ESPN.com has released their projected finish for the Western Conference today and I have a bone to pick with the writer’s at the “Mother Ship”. How can they, with (hopefully) sound mind and body, pick the Nuggets to finish with only 2 more wins than last year? They have projected the Nuggets record to be 38-44 for next season even though the Nuggets won 36 games last year with JaVale McGee, Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson, J.J. Hickson and Nate Robinson missing large chunks or all of the season. With a fully healthy roster including Gallinari, McGee and Robinson, the acquisition of a much improved Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson healthy for an entire season, I don’t see any way that the Nuggets can’t win at least 45-50 games. We have to keep in mind that, save for Andre Igoudala, this is much the same roster that won 57 games in 2012-2013. I think the main reason they are projecting the Nuggets so low is because they have bigger doubts than I do that the players mentioned above return from injury at 100% and in good form by the time the season starts.
Gallinari for one should be ready to go. He has missed over a full season and hasn’t been on an NBA court since April of 2013 so he should be completely healed and well rested for the long haul of this year’s 82 game season. Obviously McGee is the wild card here. Even if he is fully healed from his injury, will he make that leap ahead that the Nuggets have been waiting for since they signed him to the 40 million dollar contract after the 2012 season? I’m not convinced that he will, but we have to hold out hope. Afflalo makes the Nuggets better right off the bat because not only has he increased his scoring average for the last 3 seasons, he is a plus defender on the perimeter and will change the way the Nuggets play defense out by the 3 point line. He can take away scorers and shooters and allow Lawson, who is not a great man-on-man defender, to get steals from the weak side and guard the lesser of their opponents two guards.
Everyone has an opinion on these things at this time of year, but I am going to respectfully disagree with the writers at the worldwide leader and predict a 49-33 record and the 7th seed in the Western Conference. Check back after training camp to see how much I change my tune after seeing the players in action and what the final roster, starting line-up and bench look like.