2015-16 NBA Record: 33-49
Additions: Jamal Murray (draft), Juan Hernangomez (draft), Malik Beasley (draft)
Subtractions: D.J. Augustin (Orlando Magic), Joffrey Lauvergne (traded to Oklahoma City Thunder)
Projected Starting Line-up (via rotoworld.com)
PG – Emmanuel Mudiay
SG – Gary Harris
SF – Danilo Gallinari
PF – Kenneth Faried
C – Nikola Jokic
It seems like a long time ago when Denver were in the George Karl era, being led by Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried and Andre Iguodala. Rewind back a few years before that when they had Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson taking over the West. Now, the Nuggets are in a rebuilding phase, with the young roster trying to get accustomed to coach Mike Malone’s system. This offseason they added three 1st-round picks during the NBA Draft in Jamal Murray, Juan Hernangomez and Malik Beasley. The additions of Murray and Beasley will help a young backcourt containing Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris and Will Barton. Injuries were a big factor last year, but even with a healthy team, don’t expect Denver to make noise in the Western Conference.
Danilo Gallinari will look to be the team’s first option on offense, as he led the team in points per game last season (19.5). Last year’s first-round pick, Emmanuel Mudiay, is the top play-maker on this team, leading all rookies in the NBA last season in assists (5.5). Mudiay showed flashes of brilliance in the 2015-16 season, but will need to be more efficient on offense and develop into a true floor general, which he has the potential to become. Meanwhile, this year’s first-round picks are great additions to the team. Jamal Murray is a score-first combo guard whose style should mesh well with a play-maker like Mudiay, while Hernangomez showed impressive athleticism and a great shooting range for a big man in the pre-draft workouts, which led to him being drafted #15 overall. Denver should be excited about the development of international big men Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic. Jokic was a second-round pick last year whose efficiency on offense saw him make his way into the starting line-up. He finished third in double-doubles among rookies (16), only behind Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis, and was third in Rookie of the Year voting, which led to him being named in the All-Rookie First Team. Nurkic provides a high energy on the defensive end when coming off the bench. Last season, he averaged 1.4 blocks and 0.8 steals in just 17.1 minutes per game, meaning he could potentially develop into a defensive force in the years to come with more minutes. Despite being a young side, the veteran presence of Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, Jameer Nelson and Mike Miller will help keep this team in check. Chandler especially is a player they need back after not playing a single game last season due to a laberal tear in his right hip. The real MVP of this team however, is GM Tim Connelly, who has done a nice job of trading players for draft picks, as evidenced in the 2016 draft, when they had three 1st rounders. This team has some nice pieces at the moment, but are still waiting to get that franchise cornerstone from either the draft or free agency. Connelly isn’t afraid to package some young players for a franchise guy, which shows he’s done a phenomenal job with this rebuilding stage.
The Nuggets have missed the playoffs the last three years, after making the post-season in the ten consecutive years before that. Under Mike Malone, the Nuggets ran up and down the court more and is a side that can push the ball and rebound well. However, because they have a young team, they struggle on defense and offensive efficiency. That means that this season will be another developmental year for Denver rather than focusing on making the playoffs and Mike Malone is definitely the right coach to lead the Nuggets through this rebuilding phase. As well as that, their division seems to be more competitive with the Timberwolves and Jazz growing and the Thunder and Trail Blazers maintaining their grip at the top of the Northwest which means Denver will be at the bottom this season. One thing to look out for is whether general manager Connelly will try and trade one of his veteran players for draft picks or young talent later in the year. As evidenced by his aggressiveness last season, it seems to be a given this year.
Predcition: 5th place in Northwest Division