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2013/14 NBA Team Preview: Denver Nuggets

Season Review 2012/13:



Advanced Stats
Numbers
Rank
Pace
95.1
2
Offense
110.4
5
Defense
105.1
11
Rebound
51.5
5

4 Factors
Offense
Numbers
Rank
Defense
Numbers
Rank
eFG%
51.5
7
eFG%
49.3
13
TO%
13.6
11
TO%
14.3
8
Reb%
31.4
1
Reb%
28.2
27
FT%
21.6
9
FT%
19.3
7

Monthly Performance
Record
OffRtg
DefRtg
November
 8-9
107.7
108.4
December
 9-6
111.4
105.3
January
 12-3
111.4
106.3
February
 8-4
118.2
109.8
March
 13-2
113.3
103.5
April
 7-1
114.4
104.6


The Nuggets were supposed to be the Western Conference’s biggest outsider last season with the signing of Andre Iguodala in the offseason, while their tremendous depth would give them a huge edge during the regular season.

However, Denver started the season with an 11-12 record on the first 23 games of the regular season. But it’s important to note that their early schedule was incredibly hard with 6 home games and 17 road games! Once the Nuggets started to play at home more often, they started to crush their opponents.

The Nuggets eventually peaked in March, where they managed to have a 15-game winning streak, where Denver defeated teams like the LA Lakers, Oklahoma City, NY Knicks, Memphis, Chicago and once again Oklahoma City! Wilson Chandler was already comfortable on the team after missing the first two months of the season, something that reinforced the strength of the team’s depth, while the Nuggets had also a dynamic pressuring style on defense that was quickly transformed into easy points on offense via turnovers. In a particular stretch, the Nuggets scored 62, 50, 68 and 72 points in the paint in games against the Knicks, Memphis, Chicago and Oklahoma City!

But then in April, in a game against Dallas, Danilo Gallinari severely injured himself and missed the rest of the season. He wasn't having a particular efficient season, but his versatility was the key for all the crazy small lineups that George Karl inserted on the court, especially with Gallo at the PF position.

Still, the Nuggets managed to get the #3 seed on the Western Conference, but with an alarming record of 19-22 on the road that was compensated with an incredible league-best 38-3 home record, while also having a 28-13 ATS record in those games.

Their first round opponent on the playoffs were the Golden State Warriors in a tough matchup for the Nuggets, as the Warriors’s offense used a jump shooting style and they were also a good defensive rebounding unit, so they could expose Denver’s weaknesses in both defense, where Denver gambled too much on the perimeter to create turnovers leaving their opponents wide open (#19 on 3pts defense), and offense, where the Nuggets had been the best offensive rebounding team in the league during the regular season, but they would be facing a top defensive rebounding team this time.

The story of how that series went is well-known, as even though they won the Game 1 of the series on the last shot and with Golden State losing David Lee for the series due to injury, the Nuggets were outplayed and lost the series. Coach George Karl didn't help himself and increased his bad reputation in the playoffs of poor adjustments by abdicating from his big lineup just to match Golden State’s small ball by putting Wilson Chandler as the team’s starting center.


Offseason Report:

Even though there weren't a lot of changes in the team’s roster, the Nuggets suffered deep changes on its organization. In an unexpected way, George Karl was fired and replaced by Brian Shaw, who has finally the opportunity of being a NBA Head Coach. Then, GM Masai Ujiri departed to Toronto, added by Andre Iguodala’s decision to move to Golden State instead of continuing in Denver. Suddenly, the Nuggets lost their GM, Head Coach and the team’s most impactful player in the previous season…

Still, the Nuggets had some changes on its roster, but no newly signed player will have the impact that Andre Iguodala had on the team last season. Denver signed Nate Robinson and Randy Foye to give more depth to the backcourt, while they also got J.J. Hickson and Darrell Arthur to improve the team’s frontcourt.



Season Preview:

Unlike last season where Denver had a lot of certainty and continuity around them at the start of the season, this time they are entering the new season with a lot of question marks.

As much as Brian Shaw has a very good reputation as an assistant coach, we are still yet to see how good he is as a Head Coach. So far all teams where Shaw was in the staff were successful, so the first signs are certainly positive. He recently gave an interview, where he indicated what would be the team’s starting lineup if the season started right now:

"If we started training camp tomorrow, the starting lineup would probably be Ty Lawson, Randy Foye, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee," Shaw said.

When Shaw was at LA with the Lakers and more recently with the Pacers, these teams were built around their post players with Gasol/Bynum and Hibbert/West. I don’t know if Shaw will try to do the same thing in Denver, but I doubt that this would work with the Nuggets, as their frontcourt isn't skilled enough compared with the frontcourts of Shaw’s former teams.

After a slow start of his season that coincided with the team’s poor form as well, Ty Lawson bounced back and enjoyed a great second half of the season with 18.8 points per game, while shooting 50.4% FG. He has been the face of the basketball style that George Karl implemented in Denver, with his aggression being the key for the team’s success. I have no doubts that Shaw will take advantage of Lawson’s strengths and he won’t demand a lot of changes on Lawson’s playing style.

Denver’s backcourt will be interesting to watch, as Iguodala is gone and Gallinari will be out at least for the start of the season. Coach Karl loved to play with both Lawson and Miller on the backcourt down the stretch to have better decision making on offense, while sacrificing the team’s defense, but they had Iguodala in the lineup to compensate that. Coach Shaw will have Wilson Chandler as Gallinari’s natural replacement, with the SG position being shared between Randy Foye and Evan Fournier. Even though Foye will offer better outside shooting skills to the team, Fournier is a more complete player and sooner or later he will get most of the team’s minutes at this position.

For the frontcourt, Kenneth Faried confirmed all the indications that he had given during his rookie season, as he improved in almost every stat, in comparison to his rookie season. He played 80 games on the regular season and saw his minutes per game rise from 22.5 to 28.1! However, considering his style where he gives a maximum effort on everything, he tends to tire a bit fast during the game. If there is something that he needs to improve in the future is his stamina.

I don’t know if the Nuggets signed them already thinking on that, but J.J. Hickson’s and Darrell Arthur’s signings will give the team more depth on the frontcourt and all frontcourt players have a similar style: mobile PF’s who are good offensive rebounders, while they struggle on defense.

The team’s biggest enigma is without a doubt JaVale McGee, who has all the strengths and weaknesses that we all know. Coach Karl simply didn't trust him, as he was never a starter and logged just 18.1 minutes/game on the regular season. Coach Shaw knows how to work with talented post players, but in this case McGee would need to totally change his mental approach to the game.

The Nuggets won’t be the dominating team that they were last season. A new coach always means that some time will be required for everything to gel together and Iguodala’s absence will be a huge blow for them, as they have no natural replacement for him on the roster, especially with Gallinari’s injury. Still, we are dealing with a young team with some great talent. It will be hard for them to get a home court edge on the first round of the playoffs, but even when they achieved that in the previous seasons, they were unable to make a serious postseason run. It seems like the key for Denver’s success on the playoffs must be somewhere else.  

My name is André Gomes, I’m from Portugal and I am a Professional Handicapper. My sole purpose is to constantly beat the sportsbooks by taking advantage of the evaluation errors they make. It is most... Read more

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