Firing a head coach and trading a lottery pick was not how the 2014-15 Denver Nuggets want to be remember but here we are. Last year, they watched Brian Shaw fail to motive the roster after compiling 20 wins in their first 59 games. Changes were made shortly after and the season was the first step in rebuilding. Seeing as they would not be making the playoffs, the Nuggets traded Timofey Mosgov, Arron Afflalo, Alonzo Gee and JaVale Mcgee within 40 days of each other and started to officially overhaul the roster. They missed the playoffs for the second straight year and headed into the offseason looking for a new coach and a new star.
Key Offseason Additions: Emmanuel Mudiay, Nikola Radicevic, Kostas Papanikolaou
Key Offseason Losses: Ty Lawson
The Nuggets signed Mike Malone, who was unjustly fired from the Sacramento Kings last season. They parted ways with Ty Lawson (who got into more off court troubles with the law), let Arron Afflalo walk and drafted a young point guard who has potential to be one of the better players in the league. I would not be surprised to see the front office move Danilo Gallinari or Wilson Chandler prior to the deadline to help free up cap space and acquire more draft picks as they look to rebuild from scratch.
It may be safe to say that Hickson’s better days are behind him. He had a good season with Portland when he saw his playing time increase. In Portland he had the highest ORtg of his career (113) and saw his Drtg go down to 106 (previous 108). The worry that Nugget fans should have is his production per 36 minutes dropped since coming to town. If he can get back to rebounding and running the floor, he should be a nice asset who could potentially get moved to a contender come the trade deadline.
The saddest part about the Nuggets to me is how Kenneth Faried seems to be regressing each year. We watched his ORtg start at 123 (rookie year) and decrease every season to last year’s 111. His defensive rating was respectable the first two seasons but now sits at his career high of 106. His Per 36 numbers have also decreased in terms of scoring and defense while his shooting percentages took a drop (outside of free throw percentage). Heading into his 5th year with a new extension, it will be time for one of the only assets this team has to show something. Although coaching and roster changes play an important factor in his regression, he also needs to get back to being the Manimal.
It was a toss up for the third player to highlight for me here. I could have picked Gallo here as I believe could be a better player but he has not been able to stay healthy. Instead, I picked “The Brother From DePaul” (please help me get Basketball Reference to add this to his profile) as he is coming into his 10th season which includes a couple of bounce back years since his injury in 2011-12. Wilson Chandler may end up leading the team in scoring this year (due to the terrible roster). This team will need his veteran leadership to help the young guys and he will be asked to play a range of positions due to the make-up of the roster. It’s going to be a tough year but hopefully Wilson can get to a fast start and generate some value for Tim Connelly to work with.
Most exciting player to watch: Emmanuel Mudiay
Now the main reason I will be tuning into Nugget games this year is because of this kid, Emmanuel Mudiay. He is my darkhouse for Rookie of the year. Here are some other players that are up for the Rookie of the Year award. Emmanuel took the unconventional path to the NBA by playing overseas instead of heading to college. I happen to like when players make this move because it gets them ready for the professional schedule of traveling and living in a new city opposed to being catered and sheltered by a university. Emmanuel Mudiay will have some growing pains and will have adjust to the professional game.
Prediction: 30- 52
You can’t expect playoffs and you can’t expect a winning season out of this current roster. The only expectation is to see the younger players develop and play hard on a nightly basis for Coach Malone. It will be up to the General Manager and ownership to try to improve this roster during the season but look for them to be back into the lottery next year to try to draft a couple more pieces to put around Mudiay and Faried as the Nuggets move forward in search of their identity.
Check out some other previews for the Nuggets: