Denver Nuggets Season Preview

5 10 2008

My NBA Northwest Division preview continues with the Denver Nuggets:

Denver Nuggets

2007-08 Standings 50 – 32, 8th Western Conference

2008-09 Predicted Record 42 – 40, 3rd Northwest Division, 9th Western Conference

Projected Starting Five:  Nene, Kenyon Martin, Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, Chucky Atkins

Sixth Man:  JR Smith

Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson are one of the highest scoring duo's in the NBA. Is that enough to propel the Nuggets to glory?

Anthony and Iverson are one of the highest scoring duos in the NBA

Despite a 50 win season last year never felt like a successful one for the Denver Nuggets. They scored lots of points, with Carmelo Anthony, JR Smith AND Allen Iverson it would be hard for them not to, but there was a sense of inevitability in the way they were swept by the LA Lakers in the first round.

They play basketball in an entertainingly frenetic style, more Suns/Warriors score at all cost than Celtics/Spurs lockdown defence. And it worked for them, 50 wins is a good season by anyone’s reckoning, only with Anthony and Iverson they were touted as title contenders and anything less was a failure.

So in the offseason what did they do? They traded away their best defensive player, Marcus Camby, essentially for nothing. Camby erased many of the mistakes that the Nuggets woeful defensive players made. Without him in the paint the onus falls on Nene.  I don’t think he’s up to it. Like most of his colleagues Nene seems to be all about the offence.

I have a feeling that for the Nuggets the loss of Camby will not be a catalyst to improve their defensive play but rather be a spur to score more points. Why worry about defence when you can outscore your opponent?

At least the Nuggets are well equipped to do that. Iverson continues to amaze with his ability to score points as well as his cockroach like ability to survive contact. One day you fear that the continual pounding his body takes will put him out for good but so far he has proven remarkably durable.

Anthony’s moments of immaturity are well documented and you have a sense that one day he’ll grow out of them and be an absolute stud. I can’t help wondering what he would have been if he’d been drafted by Detroit. Already Anthony is one of the more difficult cover’s in the NBA however he needs to develop at least a modicum of defensive nous.

The third scorer the Nuggets can draw on is the mercurial JR Smith. He is extremely streaky but if the streak is favouring him watch out as he score in volume quickly.

Coach:

George Karl has had success in the league. He led the Sonics to the Finals and almost guided the Milwaukee Bucks to them as well. At first he seemed a good fit with the Nuggets but now I am not so sure. If they struggle early it wouldn’t surprise me to see Karl fired.

Bench:

The Nuggets have a solid looking bench led by rising star JR Smith. Also off the bench is Linas Kleiza who has shown flashes of All Star potential. However his growth is stymied by the players ahead of him. Up front might be an issue with the Nuggets with Steven Hunter and Chris Andersen the primary backups to Nene and Kenyon Martin.

Star Player:

The Nuggets are blessed with two superstar players: Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson. Both score lots of points but display an alarming lack of defensive urgency.

Team MVP:

The Most Valuable Player on this team isn’t Anthony, Iverson or Smith rather it is former overall number one pick Kenyon Martin. For too long Martin has thrown his weight around with bully boy play only to be challenged and found wanting. If he can become the player his talent always suggested then the Nuggets will be better than advertised. I’m not betting on it.

Final Prognosis:

The Nuggets will have another whirlwind season but this year they will fall short of the playoffs. It should be the signal to blow this team up.

 

You can find an index of past Previews here.

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