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View Full Version : [Nuggets] Hollinger's Denver Nuggets Forecast for 2012-2013



Broncoholic3233
10-09-2012, 01:20 PM
Overview:

Whooooosh!

Here come the Nuggets, ready or not, hell-bent on trying to prove you can win big without a superstar, and doing it with one of the most unique attacks in basketball: a turbo-paced, foul-drawing, defense-carving firestorm that needs only an elite shooter or two to be the best one in the game ... yes, even without a superstar.

Denver general manager Masai Ujiri has done an amazing job of rebuilding, turning the Carmelo Anthony-Chauncey Billups-Nene Nuggets into a 12-deep outfit that somehow has a payroll of just $63 million. Adding Andre Iguodala this summer to what was already the league's most potent open-court team makes the Nuggets scary interlopers in the presumed Thunder-Spurs-Lakers hierarchy in the West (more on that in a minute).

In the meantime, one can't help but be impressed with all the roster flexibility the Nuggets have maintained while building this juggernaut. They should be able to keep this group together for several years, if they choose, while staying under the luxury tax. But they also are in a position in which they could lump together multiple assets for a genuine star -- the Melo trade in reverse, if you will, except with better terms.

The defense was the biggest obstacle last season, but acquiring one of the league's best wing defenders in Iguodala will go a long way toward remedying that deficiency. So will the return of Wilson Chandler from a lost 2011-12 season, and another year of experience for the young frontcourt combo of Kosta Koufos and Kenneth Faried.

We need to talk more about these two. Koufos might be the single most underrated player in the league at this point (and, better yet, is signed for just $3 million for each of the next three seasons), while Faried's high-energy game made him one of the league's most impactful rookies. Each started for only half the season, but both should be fixtures going forward.

Denver also has some other potential sources of breakout years. Off the bench, tantalizing but frustrating shot-blockers Anthony Randolph and JaVale McGee offer intrigue; McGee, in particular, seemed like he was turning the corner at the end of last season. So do the Nuggets' past two first-rounders, Jordan Hamilton and Evan Fournier.

2011-12 Recap:

http://a.espncdn.com/photo/2012/0202/nba_g_lawson_miller_b1_576.jpg

The big-picture view is a great start, a wobbly middle and an encouraging ending that saw the Nuggets take the Lakers to seven games in the first round of the playoffs. Look closer, though, and you'll see it more as an exercise in quick thinking that got Denver out of a couple of tight spots cap-wise. The Nuggets overpaid to keep two key players, Nene and Arron Afflalo, but both disappointed last season -- Nene by sitting out with minor injuries, Afflalo by shirking the defense that had made him a rotation player in the first place. Saddled with a five-year commitment to each that would take up a third of the salary cap, the Nuggets moved Nene at the trade deadline and Afflalo after the season (more on that below).

HOLLINGER'S '11-12 STATS
W-L: 38-28 (Pythagorean W-L: 41-25)
Offensive Efficiency: 106.5 (3rd)
Defensive Efficiency: 103.4 (19th)
Pace Factor: 96.6 (2nd)
Highest PER: Kenneth Faried (21.94)

Meanwhile, the statistical story was an overpowering offense making up (usually) for an overly permissive defense. The Nuggets ranked third in offensive efficiency by relentlessly attacking the basket, finished second in the league in free throw rate and led the league by a wide margin in 2-point shooting percentage (see chart). Ty Lawson's breakneck speed was the catalyst, but Andre Miller also thrived in the up-tempo game, and in the half court, Danilo Gallinari was an aggressive foul magnet. (Commonly described as a long-range shooting specialist, Gallinari has not shot particularly well as a Nugget, but he has drawn fouls by the bushel.)

2-point FG% Leaders, 2011-12
Team 2-pt FG%
Denver 52.2
Oklahoma City 50.9
San Antonio 50.7
Miami 49.6
Phoenix 49.4

Once active bigs who can finish, such as Faried and Koufos and blazing wing Corey Brewer, got in the lineup, the Nuggets doubled down in this department. Al Harrington helped in the half court with a Fluke Rule season, and Afflalo had his best offensive season.

In the end, the only reason Denver wasn't the league's best offense was that it couldn't make 3s. The Nuggets hit only 33.3 percent from behind the arc, 24th best in the league, and the departed Afflalo was the only regular to make more than a third of his tries. This, obviously, is a lingering problem heading into 2012-13, and the hope is that Iguodala (39.4 percent last season but just 33.1 percent in his career) and improvement from Gallinari can provide enough floor spacing to continue the Nuggets' full-scale assault on the rim. As for the defense, the Nuggets simply must get better at this end. In particular, their 3-point defense was a complete disaster. Denver was last in both preventing 3-point attempts and forcing misses on them; opponents took more than a quarter of their shots from beyond the arc and shot a blistering 38.3 percent from there (see chart).

Worst 3-point Defenses, 2011-12
Team Opp 3A/FGA Rank Opp 3-pt. % Rank
Denver .267 30 .383 30
Miami .250 28 .363 26
Golden State .236 21 .365 28
L.A. Clippers .247 27 .365 27
New York .236 22 .359 23
League average .226 .349

To understand how far Denver was outside the norm here, consider that the difference between the Nuggets (571 3-pointers allowed) and No. 29 Miami was greater than the difference between 29th and fifth. A merely average 3-point defense would have saved Denver about two points per game and put it at the league average overall.

This was partly because the Nuggets liked to junk things up at times and play Harrington at center, which necessitated copious double-teaming in the paint. That won't be an option this season, nor should it be with three playable centers. But Denver also needs to tighten up its wing defense (where Iguodala should be a huge upgrade on Afflalo) and match up better in transition -- difficult, yes, when the Nuggets are racing upcourt and the guards are constantly penetrating, but also essential.

Broncoholic3233
10-09-2012, 01:21 PM
Offseason Moves:

http://a.espncdn.com/photo/2012/0929/nba_g_iggy11_576.jpg

Denver was involved in one blockbuster trade, but otherwise it was a fairly quiet offseason, as the Nuggets sought to build on an encouraging 2011-12.

Traded Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington and a 2014 first-rounder for Andre Iguodala: While one can argue the Nuggets shouldn't have helped the Lakers get Dwight Howard, it's easier to stomach by looking at how much they helped themselves. This was a great deal, allowing them to dump their two worst contracts in exchange for the shorter commitment to Iguodala while also upgrading their single most glaring weakness (wing defense) with a player whose open-court excellence should fit in perfectly.

Let Rudy Fernandez go, drafted Evan Fournier, Quincy Miller and Izzet Turkyilmaz: Fernandez was basically biding his time until he could go back to Spain, and in his place the Nuggets insert the Frenchman Fournier. He is unlikely to play much this year and replicates Denver's other weaknesses -- a perimeter marksman he ain't -- but his scoring skill will keep him in the league somewhere. As for Miller, he was a strong value play in the second round, but as with Fournier the payoff is likely down the road rather than immediate. Turkyilmaz is a project big who will stay overseas.

Signed Wilson Chandler for five years, $31 million: Technically this happened last spring, but we can talk about it now since it primarily affects the coming season. While the shortened first season and the non-guaranteed last effectively make this a three-year, $21 million deal, it's still a potential problem. Chandler played terribly when he came back from China last season, and the Nuggets have a logjam of athletic-but-erratic small forwards that they need to parlay into another skill player or two. He's a fine player and the contract isn't outrageous in a vacuum, but I'm not sure he's a great fit here. Ideally, he'll play well enough in the first half of the season for Denver to package him at midseason and get a piece that's more complementary to the existing nucleus.

Re-signed JaVale McGee for four years, $44 million: The Nuggets knew they'd be paying McGee when they traded Nene for him at the deadline, but they saved a few ducats and got a bit more youth and upside on the exchange. Denver is paying for potential here -- yes, McGee had a great PER last season, but his defensive stats are suspect (great shot-blocking, lots of opponent baskets in between) and his basketball IQ needs to make some serious progress to justify the contract. All that said, virtually any team in this situation would have done the same thing; 7-footers with McGee's physical gifts don't grow on trees.

Re-signed Andre Miller for three years, $14.6 million: Miller's decline last season was a bit worrying, but the Nuggets shielded themselves with a mostly non-guaranteed third season that could become a very valuable trade chip. (Fun fact: Among Koufos, Miller and Chandler, the Nuggets potentially have about $7 million in non-guaranteed money to put into trades in both 2015 and 2016. We're a couple of years out, but keep an eye on this.)

Used amnesty on Chris Andersen; signed Anthony Randolph for three years, $5 million: It was a bit surprising to see the Nuggets use the amnesty on Andersen, as he was pretty good when he played last season and there were no genuine savings because they were over the cap and under the tax. However, Andersen was the only amnesty-eligible player on whom it was at all plausible for them to use it, and they needed the roster spot more than they needed a fourth center. They probably were hoping another team would claim Andersen and save them a few bucks, but nobody did.

As for Randolph, he amounts to a bargain upside play. The hope is that he can provide Denver with a genuine backup 4 to replace Harrington while cashing in on his considerable potential in an up-tempo environment that should play to his strengths. Randolph has been an immensely frustrating player, but at this price and at this length, the Nuggets give themselves relatively little downside and a potentially huge upside.

2012-13 Outlook:

http://a.espncdn.com/photo/2012/1003/nba_g_faried_cr_576.jpg

Yes, that would be me leading the Nuggets' bandwagon again. (At least, if Kevin Pelton doesn't steal the reins.) Everybody is sleeping on this team, which is almost understandable given all the news out of L.A. But look at this roster: In the regular season in particular, I expect the Nuggets to be a hellish opponent with an explosive offense, enviable depth and one of the league's most improved defenses.

My main concern is the 3-point shooting. Iguodala is likely to regress from the 39.4 percent he shot from 3 last season, and nobody save Gallinari has any track record of shooting effectively from outside. Second-year pro Jordan Hamilton might be of some help here, particularly if Denver opts to play small with Gallinari at the 4 for long stretches.

But otherwise, it's tough to argue with an attack led by Lawson and Miller and in which all 10 rotation players can score. There's no traditional "go-to" guy, and that might cause a few problems with the crunch-time offense. But Gallinari had an All-Star caliber start to last season, and if he stays healthy, he could become more of a focal point this season.

Besides, any focus here is eyeballing the wrong side of the floor. Denver had an awesome offense in 2011-12 without 3-point shooting or a go-to guy, so apparently it's not a big deal. The bigger limitation is at the defensive end, which is why the Iguodala move is so exciting. Denver was only 19th in defensive efficiency last season, but getting one of the league's best defensive players should improve that ranking considerably. So, too, will development from the Nuggets' younger players, particularly the frontcourt combination of Faried and Koufos.

The Nuggets will challenge for the top seed in the West, but things get more problematic for this team in the postseason, in which a deep bench is of less value than raw star power. Nonetheless, if I were going to drop a few dollars in Vegas on a long shot to win the title, this would absolutely be my play. More likely, the Nuggets won't survive more than a round against the West's heavy hitters come playoff time. Nonetheless, Ujiri and company have done a fantastic job of building a young, cap-friendly, long-term contender from the ashes of the Melo trade. Ignore Denver at your peril.


Prediction: 59-23, 1st in Northwest, 2nd in Western Conference

Hollinger ESPN Article (http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/preview2012/story/_/page/hollinger-den-forecast/denver-nuggets-outlook)

DenverBlood
10-09-2012, 01:33 PM
Great read. I love the optomism but it makes me nervous coming form Hollinger. I do like him but he seems to always get the Northwest wrong in his predictions.

Here's hoping he gets it right this year. :goz:

Broncoholic3233
10-09-2012, 01:37 PM
It really was a great read.

Don't agree with him about Kosta, but if I'm wrong I'll admit it. I don't see what he or GK see in Kosta...not at all.

I'm so freaking excited for this season...even without Afflalo. :(

The Experience
10-09-2012, 01:50 PM
Hollinger knows basketball as well as any other analyst. It's hard to disagree with him. It's a make or break year for Coach Karl. I have 100% faith in him.

nic.zeman24
10-09-2012, 01:53 PM
Good read. I think Ty will take up some 3 point shooting slack. He improved throughout last season.

I also dont know what they see in KK, but if they see something I hope they are right.

johnlimburg
10-09-2012, 06:44 PM
Great read and I think we will do great this season. However I don't see a post game on this team and it is scary. Yes we want to run but at times you need to play half court basketball and without a post game it hurts us. Javale Mcgee didn't show any improvment at all in this area in the first pre season game and he looked to try and force the issue and it resulted in 0 baskets if I remember correctly. I still can't believe the money he was paid but I guess it is a trend to over pay players in the NBA these days.

I am excited for Anthony Randolph. His mid range game is great if the first pre season games is him as a player. He also is a good rebounder and brings plenty of energy. I think the second unit of this team is going to be really good. Miller, Hamilton, Chandler, Randolph and Mcgee. That is nice. And Mosgov better get playing time as well. He is a good defender and has some moves down low. Plus he can step away from the basket and hit a jump shot to.

nic.zeman24
10-09-2012, 07:01 PM
Great read and I think we will do great this season. However I don't see a post game on this team and it is scary. Yes we want to run but at times you need to play half court basketball and without a post game it hurts us. Javale Mcgee didn't show any improvment at all in this area in the first pre season game and he looked to try and force the issue and it resulted in 0 baskets if I remember correctly. I still can't believe the money he was paid but I guess it is a trend to over pay players in the NBA these days.

I am excited for Anthony Randolph. His mid range game is great if the first pre season games is him as a player. He also is a good rebounder and brings plenty of energy. I think the second unit of this team is going to be really good. Miller, Hamilton, Chandler, Randolph and Mcgee. That is nice. And Mosgov better get playing time as well. He is a good defender and has some moves down low. Plus he can step away from the basket and hit a jump shot to.

I only got to watch the highlights so I couldnt tell how well Faried played on the post. I know he had 18 points so I hope at least some of them came with his back to the basket.

Atwnbroncfan
10-09-2012, 09:03 PM
Hollinger is always riding the Nuggets. I love my team, but winning the division and taking 2nd in the west seems like a tall task.

Broncoholic3233
10-09-2012, 09:05 PM
We are as deep as anyone.

We can match up with pretty much everyone now.

This team is very capable of winning the division...even with the competition in the West.

BluenOrnge4Life
10-09-2012, 11:29 PM
Love it! I'm pumped for the season to start... I just wish I could watch the preseason games!

InElwayWeTrust
10-09-2012, 11:58 PM
Great read, thanks for posting. Can't wait for this season!


Also, that pic of Faried with the pick-axes is freakin awesome. :D

Houshmazode
10-10-2012, 12:13 PM
Good article thanks for posting.


Hollinger is always riding the Nuggets. I love my team, but winning the division and taking 2nd in the west seems like a tall task.
That's what I thought too. I would say 3rd or 4th, too many good teams.

I agreed with just about everything but him saying Birdman was good when he played last season. He was a wasted roster spot and that was almost as good of a move as getting Iguodala.

Didn't really agree with them giving McGee that much either but he's a decent player and has a ton of room to improve. He also worked with Hakeem Olajuwon in the offseason and our coaching staff seems to do pretty good mentoring and coaching young players.

Wasn't aware that our long-range shooting was that bad last season but I guess it makes sense. Jordan Hamilton should get a lot more playing time imo, he always looked good the little that he played last year.