Five things to watch for this season

As the 2013-14 NBA season approaches, many questions hover around the Denver Nuggets. Almost everything that made the team successful in years past (especially last season) has now departed. There’s no more George Karl, no more Masai Ujiri, no more Andre Iguodala — no more certainty. There’s still a deep and talented roster, however the players that comprise it are less known commodities and more bags of speculation and temptation. The 2013-14 Denver Nuggets are, more than anything, a team mired with uncertainty. Though five topics of concern are presented below, this list could very well expand to seven or even 10. But in honor of brevity and odd numbers, here are the five most compelling storylines to watch for this season.

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#NuggetsRank No. 2: Danilo Gallinari

gallo

Every year around this time ESPN introduces its annual #NBArank series codifying all 500 players in the NBA from least to most valuable. Last year Roundball Mining Company decided to get in on the action and began ranking each of the players on the Denver Nuggets’ final 15-man roster in the same fashion. We’ve polled all seven of our writers, asking them to arrange each player on the Nuggets roster from one to 15 (one being the best, 15 the least valuable), then we added everyone’s scores together to come up with a single, definitive list of the 15 “most valuable” Denver Nuggets. Checking in at number two is Danilo Gallinari, up one spot from last season.

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5-on-5: Nuggets lineups in 2013-14

Denver Nuggets training camp is still over a month away, and plenty of time remains for the front office to make additional offseason roster moves. Yet the rumor mill has gone quiet, and by all appearances it seems that Tim Connelly and Josh Kroenke have – at least for now – settled on the 15 players who will constitute the Nuggets roster at the opening of the upcoming season.

Denver has an intriguing, if in certain ways perplexing mix of players on the roster, and at this point it’s extremely difficult to foresee how the minutes and rotations will shake out.  And with the coaching change, our lack of a concrete picture of the offensive and defensive systems Brian Shaw intends to implement only compounds the unpredictabllity of how things will unfold from here on out.

But despite the fact that we are facing more questions than answers, your trusty Roundball Mining Company writers now bring you, in our latest 5-on-5, our best and boldest predictions about which lineups stand to fare the best and worst, and which players stand to gain or lose the most in this uncharted 2013-14 season.

As always, feel free to play along and post your own answers to the questions, or any other observations and reactions, in the comments section below. (more…)

Lineups

The post-Melo Nuggets have always been defined by their depth. Denver didn’t just attack you with a killer lineup, they did it with waves of them. They were a machine full of interchangeable gears, a confluence of equally skilled players that elevated the whole through sheer numeracy, and yet whose uniformity ironically tended to serve as their downfall in the postseason. But perennial regular season success is clearly something this team is still trying to strive for and the various transactions of the offseason reveals a similar desire for the “next man up” depth that has been the team’s staple for three years.

A look at what Denver’s offseason reaping produced has unearthed a comforting familiarity in terms of the depth but some trepidation in how these particular gears fit together. Questions about potential lineups range from the mop-up crew all the way to the starting unit, and many of these queries center around Brian Shaw’s unique (and currently unknowable) set of principles, what does he value most in his players? The following is a list of potential lineups Denver could throw out over the course of the season, their pros, their cons, their function, and – most importantly – the likelihood of their success.

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Is Denver’s Roster Deep or Just Full?

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

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

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

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

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

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Denver’s Screening Problem

One of the biggest obstacles I run into when trying to project what Denver will look like going into next season is the absence of any idea what the system will be like under Brian Shaw. The Nuggets have spent the better part of a decade running the sometimes varied but always unorthodox George Karl system, and the extent to which Shaw deviates from that remains to be seen. He has been on the record as saying he will ditch the triangle offense that his coaching had been pigeonholed into (a wise move) and that he will continue to utilize Denver’s unique home court advantage with an uptempo offense (another smart move), but other than that it is mostly a mystery.

However, I am pretty confident that at least a good portion of Karl’s dribble-drive offense will be replaced with a more traditional pick-and-roll centric system. I will defend Karl’s dunks-and-threes system till the day I die in terms of how well it succeeded in the team sense but it is undeniable that the Nuggets have many players who would thrive in a more pick-and-roll featured scheme (Ty Lawson especially). There’s just one problem. There are precious few Nuggets who know how to properly set screens.

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5-on-5: New front office appraisal

It’s been several months since the NBA’s reigning GM of the Year, Masai Ujiri, was inexplicably let go by the Nuggets and replaced with Tim Connelly. Since that time the Nuggets have made a variety of eyebrow-raising moves that have accented the most turbulent offseason in recent memory. Now, in light of the Nuggets’ recent completion of putting together a full 15-man roster under the new regime, our team at RMC will divulge our first impressions of Connelly and Co.’s transactions in our latest 5-on-5. As always, we encourage you voice your answers to the following questions in the comments section below.

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2013 salary cap and luxury tax status, part 2: questions and answers

Q: Which players have the Nuggets signed for 2013-14, and what are their total combined salaries?

A: Based on the latest reported offers, the Nuggets have $60.3 million dedicated to 13 players: Lawson, A. Miller, Foye, Fournier, Hamilton, Gallinari, Chandler, Q. Miller, Faried, Hickson, Arthur, McGee, and Randolph. (Foye and Hickson cannot officially be signed until July 10.) The salary cap is $58.6 million.

Q: Can the Nuggets still sign players even though they’re over the cap?
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What Denver Lost With Andre Iguodala

As the reaction here at Roundball Mining Company and towards me on Twitter has trickled in surrounding the loss of Andre Iguodala a general consensus seems to be forming that the move isn’t that big a deal for the Nuggets in the 2014 season.

The explanations seem to be centering around two things, that Iguodala didn’t shoot well last season, and that he turned the ball over a lot.

Now both of those things are true and they both hurt the Nuggets at points this season but Iguodala did plenty this season to help the Nuggets, and those things are going to be very difficult to replace.

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The Way Forward

Yesterday I wrote about the previous year in Nuggets basketball, and ended by noting the challenge facing Tim Connelly and Brian Shaw following such a wild season.  Here are some issues from the previous year that they will have to deal with going forward:

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Delayed Reaction: 2012-2013 season in review

A look at the rollercoaster year of Nuggets basketball

Hopes were high for the Nuggets at the end of the 2012 offseason, with some analysts predicting up to 59 wins and a top two playoff seed.  Masai Ujiri had acquired Olympic gold medalist and star defender Andre Iguodala in a trade, and extended Ty Lawson and JaVale McGee with long-term contracts.  He surrounded the team’s young core with veteran Andre Miller and cheap talent like Anthony Randolph and Evan Fournier.

But a difficult early schedule loomed.  The Nuggets would play 22 of their first 32 games on the road, including 8 sets of back-to-back games.  By the end of November, the team had a pair of four game winning streaks sandwiched in between three losing streaks of three games each, including worrying losses to the lowly Suns and Magic.

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Nuggets news: Karl talks, Gallo walks and Iggy opts out

A lot’s happened in the last 24 hours surrounding Denver Nuggets. George Karl has been making the rounds with the Denver media sharing what he calls “his side of the story,” in regards to his dismissal as Nuggets head coach last week. Meanwhile, Danilo Gallinari claims his knee was never as bad as we all thought, and Andre Iguodala… well, yeah…

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End of an era: One fan’s struggle to embrace a Hall of Fame coach

I can’t lie. I’ve thought about writing this article for years. Years. After each futile, heartless, disappointing exit in the first round of the playoffs, I was so ready to write this article that I couldn’t sleep. This year was no different. This year I wanted it just as bad as I have for the last several years. And yet, here it is, less than a week since Karl was let go, and I’m not sure I even want to write it anymore.

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UNLEASH THE MANIMAL! (But maybe from the bench)

The story of Kenneth Faried’s career is a very interesting one.

Despite being the all-time leading rebounder in modern-day NCAA history, Faried fell all the way the 22nd pick in the 2011 NBA draft where the Nuggets scooped him up.

The reasons he fell were well documented; he was undersized, lacked an offensive game, and was an average finisher. But he also had some huge strengths; the rebounding prowess, the motor and his incredible athleticism.

He ended up in the perfect situation in Denver, a place where he was asked to rebound and run the floor, things he did very well. Because of that he burst on the scene as a rookie with highlight after highlight. He also captured peoples’ hearts and imagination; I have seen projections from various Nuggets followers that call him a future All-Star, a superstar and even Dennis Rodman 2.0.

But 2012-2013 should temper those expectations just a bit and raise a very interesting, and difficult, decision for George Karl and whoever runs the Nuggets front office going forward.

Is Faried better utilized as a sixth man?

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Roundball Roundtable: On Ujiri’s departure

Masai Ujiri leaving the Denver Nuggets has the potential to be one of the most devastating franchise decisions the Kroenke family has ever made. Conversely, the Nuggets might hire the next Masai Ujiri and be just fine. Either way, the decision to let him speak with the Raptors and ultimately sign with his former Canadian squad said something about the Nuggets as a franchise. It said something about the Kroenkes and it said something about the order of the Nuggets’ priorities. Our writers have a few ideas about what that something is, which we’ve laid out below in our latest Roundball Roundtable.

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