The Denver Nuggets 2013-14 season is upon us, and here is a screencapture of the current roster. Quite any array of names with either decent NBA talent or the promise of good things in development. Right now, our bench is so deep that it's too deep. A deep bench is an asset during a length 82 game season riddled with injuries. When the wins become more infrequent, veteran players will stop putting in the effort, locker room dynamics will change, fans will throw bile at the front office and coaches for a litany of reasons (because that's what they always do).
Breaking down the Roster by Position:
On this current roster, no player should be considered "untouchable" in trade talks. The front office would be least likely to trade Ty Lawson, as he is the best player on the team and only a handful of point guards in the league are better. His new, and well-earned, contract is reasonable considering his value and locks him down through 2016-17. Andre Miller won't go anywhere because no other team really needs him (unless George Karl gets a mid-season coaching gig).
At the shooting guard position, Randy Foye is the starter here with a club friendly contract and a sweet perimeter shot. Foye would not have thrived in George Karl's uptempo, freewheeling offense, but in Shaw's half-court sets, he should find a good niche. Evan Fournier has the opportunity to take the spot from Foye as he has a shooter's stroke from the perimeter, nice ability to drive to the basket and the ability to play in an uptempo game. His game has a lot of promise but lacks any type of consistency. More playing time and more seasons under his belt will grow that stability.
No one questions that the small forward position is Danilo Gallinari's starting spot when he returns from injury. He possesses the best overall game on the team and started to show leadership qualities toward the end of last season. Like Fournier, his offensive game needs more consistency. Defensively, he is usually matched up on opponents' best player and doesn't get enough credit for that. Gallo's biggest adversary is staying healthy.
In the past two seasons, Chandler has played 8 games in 2011-12 (he had a contract in China to fulfill, then returned to the US injured) and 43 games in 2012-13 (approximately half a season). To boot, he starts out 2013-14 injured as well. When he’s healthy, he’s worth much more than his contract compensates him. Excellent offensive output with slightly above average defensive play at the SF/PF gets him on the floor even during crucial end of game moments. Considering Gallinari’s injury prone nature, he’s an asset to this club as long as he’s healthy.
Also at SF is Anthony Randolph who has a terrific opportunity to play with Gallinari out until early 2014. Randolph’s game is good on-ball defense (he has great footwork) and an ability to score around the basket. If he develops at 15-18 foot jump shot, he’ll bring so much more value to the team. While his minutes will be few, Jordan Hamilton can show that he is an offensive weapon but really lacks discipline on offense and has almost zero defensive effort.
Our new bigs, Darrell Arthur and JJ Hickson, give us veteran depth at the power forward position. While Hickson is listed as a 6' 9" PF, he can slide over to play center in a pinch. Arthur's offensive game is mostly away from the basket; he's a post-up type of PF and most valued for his pick and roll defense.
Both of these new acquisitions would be great, but has created a logjam at the position which fan-favorite Kenneth Faried started last year thus creating all the trade rumor talk. Looking at the roster with salary-cap tinted glasses, Faried is the best option of the three big men, as he's under his rookie contract through 2014-15. Looking at the roster with Brian Shaw's vision of a low post player with their back to the basket, Faried is the odd man out. And what is Faried's value to other teams? The Nuggets won't get the compensation they expect if they bury him on the bench, so expect his minutes to go up until the trade deadline or until he proves his game has evolved to fit Brian Shaw's scheme.
Center is a big point of emphasis in Brian Shaw's offense (as is the power forward position). Unfortunately the Nuggets have a giant question mark at the position instead of an exclamation point. Javale McGee's play leaves fans and coaches scratching their heads with more "WTF" question marks than "Oh wow" exclamation points. His body is long and thin, and because of that he is getting outmuscled in the low post on both ends of the court. More often than not, he is just reaching out to tap a ball to a fellow player rather than getting to the ball. His offensive is raw, but if he gets a small hook shot going, he can be an effective option. But he has to beef up and not let defenders muscle him out of the low post. Also does Denver's altitude have heavier impact on his asthma? Quite honestly, if the organization is banking their future success on this player, it has to be called a long shot.
Meanwhile Timofey Mozgov's contract is very cap friendly and he has shown an ability to play both ends of the court despite letting himself get muscled in the paint. As Mozgov gets more playing time this year, he will gain more confidence and play better. His defensive rotations are good, and he's doing well on the high pick and roll.
Lastly, Quincy Miller isn't expected to deliver many minutes this year pending injuries or trades. Quincy's game is looking better, but he's so thin he projects to be a small forward with perimeter shooting. He's going to have to make big strides during the season on his defense and rebounding, and that comes with more playing time and maturity.
With Brian Shaw bringing in a new scheme to this team, a learning curve will require time and patience. In the first two months, Brian Shaw will make line up changes before and during games that may seem suspect, but he has to get a feel for what players are right at particular moments in games. As the trade deadline approaches, the front office will have to make roster adjustments based on player/team development without looking at the win/loss record. This new season is a process of building and developing a team, not wins and losses. It will be fun to reflect back at this post with new eyes in March of 2014.