5-on-5: #NuggetsRank reflections

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

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Nit’picking: Jordan Hamilton may be squandering his best opportunity to crack the rotation

[Nit'picking is a new feature at Roundball Mining Company where the writers take the opportunity to go off on a rant about something that is grinding our gears, rubbing us the wrong way, or otherwise sticking in our craw.]

As the 2013-14 Nuggets training camp and preseason began with both Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler decommissioned by injuries, a tremendous opportunity opened up for Jordan Hamilton to prove himself. Buried for his first two seasons at the bottom of George Karl’s depth chart (and perhaps in his dog house at times), Hamilton has seen very little daylight outside of garbage time up to this point in his career.

It seemed that while Chandler was still recovering from his hamstring injury that Hamilton would be the clear favorite to start and make an impact at the small forward position. But things have not played out quite as expected. His shot has not been falling, and aside from a decent outing in the first preseason game he has not shown many encouraging signs.

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Preseason Game 5: Nuggets 111-Clippers 118

The shorthanded Nuggets pushed the Clippers all night long before finally dropping the game in overtime 118-111. Some thoughts on the game:

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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. 3 Wilson Chandler

Wilson-Chandler-Nuggets
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. Wilson Chandler goes from No. 7 last year all the way into the top three.

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Can Brian Shaw help JaVale McGee transform into a more conventional center?

“The anchor of the defense.” “Conventional.” “A presence in the middle.” “A true center.”

If you dropped these phrases on most NBA fans and asked them who came to mind, it’s a near certainty that none of them would answer, “JaVale McGee.”

And if in turn you surveyed them on how they’d describe McGee, you’d invariably end up with “bonehead,” “goofball” and “Shaqtin’-a-fool” on your short list of most common responses.

New Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw appears to be on a mission to change all that, however. (more…)

Media Day report

Every year, roughly one month prior to the NBA regular season kicking off, the Denver Nuggets host an annual Media Day press conference. This event gives media from around the Denver metro area the opportunity to (kindly) interrogate the players, coaches and team executives about all things Nuggets in preparation for the upcoming season. This marks the second year in a row that Roundball Mining Company has had the privilege to attend Media Day, and just like last year there was a definitive buzz about the arena given the changes that took place during the offseason. Here is a recap of the day’s action…

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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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[UPDATE] Lawson charged with physical harassment, according to The Denver Post

A few days ago I asked the RMC community to come up with story ideas because our writers were all out. Many readers submitted some fine ideas, which we plan on covering in the coming days, but none can compare to the real-life physical harassment and criminal mischief charges Ty Lawson obtained this past Saturday night.

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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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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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