Troy Babbitt-US PRESSWIRE
I need to begin by explaining that I have a bias in favor of the Denver Nuggets. Though I would not call myself a fan of the Nuggets, they are the NBA team I live closest to. This means that they are the team most often in the local news, most often on the local channels, in the papers, in the office discussions. Because of this, I tend to see things the Nuggets do with a bit of leniency. I tend to like the Nuggets. Still, I think I can evaluate them rather honestly.
And man oh man do I ever love this Nuggets roster. I think Denver is going to be incredibly fun to watch this season, and I believe they'll be rather successful. The roster has so many valuable pieces, and has a coach who can use them. While George Karl has his faults, and I personally don't believe he adjusts quick enough in the playoffs to ever be a championship coach, he does a marvelous job of adjusting to fit what he has throughout the season. He knows how to get the best out of his roster.
The highlight of the offseason was Denver's surprise involvement with the Dwight Howard blockbuster. Denver sent away Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington, and acquired All-Star and Olympian Andre Iguodala. Iguodala is a superb fit for the roster, and an upgrade over Afflalo is every way that Denver was looking for. In Afflalo's first season after signing a 5-year, $43 million contract, Afflalo went away from the things that made Denver value him. His defense slipped and he upped his offensive usage rate. Iguodala is an upgrade defensively, and has been an effective player who doesn't require a high usage rate.
It's interesting that Afflalo was shipped off so quickly after signing his new contract, mostly because Denver did the exact same thing with Nene last season. Nene had just signed a new contract, but Denver experienced buyer's remorse and shipped him off to the Wizards for center JaVale McGee. McGee, a restricted free agent this offseason, was retained on a new 4-year, $44 million contract. While McGee has been inconsistent, to say the least, he's still young and has incredible raw ability. Either he'll demonstrate growth, or Denver has proven that they will not hesitate to trade him away. And even though many balked at the size of the contract, there are always teams willing to take a chance on athletic 7-footers.
The Nuggets got a nice surprise with Kenneth Faried last season, but it will be interesting to see if he can continue to develop. He's already an elite rebounder, an absolute monster on the glass. He also proved to be less limited offensively than originally feared, but there's still room to grow.
Denver has one of the strongest one-two tandems of point guards in the league, with Ty Lawson and Andre Miller. Lawson is incredible fast, and a good enough shooter than defenses must respect his shot. It would be ideal if he became a more consistent shooter, but he's still young enough that this is not at all unlikely. While Miller is on the opposite spectrum in terms of speed, he's very smart and a skilled distributor. Denver doesn't get worse when Miller subs in for the Lawson, they just get different. It makes it incredibly difficult for opposing defenses to game plan.
The player I think is most important to Denver's success this season is Danilo Gallinari. Andre Iguodala shot 39% from 3 last season, but it appears as an outlier to his career numbers. Assuming Igoudala returns closer to his averages, Denver will need Gallo's shooting to keep defenses from packing the paint against Lawson. Gallo is also Denver's best shot creator. He can get his shot from anywhere on the floor. But the most underrated part of Gallo's game is his defense. As he continues to develop, Gallo should pair with Iguodala to form the best wing defensive combo in the league. Gallinari is still only 24 years old, and has plenty of growth left.
Denver should be a fun team, but will be truly dangerous in the playoffs for the first time in the post-Carmelo Anthony era. Denver was a team of fantastic role players, but lacked a star. Iguodala is that star. An upgrade at the position in all the ways Denver needed. And Gallo can easily make that leap to stardom. Add to that their incredible depth of talent, I've yet to mention Kosta Koufos, Timofey Mozgov, Wilson Chandler, Jordan Hamilton, Quincy Miller, or Corey Brewer, and this team is dangerous.