After re-signing Arron Afflalo and Nene the Denver Nuggets have set up arguably the deepest team in the NBA. In fact, the bench may be the Nuggets biggest strength – especially with an ability to go 11- to 12-man deep on any given night.
Timofey Mozgov will likely get the start for the Nuggets and the 7-foot-1 center from Russia has shown a glimpse of something special. While with the New York Knicks, Mozgov went for 23 points and 14 rebounds against the Detroit Pistons and four nights later he scored 18 points against the Los Angeles Clippers on 8-of-9 shooting. While performances like that will be far and few between, he should help the Nuggets with his size most nights. But at the same time he will struggle with fouls and will have his growing pains.
Chris Andersen has been a fan favorite of the Nuggets since returning to Denver in 2008. While he hasn’t enjoyed the same impact the last two seasons, he does bring endless energy off the bench. Andersen missed 37 games last season, but when healthy he started to live up to his $26 million/5 year contract. He finished the season averaging more than nine points and eight rebounds in the final four games. On an interesting note, Andersen plays much better at home than on the road. That is common with most players, but with Andersen it is very noticeable. Last season, his stats looked like this:
- HOME: 16.5 minutes, 6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 block, .629 FG%, .671 FT%
- ROAD: 16.1 minutes, 5 points, 4.5 rebounds, .8 block, .567 FG%, .593 FT%
Nene will also switch over and see minutes at center, especially when George Karl wants to play small ball.
Former first round draft pick Kosta Koufos will provide Denver with depth at the 5-spot. And unlike Melvin Ely or Johan Petro before him, Koufos, who will turn 23 in February, is a skilled big man. He lacks athleticism, but has nice touch near the hoop, as well as range on his jump shot. He is a good rebounder, but struggles on defense due to his mobility and athleticism. It isn’t clear whether he’ll see regular minutes, but if Mozgov or Andersen get hurt the Nuggets could do far worst than Koufos.
Kenneth Faried may also play some at center.
Nene is penciled in as the Nuggets’ starting power forward, which is his natural position. His skill set should be more beneficial for the Nuggets at the 4-spot. On defense, Nene is a great on-the-ball and also against the pick-and-roll, but he struggles as a help defender around the basket. He also should do better offensively where he won’t have to battle against bigger defenders, which tired him out down the stretch last season. Statistically he may not make a huge leap, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him put up 15 points or more on a nightly basis.
Al Harrington returns to the Nuggets and should give the squad a scoring spark off the bench. He struggled a bit last season with Denver, due to being out of shape, finding a role and then dealing with the Carmelo Anthony trade. There were some that were wondering if the Nuggets were going to bring Harrington back. He did find himself in Karl’s doghouse at times, mostly due to minutes. If he accepts his minutes and improves his shot selection, he will be a valuable weapon for the Nuggets off the bench. He averaged 10.5 points last season, but shot just .417 from the field.
Faried has impressed many during his short time at training camp and even during his first preseason game in which he scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds – despite only playing 15 minutes. He also had zero fouls during that time, which should help him play more important minutes. And while Karl has shown disdain for rookies in the past, he has shown to have a sweet spot for Faried and should give the rookie from Morehead State some minutes. The key word being should.
When the Nuggets play small ball, Danilo Gallinari will see time at power forward.
Demarre Carroll will be lucky to see the floor, but when he does he brings the energy that Karl likes.
Gallinari, who is only 23, has been labeled as the Nuggets go-to guy this season and while skeptics tend to disagree with the assumption, ‘Gallo’ has shown the confidence and the skills to be Denver’s version of Dirk Nowitzki – but he does have a long way to go. Gallinari has a career average of 13.8 points and is coming off a season in which he averaged his career best, 15.6 points. Gallinari has gradually improved his game from just being a ‘chucker’ to being able to attack the basket and draw fouls. During his short time with the Nuggets last season he averaged 7.2 free throws a game, but shot only .772 from the line – much less than his career average .847. Now if he is able to put his game all together he could make the leap to being a 20-point scorer.
Corey Brewer has had a rough start to his career in the NBA. He has been on four different teams (the Knicks cut him before he was picked up by the Dallas Mavericks last season) and Karl will be his fifth coach in five years. If used the right way, Brewer would be a valuable defensive stopper. At 6-foot-9, he can defend any position from point guard to even some power forwards. He also is a ball hawk in the passing lanes that usually leads to easy fast breaks. He likely will be a player in the Nuggets rotation, especially if Wilson Chandler doesn’t come back, and could start a few games if injures start to set in.
Jordan Hamilton will be the typical rookie on the Nuggets. He will see very few quality minutes and will mostly see garbage time, but the question is how will he respond. Will it drive him to work harder? Or will he pout? Hopefully, Hamilton will take advantage of this opportunity and will work his way into the Nuggets rotation next season.
Afflalo is back for the Nuggets and he brings a strong mentality, strong work ethic and the want to win. While some may question if he is worth $43 million, but that money is well worth it for somebody that has Afflalo’s intangibles. The Nuggets are counting on him to making the jump to being a more active weapon on offense to go with his stellar defense.
Rudy Fernandez will be the Nuggets’ new JR Smith, just the European version. He brings the same energy, athleticism and explosiveness that was valuable off the bench. Lets not get ahead of ourselves, Smith is the more talented player and is probably even the better player. But Fernandez fits the role better in Denver. He can get hot quickly, play quality minutes at point guard and is better at defense. He is a streaky shooter though, and like Smith, he can shoot you in and out of games.
While Fernandez will play Smith’s role, Andre Miller will likely be the first player off the bench. Karl’s lineup of Raymond Felton and Lawson drew ire from the fans, but that won’t stop Karl from playing Miller and Lawson together as well. Miller is a bigger version of Felton, but isn’t as good of a shooter. Miller has the bulk and smarts to defend shooting guards, and while he doesn’t have range on his jump shot he gets his points by outsmarting the defender and attacking the basket and drawing fouls. He also is an adapt passer, who loves to throw alley-oops and leading the fast break.
Hamilton, in time, will see time at shooting guard for the Nuggets.
Ty Lawson will be back manning the point guard once again, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he takes another step forward. Lawson was the key to the Nuggets success after Anthony was traded. Lawson averaged 14.4 points and 6.9 assists after the trade, but he also shot over .50 percent from the field, .40 percent from behind the arc and snagged 1.4 steals a contest. He also had a 3.2/1 assist to turnover ratio.
Lawson is one of the quickest point guards in the NBA and is much smarter than what many give him credit for. The one knock on him, and Karl has harped on it before, is he needs to be more aggressive and be more of a leader. It is easy to forget that Lawson is only 24, but he is another player that the Nuggets are counting on big things from.
Miller will be the Nuggets backup point guard. Fernandez will most likely be the Nuggets emergency point guard on most nights. He is a skillful passer and can play point guard in emergency situations.
Rookie Julyan Stone will probably be the Nuggets third point guard on the roster and while he has shown flashes of talent it isn’t likely he’ll see minutes with the Nuggets. It wouldn’t be out of the question that the Nuggets send him to the D-League.
Tags: Al Harrington Andre Miller Arron Afflalo Carmelo Anthony Chris Andersen Corey Brewer Dallas Mavericks Danilo Gallinari DeMarre Carroll Denver Nuggets Dirk Nowitzki George Karl J.R. Smith Jordan Hamilton Julyan Stone Kenneth Faried Kosta Koufos Nene New York Knicks Raymond Felton Rudy Fernandez Timofey Mozgov Ty Lawson Wilson Chandler