Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson to make the leap
The Denver Nuggets were one of the hottest teams down the stretch last season and one of the biggest reasons was because of Ty Lawson.
The third-year point guard took over as the Nuggets starting point guard after Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony were traded to New York and he didn’t disappoint.
The Nuggets finished the season 17-8 and Lawson put up solid numbers all-around, averaging 14.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.9 assists. He also shot .506 from the field, .424 from behind the arc and .838 from the free throw line.
Going into his third year, once again Lawson has to make another leap. Lawson has all the tools to be a top-tier point guard in the NBA. He is one of the quickest point guards in the League, with an underrated jumper. He also is a smart player, who rarely makes a bad decision on the floor and when he does it mostly happens due to his lack of aggressiveness.
Lawson is in prime position to be a leader on the Nuggets young squad and as soon as he takes the reins of Denver’s offense, much like Billups before him, Lawson has the potential to put the Nuggets at the Oklahoma City Thunders level.
Danilo Gallinari was the key pickup for the Nuggets in the Carmelo Anthony trade and statistically speaking he isn’t anything great –yet. But Gallinari has the youth, talent and mindset to be a 20 to 25 point scorer in the NBA.
The 23-year-old Italian entered the NBA four years ago with a reputation as a chucker. More than half of his shots were from behind the arc, but Gallinari has casually improved his game each year and brings a much more versatile offensive game which can be dangerous from outside – as well as driving to the basket. He can still hit a deep three in the face of a defender, but he can also beat them off the dribble or draw a foul. Last season, Gallinari shot more than seven free throws a game and George Karl would like to see more of that this season.
If Gallinari, who Karl has compared to Detlef Schrempt, can stay healthy and put his game all together this season he would be the ideal candidate to be the Most Improved Player.
Arron Afflalo is irreplaceable
Skeptics may say the Nuggets overpaid Afflalo, who has a career average of 7.4 points. And while statistically speaking he isn’t a great player, his intangibles are extremely rare. He lacks the flare and athleticism that make up most NBA players, but his work ethic and mentality is also rare in the NBA circle. He is arguably the hardest working player in the Nuggets, maybe even the league. And like Shane Battier, Derek Fisher and the retired Robert Horry, Afflalo isn’t a player that plays for his shot – instead he plays for the team and to get the win. Afflalo has shown the ability to create his own shot and make big baskets, but most of the time he works off his teammates and the team mentality.
What’s even rarer is Afflalo’s shooting percentage, which is not normal for shooting guards.
Afflalo shot nearly .50 percent from the field, over .40 percent from behind the arc and nearly .85 percent from the free throw line – all amongst the best at his position.
His scoring has also improved each season and the Nuggets feel he can only get better.
If there is a player that is untradeable on the Nuggets, it’s Afflalo. He missed the final 13 games as well as two games, which were both losses, in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Some experts believe that if Afflalo was completely healthy the Nuggets could have beaten the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Andre Miller to be a 6th man of the year candidate
Last season, fans got frustrated with Karl’s obsession with playing Raymond Felton and Lawson together. This season they can expect much of the same, only it will be Andre Miller instead of Felton.
Miller is one of the iron man’s in the League; he has only missed five games over the past 13 years and is back in Denver for his second stint with the Nuggets.
General observers tend to hate Miller’s game. He lacks athleticism and a jump shot, and his game lacks flash. But coaches tend to love his game, he is a gritty, consistent player, who will put forth his best effort and will try and outsmart the defender.
What makes Miller a better fit for the Nuggets is his size and ability to defend bigger defenders. Miller struggles against some of the quicker guards in the League, but he has the strength and stature to body bigger guards – and some forwards.
Miller will also get his points, either from the line, fast break or driving, but he will also attacks the glass and is unselfish to a fault. Those are all qualities that coaches will take into consideration when they look at the impact of a bench player.
Kenneth Faried to get playing time
As of right now, Nuggets fans won’t be seeing Faried on the floor too often. But when injuries start setting in and Denver has to start playing long stretches with very little rest, Faried should see some playing time and expect him to show enough to be a part of the Nuggets rotation
Faried proved during the two preseason games he could stay out of foul trouble, he also showed an ability to impact the game without scoring. He did with his hustle, attacking the glass and on the fast break.
Nuggets to be a top-four team in the West
There are differencing opinions about the Nuggets. Some believe they will be an elite team in the West, others don’t even expect Denver to make the playoffs.
With their bench, the Nuggets have the makeup to be a top team in the West. They have depth at every position and in some cases their bench may even be better than the starters.
They also have players like Lawson, Afflalo, Nene, Gallinari and Miller who have had success on the floor and have a winning mentality.
What may be the biggest downfall for the Nuggets is they lack a go-to-player down the stretch – something that will hopefully develop as this team continues to grow.