Better Know: Denver Nuggets

Ty Lawson Denver Nuggets
Ty Lawson (Stats)

Today marks the beginning of a new series here at The Brooklyn Game, looking at the other 29 teams in the NBA and trying to figure out how they match up with your Brooklyn Nets. We’ll be doing them in mostly random order. Today’s installment of Better Know An Opponent focuses on the Denver Nuggets. Let’s take a look.

Projected Starting 5

Ty Lawson Denver Nuggets

Ty Lawson (Stats)

Evan Fournier Denver Nuggets

Evan Fournier (Stats)

Javale McGee Denver Nuggets

Javale McGee (Stats)

Kenneth Faried Denver Nuggets

Kenneth Faried (Stats)

Wilson Chandler Denver Nuggets

Wilson Chandler (Stats)

Key bench players: Jordan Hamilton, Randy Foye, Nate Robinson, J.J. Hickson, Danilo Gallinari (injured)

2012-13 Denver Nuggets By The Numbers:

Denver Nuggets LogoW-L: 57-25
Playoffs: Lost in first round
Offense: 107.6 points per 100 possessions (5th)
Defense: 102.0 points allowed per 100 possessions (11th)
Net: +5.6 points per 100 possessions (5th)
Pace: 97.76 possessions per game (2nd)

Games vs. the Brooklyn Nets:
December 3rd — Denver Nuggets @ Brooklyn Nets (StubHub)
February 27th — Brooklyn Nets @ Denver Nuggets

Key Additions: Brian Shaw (head coach), Tim Connelly (GM), Nate Robinson, Darrell Arthur, J.J. Hickson, Randy Foye

Key Subtractions: George Karl (head coach), Masai Ujiri (GM), Andre Iguodala, Corey Brewer

Why You Should Watch: After one of the franchise’s most successful seasons, the Denver Nuggets overhauled a major portion of their franchise: they fired coach of the year George Karl (who hasn’t had a losing season since before I was born — no, seriously), let GM and roster architect Masai Ujiri bolt for Toronto, and losing forward and perimeter havoc-wreaker Andre Iguodala to the Golden State Warriors, who beat them in the first round.

But even after losing those major pieces, the Nuggets still re-tooled. Brian Shaw, the final Brooklyn Nets coaching candidate taken off the table, finally gets his shot as head coach after nearly a decade of waiting. He’s expected to instill bits and pieces of Phil Jackson’s famed Triangle Offense. Additionally, the Nuggets picked up noted Nets killer Nate Robinson (don’t click that) and added two big men to their rotation, Darrell Arthur (who has potential but hasn’t put it together yet) and J.J. Hickson (who always puts up solid numbers but can’t defend a lightpole).

Nuggets fans have reason to think that they’ll downgrade a bit from last year. Iguodala is a big loss, and they’ll have to adjust to a new coach and system, which will take time. But there’s also reason for optimism: most of their core is on the young side of 30, and the one who isn’t (Andre Miller) has a game that ages well. If they can balance a fast-paced attack in Denver’s air with Shaw’s triangle, they’ll be a contender in Denver.

Strengths: The Nuggets are very deep, with quality players at every position. Ty Lawson & Andre Miller are two very good point guards in different ways. They’ve got a lot of three-point shooting — seven of their rotation players shot over 35% from beyond the arc last season. They’ll outscore a lot of teams just by bombing from outside some nights. If Javale McGee stays focused throughout the season, he’s an immensely talented player — he’s averaged 15-10 per 36 minutes for his career on 54% shooting. Faried is a beast on the boards and one of the league’s fastest frontcourt players, which is an even bigger advantage in Denver’s thin air.

Weaknesses: Who’s going to play defense? The Nuggets ranked a solid 11th in defense last season, but they’re losing the league’s elite perimeter defender in Iguodala. Additionally, Shaw has announced that he’s starting the aforementioned Javale McGee at center, a decision that could end in disaster if McGee is anything like the GIFable McGee below. The Nuggets have a lot of firepower but no stars, a formula that worked for them last year — until the playoffs. Finally, this isn’t so much of a weakness but a question mark: now that he’s finally got his shot, how will Shaw lead as a head coach?

And now, two essential Javale McGee GIFs:

Javale McGee Goaltend GIF

McGee is this team’s starting center.

Asking The Other Side: Denver Nuggets expert Kalen Deremo of ESPN TrueHoop Denver Nuggets blog Roundball Mining Company.

Most important move: Letting go of coach George Karl. His firing was long overdue. Yes, he led the team to the playoffs every year, but his style of play was not conducive to postseason success. The Nuggets needed to move in a different direction and Brian Shaw appears to be a good hire.

Expectations? 50 wins. The Nuggets will likely undergo a transitional period for several months with a new head coach and bench unit, but when they hit their stride I could see this team piling up a lot of wins at home, just as they did last year. However, if the Nuggets fall short of 50 nobody will be surprised.

What’s the team system? Hard to say right now. Brian Shaw has hinted at using elements of the triangle as well as utilizing the fastbreak offense that George Karl was fond of, but the Nuggets’ overall style is not yet known. I’d guess that defense will become a priority under Shaw instead of an afterthought like it was under Karl.

Matching up with Brooklyn: The Nuggets match up fairly well with the Nets. Brooklyn is an older team so if the Nuggets can get out and run they’ll secure an advantage with their legs. However, McGee and Faried could have problems with the Nets’ big men. The Nuggets should be able to win at least one of the two games against the Nets this season.

The Nuggets in under 100 words:

The Denver Nuggets are a young team with a lot of question marks. Prior to this summer they were a team on the rise; now, after letting Masai Ujiri walk, it seems it’s only a matter of time before they’re back in the lottery. This upcoming season will likely be a make-or-break year for the Nuggets. If they exceed expectations they could make a big move to try and regain their path to contention. If they underwhelm, you might see a roster blowup by the beginning of the 2015 season.