Below you will find detailed scouting reports on every current Denver Nuggets player. Click on the name below to jump to his scouting report.
Offense: Afflalo is not going to blow anyone away on offense. He has developed a nice catch and shoot jumper and has become very good from the corners. Afflalo also has a decent midrange game, but again rarely shoots off the dribble.
With the ball in his hands he can be as dangerous to his own team as the defense. When he tries to drive off a swing pass when there is a gap in the defense to exploit, he can get to the rim and finish. There are times he tries to force his way to the rim and in those instances the result is typically a bad shot or turnover. He can pass on the move with accuracy and usually makes good decisions on who to pass to.
Without the ball he moves pretty well and does a good job of rebounding. He has a knack for finding open space in the lane on offense for offensive rebounds. Afflalo has shown a willingness to run the floor and finishes reasonably well for a 6’5” shooting guard with average athleticism.
Defense: Afflalo is not a lock down defender, but he works hard and knows what he is doing. He is not especially quick, but has very good footwork and fluid hips that allows him to change direction quickly. As a team defender Afflalo far outclasses the man he is replacing, Dahntay Jones. Afflalo is almost always in the right place and does a good job of keeping track of both his man and the ball.
As on offense he is a solid defensive rebounder with the ability to track the ball and the aggressiveness to get it. Instead of waiting for the ball to come to him Afflalo will challenge whoever is around him in the air.
Summary: Afflalo will provide the offense/defense pairing at shooting guard along with J.R. Smith that the Nuggets had last season while providing more of a boost on offense than Jones did. He is also young enough to improve all areas of his game over the next few seasons.
Offense: Birdman makes his presence felt on defense, but he is an emerging offensive player. He has worked very hard to develop a dependable midrange jump shot and has shown the ability to convert out to 18 or 19 feet. He also should be able to improve on his 71.8% free throw shooting from 2008-09, which was already a very good mark for a center. Still Andersen should take the majority of his shots at the rim. He has great hands when catching lobs at the rim and is a very willing dunker whenever he receives the ball inside the no charge arc.
Birdzilla has also shown the ability to drive and finish at the rim with both hands when facing up an unsuspecting defender. As a passer he leaves a little something to be desired and his 14.6 turnover ratio is very high for a limited offensive player. It was the highest ratio from last season of any current Nugget not named Anthony Carter and he was number 49 out of 67 centers. He must improve in that area.
Andersen has little post game to speak of and it is unfortunate as with his length and athleticism a little jump hook would be very difficult to stop. He is a good offensive rebounder as there were only five centers who played over 20 minutes a game and posted a better offensive rebound rate than Andersen’s 13.4.
With offensive players like Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Chauncey Billups and now Ty Lawson there is a need for big men who can set picks and Andersen does a good job of knocking the defender off his man.
Defense: When Andersen arrived in Denver for his second tour of duty with the Nuggets we all knew he could block shots, but he did not have a good reputation as a defender. While he still struggles to keep his feet when the player with the ball even thinks about going up for a shot, he played very solid man to man defense. Even when overmatched physically by a beefily huge player like Yao Ming he does his best to stand his ground and keep his position.
Andersen is also quick for a man his size and can guard nearly any power forward or center on the perimeter. George Karl even put him on Dirk Nowitzki in the playoffs last year and Andersen did about as well as anyone else.
No matter how stout his man to man defense becomes Andersen’s bread and butter will always be as a shot blocker. He led the NBA in blocks per 40 minutes by a wide margin with 4.79 (Ronny Turiaf was second with 3.96). As mentioned above Birdman takes flight a little too eagerly. On some occasions he lunges in hopeless situations resulting either in a three point play opportunity or an easy offensive putback off the rebound. The Nuggets would be better off with Andersen sacrificing a few blocks here and there to play a more sound style of defense, but he works hard enough to earn some of his misguided flights.
On the pick and roll Andersen does a good job of hedging, but sometimes leaves too early to retreat back to the paint allowing the ball handler to penetrate and thus forcing himself to guard both men instead of just one.
Summary: Andersen chose to take less money up front in order to sign a five year deal to stay in Denver this offseason. If he continues to build off his performance last season his increased salary will remain a bargain.
Offense: Even during a season where he battled a painful elbow injury and a fractured hand Carmelo remained one of the better scorers in the NBA posting 22.8 points per outing, good for eighth in the league. Still Melo saw his shooting percentage fall from a career high 49.1% in 2007-08 to a relatively poor 44.3% in 2008-09. As a passer Melo saw his per game assist average remain the same as the previous season, but when accounting for the Nuggets slower pace his assist rate was actually a career high at 12.1 besting his 11.4 from 2007-08.
Carmelo did significantly improve in one area last season and that was from behind the arc. After boosting his three point percentage over 30% for the first time since his rookie campaign in 2007-08 he followed up by raising his percentage again to a very good 37.1%.
Despite the disappointing numbers last year Carmelo remains one of the most talented offensive players in the NBA. He possess a very good midrange game, can drive with either hand and possesses a good first step that allows him to blow past defenders who are playing tight to take away his jumper. Another weapon is his ability to pull up on a dime off the dribble and drain a jumper before the defender knows he stopped dribbling.
Carmelo can also take defenders into the post and beat them with a drop step, spin move or a still developing turnaround jumper. Melo does suffer from an inability to elevate from a standstill and as a result has a lot of shots blocked at the rim.
One area Carmelo has said he will work on this season is not settling for the jumper. He can fall in love with his midrange game because it is so potent, but even when his shot is not falling his confidence convinces him it is still a good shot to take. Melo consistently attempts 62% to 64% of his shots from outside the lane so it will be interesting to see if that percentage changes this season.
Carmelo is also a very good passer and is able to throw a variety of passes whether he is on the move, or with his back to the basket. Because of his talents with the ball he tends to take too many risks and as a result turns the ball over a little too frequently. His 10.9 turnover ratio ranks him in the bottom third of small forwards. Only nine of the 32 players ahead of him in PER posted a higher turnover ratio last season.
If Melo has an offensive weakness it is his left hand. He can dribble and pass with his left hand, but he rarely uses it to finish at the rim. As a result he exposes the ball to the defense more than necessary and has shots blocked that should be easy finishes.
Defense: Carmelo has never been known for his defense and probably never will. However, he is not a lost cause as he made some major strides both physically and mentally last season. It sounds sad, but one area Melo improved in was simply paying attention. In the past the Nuggets struggled with simple tasks like keeping track of their man or the ball. It is tough to play solid defense for 24 seconds at a time when one or two of the five guys you have on the floor are daydreaming about the next offensive possession.
Melo still struggles to fight through screens and he does miss his rotations and forgets to help from time to time, but he is improving and I guess we have to be happy with that.
Mentally we saw important growth as well. Not only did Carmelo choose to apply himself more on defense, but he accepted challenges too. During the 2008 playoff series against the Lakers it was obvious Melo wanted no part of Kobe Bryant. He switched off as quickly as humanly possible. Last season both during the regular season and the playoffs he willingly covered Kobe and gave it his all when he did. That is a significant development. As long as Melo continues to grow in that area of his game, there is hope for him to become an MVP caliber player.
Aside from his man to man duties, Melo has good ball hawking instincts and nabs over a steal a game. He does not block many shots, but apparently block 0.5 a game. He averaged 0.5 in 2003-04, 0.4 in 2004-05, 0.5 in 2005-06, 0.4 in 2006-07, 0.5 in 2007-08 and 0.4 in 2008-09.
Summary: Melo finally won a NBA playoff series. Where does he go from here? Does he become even more hungry now that he was so close to reaching the NBA finals or does he coast a bit, content to rack up another all-star appearance? Carmelo showed in the preseason he is ready to have a big offensive season. I think he posts a career year.
Offense: Balkman is not in the NBA for his offense. He is a deceptive scorer though as like a receiver in football sitting in an open zone he has the uncanny ability to find the gaps in a defense around the basket. He scores on passes to the front of the rim and put backs, but he is also adept at running the floor and has a developing fifteen foot jump shot. He has yet to show any ability to make it when guarded because he knows not to shoot it unless he is wide open and able to make his slow windup and shooting motion. His form is pretty sound and he has really been working on establishing that part of his game. He has a decent handle and can lead the break when necessary. However, he does not drive on offense and he has only forced one shot that I can remember in his time with the Nuggets.
Defense: This is why Balkman is in the league. He is an instinctive defender. He earns a lot of deflections and steals without sacrificing his positioning. He is not the quickest or strongest player, but uses his intelligence and instincts to defend anyone from midsize power forwards to shooting guards. He is not a dominant rebounder, but because he works so hard gathers his fair share.
Makeup/Intangibles: After coming over from the Knicks Balkman is content to play inconsistent minutes simply because he is enjoying playing for a winner. He deserves more playing time and everyone knows it. He plays all out whether he is in the game for one minute or 20. He makes plays that do not show up in the box score and almost every Nugget fan wants to see him playing an important role for this team.
Offense: Billups is advertised as a pure point guard, but I believe he is a converted combo guard. He has great faith in his shot and rightfully so. He is one of the best shooters in the league pulling up off the dribble whether it is from midrange or downtown. He is at his best pulling up dribbling straight ahead or drifting slightly to his right. You will rarely see him pull up and shoot a jumper when going left. He does a great job of setting up the defense to shoot in his comfort zone.
Chauncey is not the quickest point guard, but he does a very good job of getting to the rim and is a good, but not great finisher in the lane. He can drive left or right, but prefers to go right, maybe to preserve the opportunity to use the pull up jumper.
He is a very good passer and sees angles that many players would miss. He is equally adept at passing with either hand. He is typically an accurate passer, but has instances of wildness that requires shooters to move off their spot to catch the ball. He does struggle to pass off of pick and rolls when he is pressured a little bit more than you would like, but he does take care of the ball and I guess that is job number one.
Billups also has a good post up game. He has a strong base and is good at getting to the spot he wants, bumping the defender and shooting. He prefers to shoot a fade away jumper turning to his right and shows good body control while in the air and a solid ability to square his shoulders, which is key to hitting a turn around.
Chauncey is a great free throw shooter and is once again flirting with the 90% mark from the line.
Defense: Chauncey is a very good defender and understands the importance of positioning and planning ahead. As noted above, he is not the quickest player, but he uses his strength and good instincts to stick with most point guards. He did have a very difficult time covering Aaron Brooks with the Rockets earlier in the season, but other than that has done a very good job. He will get steals both by picking pockets and jumping the passing lane. He generally does not take excessive risks, but will get burned going for a steal from time to time although the difference between he and Allen Iverson is quite vast.
Makeup/Intangibles: Chauncey is a leader and had immediate clout as a former NBA champion and Finals MVP. The Nuggets showed an immediate improvement upon his arrival, but as the season has worn on they have lost some of that unselfishness they once displayed. Chauncey may be a part of that as he loves taking threes at big moments in a game whether it be a back at ‘cha three to try to stop a rally or a dagger three. He has been great at directing traffic and making sure the teammate he wants gets the first crack at a shot when the Nuggets run a set play. His leadership is a quality the Nuggets have been sorely lacking perhaps since the days of Bryant Stith. It will be interesting to see how far they can go with Chauncey on board.
Offense: Carter is a limited offensive player. He is not a point guard who will make the jaw dropping pass or direct the offense. He is not a great shooter, but can make midrange shots when he can step into them. He has had stretches where he has heated up from three point range, but if he were to never shoot another three pointer I doubt the Nuggets would be worse off because of it.
His job is to be the change of pace point guard and as a result commits a horrendous amount of turnovers. At this point in the 2008-09 season his turnover rate has jumped by almost 50% from last year.
Carter is not a penetrator and almost 70% of his shots come from the perimeter.
Defense: Carter is a fine defender. He has been asked to guard almost every explosive two guard in the league and has held his own. He is strong and gives it his all, especially when it appears he is overmatched. He is also adept at chasing smaller quicker guards around screens and does a good job hounding the Jason Terry type shooters. His Scrappy Doo like persona is one the other players can feed off of from time to time and he almost always makes the Nuggets better on defense every minute he is on the court.
Makeup/Intangibles: Carter is not a naturally talented player and he knows it. He plays hard and that is why he has found a home with the Nuggets. He is safely entrenched as the back up point guard and plays quite a bit alongside Billups. George Karl loves his hard nosed style and I think Karl sees a little bit of himself in Carter.
Offense: Kenyon Martin can score, it just rarely looks pretty. Martin has developed a decent jumper out to 20 feet and has actually 6-9 from behind the three point line at the time this is being written. However, due to his funky release where he almost seems like he has the ball in front of his face and his left hand out in front of the ball. Lately he has been trying the Tim Duncan bank shot from the wing and it is not going well. He tries to bank the ball from odd angles and just does not have the technique down well enough to trot it out in game situations.
Martin is at his best attacking the rim. He still has a great deal of athleticism despite being the only NBA player to experience two microfracture procedures. His most effective move is a spin or drive into the lane from the right side where he stops and shot puts up a little right handed floater. His accuracy is uncanny for such an awkward looking shot. He is very good with it out to 15 feet.
Martin can drive with either hand, but is better with his right hand. He is also a very good passer and has good vision. He has made passes that you would not expect from a point guard. Kenyon is also one of the better screeners although that is not saying much from a team who is currently slipping probably 80% of their screens.
Kenyon also has great hands that allow him to consistently throw down alley oops and put backs thanks to his ability to control the ball at first contact.
Defense: Kenyon is a motivated defender. He is asked to guard not only power forwards, but also centers from time to time. He does struggle with centers as they can usually use their body to get into him so that he cannot use his leaping ability to challenge the shot and they simply shoot over him. Kenyon has struggled a little more this season against power forwards than in the past. He was demolished by Carlos Boozer on opening night and has had a couple of other tough nights as well. He is a good shot blocker and gets a good amount of deflections. He moves his feet well and does a decent job of rotating out on shooters, although sometimes he lacks urgency, which is typical of many big men.
Makeup/Intangibles: Martin has put in a great deal of work to get back to where he is. After being derided by most Nugget fans for his massive contract I believe he has won most of them over with his dogged determination to fight back from his very serious knee injuries and his solid play. I have written before that I no longer consider Martin to be an injury prone player and I expect him to play in at least 70 games a season for several seasons to come.
Offense: The NBA had forgotten what Nene could do. When the Nuggets traded Marcus Camby I was very excited to see how Nene would respond. I thought Nene to be a more complete player than Camby and I believed he would prove that this season. However, he has exceeded even my most optimistic expectations.
Nene has a very soft touch around the rim and has the speed and quickness to get a quality shot off nearly every time he touches the ball. He can drive left or right and can finish with either hand. His pet move has become a drive into the lane where he fakes a right handed shot in front of the rim, gets the defender or defenders in the air and then steps under and back to the left to finish with his left hand.
Nene also has finally mastered his 15-17 footer and when combined with his incredibly quick first step he can just pop it in his defenders’ face at will. As a result Nene has improved his shot from the free throw line.
Nene has great hands and a good handle. He also is a very good passer and has much better vision than your typical center. Because of his smoothness and touch, he tends to get a little soft around the rim and as a result has a few too many shots roll out. He is showing a little more willingness to use the backboard though.
Defense: When Nene first came into the league I thought he had potential to become the defensive player of the year due to his size, strength and athleticism. I think I may have been a little off, but he is a very capable defender and does a good job in the “measureable” defensive stats of steals and blocks. He is powerful and holds his position well. He is not as good as he was early in his career at jumping the ball handler on the pick and roll. I remember his rookie year he surprised many a point guard with his quickness resulting in some embarrassing pick pockets for the little guys and while that has become a thing of the past he is still solid at closing off penetration off of screens and it seems like teams avoid running pick and rolls with Nene’s man.
Makeup/Intangibles: I defy you to find an NBA player who has had worse luck than Nene so far in their career. Whether it be tearing his knee up just a couple of minutes into the 2005-06 season or getting testicular cancer last season Nene has not caught many breaks in his career. I look at is as more bad luck than being injury prone and I expect Nene to enjoy several healthy seasons over the next few seasons. He has worked hard to get into shape for this season and now realizes the importance of taking care of his body. Nene is thoroughly enjoying his shot at starting and has clearly been a big key for the Nuggets success so far in 2008-09.
Offense: There are few players in the NBA as immensely talented on offense as J.R. Smith. You name the skill, J.R. has it. Endless range? Check. Passing ability? Check. Ability to drive and finish in traffic? Check. Add in his ability to run the pick and roll, hit pull up and step back jumpers and his jaw dropping athleticism and J.R. has the ability to be an All-Star.
I honestly do not think there is anything J.R. cannot do with the ball. He has shown incredible development over the previous 12 or 13 months. He still takes bad shots, especially his 30 foot heat checks when he senses his shot is on, but this year he seems to have learned to pick his spots. He is taking fewer shots and his assist and rebound rates are easily career highs even though his scoring average may be a bit of a disappointment for a player who had the seventh best point per minute rate last season.
The most surprising aspect of J.R.’s game is his aforementioned ability to run the pick and roll. After he drives off the screen he has developed a nice little soft bounce pass that he can throw with either hand on the move between defenders to the rolling screener. I wish we would see more screen and rolls between Smith and Nene as they seem to be unstoppable in that situation.
J.R. is also one of the few players who can pull up off the dribble and hit threes with consistency although he is most accurate when receiving a kick out pass from directly in front of him.
Defense: Smith has been a poor defender who was unwilling to put forth any effort on that end of the floor in the past. Last year we began seeing evidence of increased effort, but still a lack of mental understanding of how to play defense. This year he has taken another step forward in his defensive development. He understands what is required of him and plays positioning rather than just poaching the passing lanes.
One area J.R. must improve in though is stopping penetration. He seems to react slowly to his man’s first step and it may just be a result of being too flat footed instead of up on the balls of his feet. He also has a problem with as Scott Hastings has commented during games giving baseline instead of forcing baseline. The Nuggets play to keep the ball out of the middle of the floor and as a result want any drive to be towards the baseline. J.R. simply lines up so far tilted towards the baseline that he is in no position to do anything but follow the ball handler into the lane from behind.
Makeup/Intangibles: J.R. signed a nice contract in the offseason and he probably could live the rest of his life off of it, but he knows that it is only the tip of the iceberg of what he can make as long as he can reach his potential. He has shown a willingness to learn and expand his game and he is a better player because of it. So far he has been content to come off the bench behind the obviously inferior Dahntay Jones. His minutes have not seen the increase most of us, including I am sure J.R. himself, expected. He has been in the doghouse a couple of times this year and he still has some room to improve his attitude, but he has come a long way and Nuggets fans have to hope he can continue that progression.
Offense: Jones is another limited offensive player that the Nuggets brought in over the summer of 2008. He had a somewhat prolific summer league thanks to his strength and quickness. He spent a great deal of his time at the free throw line in Vegas which helped cover up his almost complete lack of a perimeter game.
Jones has shown he can hit the 15-17 footer, but really should only be attempting it if his feet are set, he is wide open and completely balanced. He does a good job of attacking the rim when he gets a crease to exploit. He does not display very good body control though and if he is bumped in the air will probably miss the shot. He can finish with either hand around the rim and can drive pretty well going either direction.
As a passer Jones is almost completely deficient. Part of that is he is not a natural offensive player.
Defense: Jones has turned himself into a hardnosed defender. He plays physically and does not back down from anyone. He moves his feet well and works hard to fight through screens when the Nuggets are not switching. He does not show as good of understanding with team defensive concepts as he does with individual ones. He is a little late when it comes to helping and rotating.
Jones has shown good timing at blocking shots when getting back in transition. He does not gamble for steals and generally plays with solid positioning.
Makeup/Intangibles: Jones is another player the Nuggets pulled off the scrap heap. He has been starting since the Billups trade, but his time as starter may be running short. He plays hard, but is not an instinctive player. If he does not work his tail off to develop a more consistent perimeter game on offense he may look back at 2008-09 as his career season.
Offense: Linas Kleiza has two settings on offense. One is chuck and the other is drive. Almost all of Kleiza’s shots come from behind the arc or at the rim. Kleiza is a catch and shoot player from the perimeter. He has no pull up game to speak of. He is very good at attacking the rim with a right hand drive when he sees a crease in the defense and is a very quick leaper that allows him to dunk in traffic as he is already at the rim before defenders can gather themselves to challenge the shot. He has almost no left hand although he has tried going left a couple of times in 2008-09. Kleiza is not a very good finisher if he cannot dunk. He has a running one hand shot that he is improving at, but it is not apparent that he will ever master it.
As a passer Kleiza is very limited. He only makes safe kick out or perimeter passes. This along with his inadequate left hand makes him a restricted offensive player. However, he does get plenty of open looks from the three point line and if he can hit a percentage in the high 30’s he is a helpful player.
Defense: This is where Kleiza completely fails to deliver. He is still learning how to play perimeter defense and although he is a good athlete, he does not possess lateral quickness. He also lacks the beef to play post defense. When it comes to team defense, he is the most likely Nugget to be out of position and miss rotations. I believe he is trying, but he has a difficult time executing the concepts for some reason.
Makeup/Intangibles: Kleiza’s development from a bruising Big XII power forward in college to a sleek long range bomber in the NBA has been impressive. As a result I think most Nugget fans have overrated his ceiling. His improvement was rapid and unexpected which naturally left most fans expecting more. While he did improve quickly I think he has already hit his ceiling as a player. When he is running the floor and his three ball is falling he is a pleasure to watch, but when he is missing and playing passive on offense his weak defense is even more apparent and he looks absolutely horrible. I believe the Nuggets are willing to trade him, but only for a deal they believe is a no brainer. Add in the way he probably felt jerked around when the Nuggets apparently pulled a contract extension off the table right before the season started (likely because they knew they were adding long term salary in the Billups trade) I can understand why he had a difficult time to start the season. He has picked up his game in December, but ultimately I believe he is an expendable cog.
Offense: It is not easy to know what the Nuggets have in Weems as he has not played in anything other than Summer League and the D-League. I have observed him first hand though and do have some thoughts.
Weems has very good athleticism and is not afraid to use it. He clearly loves to dunk and does a good job of it. His shot is inconsistent and you can tell by the varying rotations that it leaves his hands with that he has some work to do. However, when he is locked in, he has NBA three point range. He can drive with either hand and I have seen him warming up shooting 18 footers with his left (off) hand. He has the pull up jumper in his arsenal and a post game in it’s infancy.
Defense: Weems has a long way defensively to make it to the level of the shooting guards ahead of him on the depth chart. Both Dahntay Jones and J.R. Smith are much better defenders than Weems at this point. The coaches are working to get Weems to pressure the ball and he clearly seems a bit overwhelmed at times, which is to be expected. He has the quickness and frame to be a good defender so it is just a matter of learning the concepts and applying them with the playing time he is getting with the Colorado 14ers. He definitely needs to work on his awareness as the game I watched he fouled out in less than 16 minutes.
Makeup/Intangibles: Weems is coming off his first serious injury of his career, a serious groin tear, and has played very little over the previous eight months. When I talked to him his first item on the list of things to improve was simply his stamina. Weems has a lot of talent and I think Nugget fans will see him playing with the big boys, but maybe not until 2009-10.