The Denver Nuggets were the team without a star that nearly beat the almighty Lakers before losing in 7 games last season. However, how will this team fare after some offseason moves; can they finally become a contender?
Grade: A (Yes, I know I told Dre they’d get an A+)
Denver had such a good offseason that I don’t think even Denver fans could expect something like this could ever happen. The acquisition of Andre Iguodala is definitely the best move by any team this offseason, and could possibly be one of the biggest rip-off deals of all time (oddly enough, Orlando got ripped off, not Iggy’s former team, Philadelphia).
No matter who they traded, save for Kenneth Faried, the Nuggets would’ve had a decent deal for Iguodala. However, it was a miracle that they managed to jettison Al Harrington, someone they virtually would’ve traded for anyone, and an average swingman in Arron Afflalo into the third best small forward in the NBA. How this deal was just pure highway robbery cannot be stressed enough. The Nuggets gave up only one draft pick, no player under the age of 26, and actually managed to rid themselves of their worst player. The Nuggets could’ve traded Afflalo and Harrington for someone like Elton Brand and I would’ve considered it to be a good deal. Getting Iguodala was huge and he will make them a Western Conference contender in the next season.
That was clearly an A+ move, so why the A? I may just be petty, but Denver had some really bad moves aside from that trade. They drafted Evan Fournier with the 20th pick when Will Barton was still on board (Fournier’s Euro numbers were terrible; Dre expands here), and they also amnestied Chris Andersen. The Chris Andersen move is defensible considering his legal troubles, but he was still a great player whenever he took the court. Even if Birdman was able to play 45-50 games for them, he could produce about 5 wins, something that is easily justifiable for them when they were paying him 4 million dollars per season.
The Nuggets have the potential to be an extremely good team; some simulations that I’ve run have them winning over 60 games. However, the issue with the Nuggets this season will be what has plagued them for many seasons, will they play the right players? George Karl has the tools to create a contender, but if he doesn’t choose to use them, the Nuggets might just lose in the first round again. If Denver plays a lineup of Ty Lawson-Iguodala-Danillo Gallinari-Kenneth Faried-Javale McGee, then they can win games and challenge the Thunder for Western Conference supremacy. However, Karl could just as easily trot out Corey Brewer and Wilson Chandler, as well as limit the minutes of the rising star Faried. Ultimately, the prognosis for their season is in Karl’s hands.
However, the offseason is about putting yourself in a better position to win, and that is exactly what Masai Ujiri and the Denver front office did. Getting Andre Iguodala was big-time and he may be the solution to their playoff problems. The Karl issue is the X factor in this whole equation. Let’s put it this way, I would not be surprised if Denver was the 1 seed, and I would not be surprised if they were the 5 seed. It should be an interesting season in Denver, but for now with an improving Faried, Iguodala, and Lawson, they should be pegged as a dark horse to win an NBA title.