The Denver Nuggets were 2 games away from being in the NBA Finals
two seasons ago and their high expectations were pretty legit going for
the last season.
Admittedly they wanted to win it all last season, but in doing so
they would have to enjoy another lucky injury-free season. Unfortunately
that didn’t happen and the Nuggets simply didn’t have the proper depth
to endure in such a long season. Carmelo Anthony missed 11 games;
Chauncey Billups missed 9 games and Kenyon Martin missed 24 games.
Curiously it was Nene Hilario who started all the 82 games during the
regular season. Heck, even head coach George Karl went down, as he was
diagnosed with neck and throat cancer and missed the later stage of the
Once again they were a super team at home with the second best home
record in the league: 34-7, but they were the only Western Conference
team that went to the playoffs with a losing record on the road: 19-22!
Without Karl to coach and with several players completely out of
form, the Nuggets ended the regular season playing an inconsistent
basketball and in the playoffs, they couldn’t keep up the pace against
the Jazz and were defeated in their own game: high octane offensive
From the last season, there aren’t many positive things to tell
about the Nuggets. Nene remained healthy, Billups and Kenyon Martin are
one year older, but Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith failed to deliver a
consistent season and that ultimately haunted the Nuggets.
2009/10 Advanced Stats:
Pace 5th 98.3
Offense 4th 108.3
Defense 15th 104.2
Rebounds 23rd -0.93
Projected Depth Chart:
PG: Chauncey Billups, Ty Lawson, Anthony Carter
SG: Arron Afflalo, J.R. Smith
SF: Carmelo Anthony, Renaldo Balkman
PF: Al Harrington, Kenyon Martin, Shelden Williams
C: Nene Hilario, Chris Andersen
Admittedly, the Denver Nuggets season preview is the most difficult one for me to write due to the Carmelo Anthony situation.
Will he stay and sign a new contract with the Nuggets? Unlikely! He
has been involved in several trade rumors with the most noticeably a
four-team deal involving Denver, New Jersey, Utah and Charlotte. He has
already made some comments about his desire to go to Chicago or New
York, but neither team has (or is wiling to give up) the pieces that it
would take to get Denver to bite, so will Carmelo stay in Denver only
for this season just to leave in the free agency period?
Despite all the controversy, Carmelo is still one of the best
scorers of his generation in this league, however we are still waiting
for him to take the next step. Last season he averaged 28.2 points per
game, while shooting 45.8% from the field and hitting 83% from the
charity stripe, but for the third consecutive season his rebounds and
assists numbers have decreased and this has prevented him of being an
all around player. Instead, Carmelo is an offensive lethal weapon that
doesn’t have much more to offer other than his ability to score. Bottom
line: Denver has only made it out of the first round of the Playoffs
once in Anthony’s seven years in the NBA, so is he a real cornerstone
for an organization?
The Nuggets didn’t make any substantial movements in this offseason
other than signing Al Harrington from the New York Knicks. Harrington is
supposed to provide some additional firepower on the offensive end as
he has some offensive skills and a nice mid range jump shot with him,
however his decision making has been questionable at best. In the last 3
seasons he failed to hit the 45% mark from the field, while he has
attempted almost six 3pointers per game! With Carmelo on the court,
Harrington is suited to play at the Power Forward (he will start at PF
due to Kenyon Martin’s injury), but he is a poor rebounder and a bad
overall defensive player. After playing some seasons for perennial
losing franchises, this is a good opportunity for him to establish in
With or without Carmelo, the truly leader of this team is Chauncey
Billups. He’s coming off of a career-high 19.5 points per game because
he took on a bigger role as a scorer to help compensating the Nuggets
lack of offensive firepower, but on the other side, he shot only 41.8%
from the field and his assists numbers decreased for a below mark of
6apg. Basically Billups did everything that the organization asked him
to do and that’s something characteristic of a true leader. However,
let’s not forget that he is 34-years old and last season he failed 9
games in which the Nuggets went 3-6 in those games.
The Nuggets must monitor Billups minutes during the regular season
and they have a good reason to do so in Ty Lawson. This kid has
tremendous speed and a good court vision that turned him into an instant
game changer when he entered the court. Because Billups got injured,
he was a starter in 8 games and averaged 17 points, 5.9 assists and
1.13 steals per game, while shooting 56.6% from the field! We can say
that Lawson was one of the “steals” of the draft last season and the
Nuggets took advantage of it.
Georgle Karl is using his starting Shooting Guard as being mostly a
defensive minded player and after Dahntay Jones, Aaron Afflalo was a
nice surprise last season. Despite having a merely residual role on the
offense end, Afflalo took his chances and averaged career-highs in
points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, field-goal percentage and
three-point percentage! Plus he is a good defensive wing player like
Jones was with a Nugget uniform, so the organization did a nice job in
dealing this issue last season.
J.R. Smith was the 6th man coming off the bench and his role will be
exactly the same for this season. He posted nearly identical numbers in
back-to-back seasons for the Nuggets even though his FG%, 3pts% and
FT% numbers decreased and these aren’t good news when we are talking
about a player that is good in only one facet of the game: shooting.
Smith is yet to get rid of his notably inconsistency that is torching
him through his career. Do you want one example? Last season against
the Hawks at home, Smith shot 15-25 from the field scoring 41 points in
just 30 minutes. In the following 3 games Smith shot 13-44 from the
field – a 29.5% mark!
Last season while Kenyon Martin was healthy, the Nuggets were a
terrific and powerful team that plays with aggressiveness in both ends
of the floor. When he got injured in March, the Nuggets never looked the
same team and in my opinion this was the biggest reason of the Nuggets
debacle late in the season and in the playoffs. He is entering the
last year of his contract and with the Nuggets signing Al Harrington,
maybe the organization is not counting with him for the future.
Nevertheless, Martin has been as instrumental in the successes and (his
absences) failures of the Nuggets in the last years. When healthy, he
can guard four positions on the court, he’s a strong rebounder and a
good shot blocker. His durability is questionable, but the Nuggets need
badly him to have a successful season.
By speaking in durability, Nenê Hilario had a hell of season, as he
played all 82 games during the regular season. Note that between 04-05
and 07-08 (3 seasons) he played…81 games for the Nuggets, so this mark
is truly remarkable. He rarely takes bad shots as in the last 2 seasons
he shot 60 and 59% from the field and his steals per game numbers are
pretty good for a center. With 28 years old, Nenê is on his prime and
the Nuggets have in him a valuable piece for the present and eventually
for a potential trade opportunity. Birdman Chris Andersen had another
solid season coming off the bench and we can expect him to carry his
energetic play to the court once again this season.
The potential outcome of this team for this season will depend of
the Carmelo Anthony destination. With him in Denver and focused
exclusively in playing, the Nuggets are an almost lock to win 50 games
or more like they did since Billups is there, however without him the
doubts persists because there is no guarantee that the Nuggets will
receive a fair trade assets.