Playoffs: Lost in first round to Los Angeles Lakers (7 games)
Draft picks: Evan Fournier, Quincy Miller, Izzet Turkyilmaz
Signings/trades: Andre Iguodala, Anthony Randolph, Anthony Carter, Ben Uzoh
Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Rudy Fernandez, Chris Andersen
Projected starting lineup
C: JaVale McGee
PF: Kenneth Faried
SF: Danilo Gallinari
SG: Andre Iguodala
PG: Ty Lawson
What to expect
The Denver Nuggets surprised many during the 2012 NBA playoffs, pushing the Lakers to seven games in the first round. It was more of the same for the Nuggets, though, being a team with enough talent and depth to give a superior squad problems but not enough star power to actually prevail.
Denver made a relatively big splash over the summer, acquiring Iguodala in the four-team deal that sent Dwight Howard to Los Angeles. Iguodala should fit in very well with the Nuggets, as they are essentially a better version than his former team (the Philadelphia 76ers) offensively. He will also provide them with top-notch defense on the perimeter, and although Afflalo was a very good defender, he isn't on the same level as Iggy.
As for the rest of the Nuggets, they will be very exciting to watch this season, once again.
Faried captured the hearts of basketball fans everywhere with his extraordinary rookie year in 2012, and look for him to build on that this season. The kid has "future All-Star" written all over him. It will also be interesting to continue to monitor Lawson's progression, as he quietly developed into one of the league's best point guards last season.
Denver also has a budding young star in McGee who, if he keeps his head on straight, could become a top-five center within the next couple of years. His blend of size and mind-boggling athleticism is a rare commodity in the NBA, and when you throw in his ability to handle the ball on top of that, you realize just how much potential this kid really has.
The Nuggets are undoubtedly one of the deepest teams in the league, especially taking into consideration that Wilson Chandler will now be back for a full season.
The question is: Will that depth be enough to get them past the first round of the playoffs? Also, will they be able to generate offense consistently within the halfcourt set, or will they have to depend too much on getting out in the open floor?
Key player: McGee
While Lawson still has room to improve, he already took that "next step" in becoming a steady contributor for Denver, so he is not the key here. The key is McGee.
McGee has displayed flashes of brilliance over the course of his four-year career, but he has not been able to develop any sort of continuity. Will he be able to do that this season?
One thing he needs to work on is his defense. While the 24-year-old has become one of the game's best shot blockers, he isn't a very good one-on-one defender in the post. That said, he certainly has the tools to turn into one. He is long and, as already mentioned, extremely athletic, so he could absolutely morph into an elite interior defender as he matures.
McGee also needs to work on his low-post offense, but he has had his moments which signify that he is improving. It's hard to imagine him not becoming at least serviceable down there, either, as he is incredibly agile and is simply bigger and longer than most other players in the league. It's just a matter of developing a go-to move.
All things considered, watch out for McGee this year. He is a legitimate candidate for Most Improved Player of the Year honors. The kid averaged 18 points and 10.1 rebounds per 36 minutes in 20 games with the Nuggets in 2012. If he gets starter minutes this year (and he should), expect him to approach those numbers.
Much like McGee, Randolph has all the talent in the world and has yet to really harness it. As a matter of fact, Randolph has more raw ability than JaVale does.
Still only 23, Randolph has shown the ability to do anything and everything out on the floor. He can shoot, he can handle the rock, he can pass and he can play defense. There is no questioning his level of talent. It's his attitude that has caused him to be dumped by three teams in four years.
Here is some food for thought, though: Over the course of his career, Randolph has averaged 17.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per 36 minutes. Now I completely understand that per 36 statistics do not give pinpoint measurements of a player's effectiveness, but it's definitely something to note.
The good news for Randolph is that Denver complements his style of play very well. He should succeed in the uptempo offense that the Nuggets run. Although he will likely have to fight for playing time, George Karl will give him solid minutes if he performs well.
Look for Randolph to finally break out in 2012-13.
Seed: Sixth to eighth
Playoffs: One and done
As deep as Denver is, I just don't see them upsetting one of the top-tier teams out West. Again, the lack of a true star is going to ultimately doom the Nuggets.
There are many questions facing this team this year. Can Gallinari be a go-to scorer for them late in games throughout the course of the season? Will the defense, which ranked 23rd in opponent's field goal percentage in 2012, improve? Will guys like McGee and Randolph finally grow into their abilities?
One thing is for sure, though: Denver will be one of the NBA's most exciting teams to watch this year, and no one will want to draw them in the first round of the playoffs.
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