinks that about Ujiri. I agree on all of your points. I have to admit, though, I was excited about McGee and (because it’s not my money), I didn’t care about the $40M. Hopefully, Lil’ Kroenk starts thinking the same way and says “Cap? What the ____ do I care about a cap?! I’m rich biyitch!” Ha ha. I can dream.

    • Sharkboy242

      Very well said. Ujiri is vastly overrated in my opinion. You brought up some great points that I even forgot about.

    • Aaron Durkin

      I could not agree more. The Iggy trade should go down as the reason this seasons team was so bad and Ujiri knew it was going to bad so he jumped ship.
      Not a good look from a raining executive of the year. Lets be honest if the NY was not NY and he could not swindle them his track recored was not that good.

  • Ckwizard

    For all of the short comings this season has had everything changes when Gallo returns. Every rotation is going to be different and minutes allocated will change. If the starting lineup is Ty, Foye, Gallo, Faried, and Mozgov then the top bench players are Chandler, DA, Robinson, Fournier, and Hickson/McGee (If Mcgee is starter then Mozgov/Hickson) The rotations and different lineups with Gallo available definitely will make the Nuggets more consistent on Offense and should improve team Defense…. But for all my likings of Shaw, the one thing i disliked more than anything was Karl and his desire to play Miller, Ty, and Brewer too much at the same time… and Shaw has shown a like for “small ball” even before the injury situation. But I have also seen some creativity in his lineups and some big lineups utilized.

    One lineup I am actually looking forward to is Ty, Foye, Gallo, Chandler, and Hickson. Chandler and Foye in the Corners, Gallo out at the three point line then Ty running the Pick and Roll with Hickson…

    Another lineup is Ty, Chandler, Gallo, DA, Mozgov especially with DA now showing some range the spacing is still there and this lineup can be very good defensively.

    Gallo in the line up should make Shaw a better coach by default.

  • Richard Pesicka

    I think Shaw made adjustments when he needed to, but later in the season. Yea, he made mistakes. I’ve seen Pop make a few and he’s a very seasoned coach. So yea, let’s jump to next season. But I don’t think your going to see change instantly. As it’s already been pointed out, so many players hurt, and they never played together. Going on and on about Birdman and J.R., come on please. Who gives a flying flootie about the Knicks. Stay on the Nuggets. They need advise and some trades. Without defense you can score 110 every night and still get beat.

  • Andrew

    Well written, Kalen.

  • heykyleinsf

    delicious news of of Golden State
    (to me anyway)
    Andrew Bogut has a broken rib..
    he won’t be participating in the Dubs first round playoff exit….

  • Richard Pesicka

    Mediocre team, and a rookie coach with a big head.

    • gimpcom187

      Lol. In combination, thats the most accurate and concise post ive ever seen on this site.