Saturday, September 13, 2014

2014 Offseason winners: Denver Nuggets

Denver Nuggets 2014 offseason
Back to the Rockies
2013-2014 record: 36-46

The Denver Nuggets had a tough campaign in 2013-2014. The front office was shaken up, Brian Shaw came over from the Pacers to replace George Karl, and do-it-all forward Andre Iguodala (acquired from the 76ers in the Dwight Howard trade) was shipped to the Warriors. Add already-recovering Italian stud Danilo Gallinari and season-ending injuries to Javale McGee, sparkplug Nate Robinson and J.J. Hickson to the equation, and you can see why the Nugs weren't necessarily clicking on all cylinders. With a healthy core and the addition of Arron Afflalo (shipped to the Magic in the Dwight Howard trade), Shaw's Denverians should be much better in Year 2.

Denver's deep roster remains largely intact, with speedy point guard Ty Lawson (17.6 PPG and 8.8 APG in 2013-2014), Team USA standout Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler and J.J. Hickson likely making up 4/5ths of this season's starting lineup. Until Danilo Gallinari, who has been out since March 2013 with an ACL injury, returns to form, that is. That means their bench would consist of last year's golden nugget Randy Foye (who averaged 13.3 PPG and netted 189 long-range bombs), Nate Robinson, Russian center Timofey Mozgov, forward Darrell Arthur, Shaqtin-A-Fool alumn Javale McGee, and forward Quincy Miller.

Sure, Aaron Brooks has joined the Chicago Bulls and former No. 6 pick Jan Vesely decided to sign with Fenerbahçe Ülker in Turkey, but their production should easily be replaced if health permits it. The team's biggest move? Bringing back lost son Arron Afflalo, their former starting shooting guard who was toiling away as the leading scorer on a bad Magic squad. He can shoot, defend the perimeter and should prove an immediate upgrade over Frenchie Evan Fournier, whom the Nugs traded for him. Rookies Gary Harris (No. 19), Jusuf Nurkic (No. 16), Jerrelle Benimon and Erick Green (No. 46 in 2013) will probably see limited time.

2014-2015 prediction:

No splashy additions here, but with their core guys healthy and the addition of talented shooting guard Arron Afflalo, the Nuggets should be able to win 50-some games and make some noise in the playoffs. Let's hope that Year 2 of Brian Shaw/GM Tim Connelly will be a lot more fruitful. Their tough team-first approach resulted in a 57-25 record and a third seed in the Western Conference in 2012-2013, and there's not a doubt in my mind that the Nuggets can return to that level.

Update: The Nuggets have signed free agent forward Alonze Gee, adding even more defense and athleticism on the wing.

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