New look Nuggets may have tough time repeating success
No team in the NBA lost more in the offseason than the Denver Nuggets.
Let's backtrack to where the unraveling began.
The Nuggets were upset in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs by the Golden State Warriors. It marked the ninth first-round exit in 10 consecutive postseason appearances.
The first domino to fall was Executive of the Year, general manager Masai Ujiri. He bolted for the great north to run the Toronto Raptors. Even his assistant, Pete D'Alessandro, left Denver for the general manager job with the Sacramento Kings.
The owner, Josh Kroenke, then decided to be the one making changes.
Next up, or down if you look at it that way, was reigning Coach of the Year, George Karl. After a franchise-best 57-win season, ownership wondered if Karl would be a bother with only one year to go on his contract. The brass fired him.
The last piece to leave the high altitude was Andre Iguodala, the prize acquisition of the previous offseason. He brought the wing defense and all- around play-making Karl loved. Iguodala left for the dreaded Warriors.
To sum up - the Coach of the Year, Executive of the Year and best player - all gone in one offseason.
Who's In/Who's Out
Additions: Nate Robinson, Randy Foye, Darrell Arthur, J.J. Hickson
Losses: Andre Iguodala, Corey Brewer, Kosta Koufos, Julyan Stone
New GM Tim Connelly did well to hire Brian Shaw, the hottest assistant coach on the market.
Shaw inherited a good, but no longer great, roster, thanks to the defection of Iguodala. His importance couldn't be undersold. He's a top-five wing defender in the league and his offensive versatility fit beautifully into Karl's up- tempo style.
But Iggy is gone and so is that offensive philosophy. Shaw is a disciple of Phil Jackson and spent the last two seasons on the bench of Frank Vogel and the Indiana Pacers. Neither of those squads was what you'd describe as high- octane.
Expect a Letdown
Trail Blazers (40-42)
Outside Shot At Playoffs
Fighting For Eighth
Solid Young Pieces
With a healthy Danilo Gallinari, this roster is well above-average.
Kenneth Faried will be the best starter on the frontcourt. Last season, the boundless source of energy averaged 11.5 ppg and 9.2 rpg. Those numbers could easily go up as he gets more comfortable offensively in the NBA. His rebounding (eighth in offensive boards last season) and defense make him a staple in Denver's lineup.
Ty Lawson meanwhile led the Nuggets in scoring last season. He's fast, quick and capable of scoring on his own. He always facilitated an offense that was unselfish and efficient. The talent is there to be a top-10 point guard. Here's something to like about Lawson - his scoring and assists both increased during the postseason.
The Not So Good
Andre Iguodala was the team's best palyer last season and the team did not bring anyone in that could be considered equal to his talent.
In addition to Iguodala's absence, Danilo Gallinari, one of the team's leading scorers, is not going to be ready for the start of the season after a partial ACL tear in early April.
The off guard spot is also a huge weakness for the Nuggets. Foye is the definition of adequate. Last season with the Utah Jazz, Foye only managed 10.8 ppg on 39 percent shooting. However, he did connect on 41 percent of his three-point attempts.
What To Expect
Denver could take the biggest fall of any team this season.
Iguodala is a huge loss on the floor and his move to Golden State should propel the Warriors past the Nuggets in the standings. Couple that departure with the Gallinari injury and Denver will be without two of its three best players from last season.
The on-court product will suffer, but the other major downfall for the Nuggets this season will be the loss of Karl. He is seventh in all-time coaching victories and his system brought out the best in the Denver personnel.
Can they run an up-tempo offense under Shaw? Do they even have the right players for that without Iguodala and Gallinari?
Shaw will be fine...in time. This team is probably still strong enough to make the postseason, but the Nuggets won't finish higher than the seventh seed.