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NBA Market Watch: Preview-Denver Nuggets

NBA Market Watch: Preview-Denver Nuggets
Oct 22, 2007, 05:16 pm
Off Season Overview:

Denver made its major move at the trade deadline last season, so it’s not surprising that they were fairly inactive over the summer.

The Nuggets are relying on team chemistry and the internal development of some key personnel to further their cause this season. The addition of Allan Iverson was a monumental move for the club, but it was probably too much to ask expecting a cohesive unit by playoff time. Carmelo Anthony’s suspension pushed the experimental timetable back last season and the group really didn’t start to jell until the series against the Spurs.

It was in that Spurs series that the team re-discovered the two-way ability of C/F Nene Hilario. Hilario had missed the previous season and returned in terrible condition, so it was easy for the two perimeter stars to overlook him. But balance is key for success and the Nuggets discovered late in the game that a two-prong attack wasn’t going to get it done.

Joining Hilario in that equation is Kenyon Martin. Martin missed most of last season with an injury of his own, which didn’t allow him to make amends for his terrible attitude the previous season. A year on the shelf may have softened Martin’s stance on playing time, touches, and whatever else irked him previously. The combination of Martin and Hilario should add some nice offensive firepower to the Denver attack and help to diversify the offense.

Linas Kleiza is another potential weapon that the team may take advantage of. Kleiza got a chance to show his stuff last season and didn’t disappoint. Kleiza is a “power three” who can bang bodies on the boards as well as shoot three point jumpers. Going into his third year, Kleiza should be able to take a bit of the load off of Anthony and Iverson by giving them some wing minute relief.

The addition of Chucky Atkins will help provide an offensive boost off the bench and should allow Iverson to transition to the two-guard spot if/when JR Smith wears out his welcome in Denver.

Depth Chart:

[c]courtesy of Synergy Sports Tech: Figure represents NBA offensive percentile rank[/c]

Strengths:

The team has substantial star power with Anthony and Iverson representing the leading scoring tandem in the NBA. The two stars put a ton of defensive pressure on opponents and make it easier for the other starters to find ways to contribute. The more those two share the burden on offense and feed off of their talented teammates the better the team will compete against the best of the west.

It’s going to take the combined efforts of the Nuggets big men to compete in the west, but they have potentially a near-all star three man rotation. Marcus Camby is the reigning defensive player of the year, Hilario is in top shape and coming off a mini-breakout, and Martin has the ability to thrive in a running game.

The team has excellent frontcourt depth and some solid individual defenders to work with. If they improve their teamwork they should be poised for a big year.

Weaknesses:

Experience as a unit and the chemistry that comes with it are the major question marks. Last season looked like a series of ISO plays mixed in with a lot of standing around pounding the ball when in the half-court. Their was a good deal of confusion offensively in terms of everyone being on the same page and that caught up to them when they met the champs in round one.

Kenyon Martin has yet to pay dividends for this team as far as playoff success goes and Nene Hilario has had an underwhelming impact on the court as well. Camby is solid when he’s healthy and has been the past couple of years, but history makes that streak unlikely to continue. In short, this group has a lot to prove and must do so if the Nuggets want to get deep into the playoffs.

Outlook:

Denver looks like an outstanding team….on paper. There is a lot of talent on the roster and there seems to be a good mix of skills at all the positions. The team goes at least two deep at every position and isn’t relying on any young players to play vital roles outside of Kleiza.

The team has good defensive potential in the frontcourt and is adequate at the wing, but its backcourt rotation is suspect at best and it may lead to some foul trouble for the interior players on certain nights. Atkins is an offense-only player and Iverson gambles too much to prevent lane penetration regularly. The team will be thankful for its depth down low as the season goes on.

Offensively, this team should be top notch. If they don’t lead the league in scoring they’ll be right up in the top three of four. As long as their defense limits the points in the paint and hits the boards they should have enough offense to make the difference.

The Nuggets season will really come down to how the players blend with one another. A 50 win season should be the baseline for a squad with this talent, but it’s the playoffs that count and Denver hasn’t had much success there. If they can grow throughout the season it may be their most successful in years. But there is a lot of internal growth to be done before it can be considered a true contender for the title.

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