The Denver Nuggets have had a solid, yet underwhelming 2012-2013 season thus far. Denver has been very inconsistent this season, compiling a 19-16 record and being slotted as the 8th seed in the West after 35 games. Now there are plenty excuses for the Nuggets mediocre start like the fact that they’ve played 22 road games this season(more than any other team in the NBA right now) and that the team is still trying to adjust to Andre Iguodala’s style of play after only 35 games with him in the line-up. However given the talent level of this current roster, there’s really no reason why the Nuggets should only be 3 games above .500. This was a team going into this season that was expected to compete for a Top 5 seed in the West after the Iguodala trade, instead they find themselves barley hanging on to the 8th seed. Below is a list of 5 New Year’s resolutions for the Nuggets in 2013 and some changes they could make to help live up to most fans, analysts and writers lofty pre-season expectations.
#1. Be Better Defensively – Everyone knows the Nuggets have been a fairly mediocre defensive team for some time now but, most fans expected that adding Andre Iguodala would help cure some of the defensive woes for Denver this season. Unfortunately that hasn’t happened as Denver is giving up 99.2 points per game, which makes them the 22nd ranked defense currently in the NBA. The perimeter defense for the Nuggets has also been pretty poor once again this season, Denver has given up 289 made three point shots this year, which is the 2nd most in the NBA only behind the lowly Charlotte Bobcats. The defense has shown improvement this year but, there’s still more negatives than positives on that end of the floor for the Nuggets. Someone besides Andre Iguodala needs to step up and become a leader on defense for the Nuggets, lack of communication has been a huge problem for Denver. Calling out screens, switches and rotations needs to be something the Nuggets take seriously if they want to be a prominent, good defensive team for the remainder of this season.
#2. Take Care of the Ball – The Nuggets have had a real issue over the past three seasons of taking care of the ball, committing more turnovers than most Denver fans would like to see. Right now Denver is averaging 15.5 turnovers per game, which is tied with the Golden State Warriors for 3rd most in the NBA. Andre Iguodala, Ty Lawson and Andre Miller are responsible for 7.8 of those 15.5 turnovers that Denver commits each game, all three need to improve their decision making(primarily Ty Lawson) and Iguodala needs to stop traveling so much!. Hopefully 2013 and the 2nd half of the season will be filled with far less turnovers for the Denver Nuggets, which should lead to more wins as well for the mile high crew.
#3. Make Free Throws at a Higher Rate – This one should come at no surprise to any supporter of this team, to put it nicely the Nuggets have been very bad at the free throw line this season. Now Denver does a great job of getting to the charity strike, averaging about 25 free throw attempts per game which is ranked 6th most in the NBA. However Denver makes only 68% of their free throw attempts, which is the WORST percentage from the free throw line right now for any team, with the exceptions of Andre Miller and Danilo Gallinari every Nuggets player needs to improve their free throw shooting. Bottom line shooting that low of a percentage from the free throw line and leaving that many free points on the floor is not acceptable for the Nuggets or really any professional basketball team in my opinion.
#4. Play Jordan Hamilton more, Start JaVale McGee – Most people probably won’t agree with this one but, I feel the Nuggets could be a much better team if they made these two rotational adjustments. Hamilton is one of the few guys off the bench(not named Corey Brewer) who can provide an immediate spark for Denver. He can create his own shot and is probably the most consistent three point shooter on the Nuggets at the moment given his playing time. He can be instant offense for a team who has shown a tendency to be reluctant at times to take a shot, the Nuggets play hot potato with the basketball as much if not more than any other team in the NBA. Hamilton is not afraid to shoot it, he’s not hesitant on the offensive end and if he can improve on the defensive end there’s no reason he shouldn’t be playing 18-20 minutes a game for the remainder of this season. As for starting McGee, I know this may not be a popular opinion amongst the Nuggets faithful because for whatever reason George Karl and everybody loves Kosta Koufos for being “fundamentally sound”. Yes McGee makes bonehead, head scratching, dumb decisions but he has done a great job of limiting those types of plays this season. People like Mark Kiszla, the “Inside the NBA” crew and other media members tend to always focus on the negatives with McGee and never give him credit for the improvement he has shown this season. McGee has shown an improved shooting touch, post game and patience as a defender this year, yet everyone wants to focus on a few poor plays he’s made this season. I understand Koufos is a good rebounder, physical defender and fundamentally sound player in general but, I’ve seen him get bullied and overwhelmed multiples time’s this season by opposing big man. He also misses a ton of shots at the rim, which is pretty ridiculous for someone who is a legit seven footer if you ask me. Koufos also struggles to handle the ball every time he’s pressured even just a little bit underneath the rim, personally I just don’t see how Denver is a better team with him starting. McGee is a much better athlete, finisher and offensive talent than Koufos, he also has single-handedly taken over multiple games this season(Both Miami games, Toronto, Indiana and Sacramento). McGee also averages more points and blocks than Koufos in less minutes, while having a 22.1 PER which is the highest of any Nuggets player and 15th overall. I think if George Karl would actually show some belief for once in McGee, it could go a long way in McGee’s development and pay off greatly for Denver. I don’t mean to pick on Koufos but, I feel a lot of people keep blaming McGee for the Nuggets woes which to me is really unfair. JaVale McGee should be starting at center over Kosta Koufos in my opinion, if McGee doesn’t start sooner rather than later it’s going to look really dumb of the Nuggets to have paid $44 million for a back-up center.
#5. Consider trading Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler – This again will probably be a unpopular opinion among Nuggets supporters but, the bottom line is Denver is 19-16 and the 8th seed in the West. The only guys if I’m Masai Ujiri that I don’t even consider moving at this point are Kenneth Faried and Danilo Gallinari. Ty Lawson has taken a BIG step back this season after coming off of a post season where he averaged 19 points, 6 assists a game and had three games with at least 25 points. His shooting numbers are down across the board from last season, so are his points and rebounds. His turnovers have gone up and he’s shown a lack of confidence this season, while being hesitant and picking up his dribble way too often on the offensive end. Chandler on the other hand is hurt, I understand that but he has done virtually nothing to contribute to Denver since his arrival here three seasons ago. He has only appeared in 33 games for Denver over the past three seasons and has shown a tendency to have poor shot selection. Chandler has always seemed out of place here in Denver, he hasn’t become anywhere near the player the Nuggets expected him to be at this point. He’s shown to be injury prone over the past few seasons and even though he’s hurt, the Nuggets didn’t pay him $37.5 million to only play in 33 games. If the Nuggets and Masai Ujiri can construct a package around one, or even both of these players to say land someone like Brandon Jennings, Anderson Varejo, DeMarcus Cousins, etc…than why not pull the trigger and part ways with either Lawson, Chandler or both. Denver has plenty of wing players that can replace Chandler and Andre Miller would be perfectly fine in the starting rotation if the Nuggets part ways with Lawson and don’t get a point guard in return. If we’ve learned anything as Nuggets fans it’s that Masai Ujiri is not afraid to make a move and to trust Ujiri to make the best decisions possible for the Denver Nuggets moving forward.