- SHELDEN WILL BE THIS YEAR’S DAHNTAY – For a team that is in dire need of a big man, the signing of former Duke Blue Devil Shelden Williams has been all but overlooked. In fact, most of the Denver Nuggets previews have pointed out that Williams’ wife (Candace Parker) is a better player. However, they failed to point that she is the best player in her family (her older brother Anthony Parker plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers) and could possibly be a better player than half of the NBA.
Williams, on the other hand, has been nothing more than a disappointment in the League so far. Partly due to the fact that he doesn’t bring a lot offensively, but he is still a physical and athletic defender and an aggressive rebounder. Just what the Nuggets needed, last season. Give him a chance to play his role and he will fit in. Hmm… sounds familiar? Maybe Dahntay Jones, who was also a first-round draft pick out of Duke and didn’t live up to his potential until getting a chance with the Nuggets. Jones went on to play around 20 to 24 minutes a game hounding opposing guards like Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant and Deron Williams. Expect Williams to do that in the post and he will have an opportunity to prove himself while Kenyon Martin is injured and he could find a niche on the Nuggets.
- LAWSON TO MAKE A RONDO-TYPE LEAP – Lets get this right, Rajon Rondo and Ty Lawson are two completely different players. Rondo is a phenomenal defender and is a creative point guard, while Lawson is solid all-around but not great anywhere. However, after a subpar rookie season Rondo has constantly made strides each season to go from a late draft pick to a top-5 point guard. Lawson should make a similar leap. He has all of the making of a top-five point guard and should just continue to improve. This season he should see more minutes as George Karl tries to cut veteran guard Chauncey Billups minutes. And expect the former Tar Heel to thrive with more minutes, just like he did last season when Billups was hurt (he shot .567 from field and 17 points in eight starts).
- HARRINGTON MAKES NUGGETS BENCH RELEVANT – If you want to see one of the biggest differences between last season’s squad, which was knocked out in the first round, and Denver’s squad two seasons ago that nearly defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, look no further than the Nuggets bench.
Last season’s second unit lacked intensity and was about as sporadic as it got, too often Denver’s starters left the court with the lead and it soon deteriorated within minutes. For example, in a game versus the Phoenix Suns last March the Nuggets held a 13-point advantage early in the second quarter when Carmelo Anthony joined Chauncey Billups (Lawson was hurt and Anthony Carter was the backup point guard) on the bench. The Suns quickly went on a 16-point run and outscored the Nuggets 33-11 in the second quarter and later went on to win the game. Denver’s bench made a habit of disappearing and their no-show was apparent in the first round versus the Utah Jazz when they were outscored in nearly every game of the series.
Bring in Al Harrington, and say what you will about the tweener forward, but he can score and he can score consistently. Harrington averaged 17.7 points off the bench for the Knicks last season and during his early years for the Indiana Pacers Harrington was used as a bench spark to close games. As weird as it sounds, but Harrington should bring stability to Denver’s bench and give the Nuggets a consistent scorer they can depend on while Anthony (if he is still on the team) and Billups rest.
- RENALDO BALKMAN A STARTER (while K-Mart is hurt) – This is a very BOLD prediction, because he is a not exactly Coach Karl’s favorite player – in fact he is a main-stayer in Karl’s doghouse. However, two seasons ago Balkman was the Nuggets savior while Martin was hurt. He started 10 games and averaged 9 points and 6 rebounds a contest. His energy was a big part of the Nuggets winning a stretch of games he started. He scored 17 points, 6 rebounds in a runaway victory on the road over the Kings (Nuggets lost both contests in Sacramento last season). He had back-to-back double-doubles in home starts against Oklahoma City (14-14) and Los Angeles Clippers (22-11). Kool has an opportunity to make himself relevant again and after seeing a friend from college (Kenny Mckinley) pass away expect Balkman to be more motivated this season. He is like a smaller Martin, able to guard the pick and roll and also defend in the post. If Balkman and Karl somehow make peace, Balkman energy would really help early in the season.
- NUGGETS WILL BE BETTER THAN LAST YEAR (If Anthony stays)- Lets pretend for one minute that Anthony stays in Denver the rest of this season and the Nuggets let it play out. Sure they are dealing with injuries to K-Mart and Birdman, but that is nothing new. Martin has been hurt every season since the Nuggets signed him and Andersen’s injury isn’t as bad as advertised. There is no reason this team shouldn’t be better than last year’s squad. The addition of Harrington bolsters the bench, Williams brings the toughness that Johan Petro and Malik Allen lacked last season. Afflalo is a gym-rat and should be better, Lawson should improve and give Billups some rest so he doesn’t tire down the stretch. JR will be motivated due to it being his contract season and lastly and most importantly Karl will be back on the sidelines to guide this team.
Tags: Al Harrington Anthony Carter Arron Afflalo Birdman Carmelo Anthony Chauncey Billups Chris Andersen Denver Nuggets George Karl Johan Petro JR Smith Kenyon Martin Los Angeles Lakers Nene Renaldo Balkman Shelden Williams Ty Lawson Utah Jazz