(SportsNetwork.com) - No team in the NBA lost more in the offseason than the
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
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
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.
Tim Connelly was introduced as the new general manager and at his introductory
presser, stated his first priority was re-signing Iguodala.
Iguodala left, but 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-
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-
It's going to be tough sledding for Shaw. 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 rest of the roster, save for starting center Kosta Koufos, who was shipped
to the Memphis Grizzlies, remained intact.
Ty Lawson, JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried represent the core. McGee,
especially, will have a heavier workload thanks to Koufos' departure.
To replace Iguodala, the Nuggets traded for Randy Foye, a combo guard who can
shoot the long ball fairly well. Denver's big signing in free agency was J.J.
Hickson, who enjoyed a career year in Portland last season. He'll bring big
Nate Robinson was also brought in. The diminutive guard can score and excite,
but if you have to rely on him for heavy minutes, the roster better be
All of this change could spell doom, but Shaw is excited to have his
"The most exciting thing for me is doing it from the ground up together,
establishing that trust," Shaw told the Nuggets website. "There are coaches
you feel are on another stratosphere and you feel like you can't get close to
them, you can't talk to them. There's a fear factor. I don't want it to be
like that. I want to be approachable. I want to connect with them and build
that trust and establish those relationships."
2012-13 Results: 57-25, 2nd in Northwest, lost in West quarterfinals to Golden
ADDITIONS: HC Brian Shaw, GM Tim Connelly, G Randy Foye, C/F J.J. Hickson, G
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:
PG- Ty Lawson
SG- Randy Foye
SF- Wilson Chandler
PF- Kenneth Faried
C- JaVale McGee
KEY RESERVES: F Danilo Gallinari (injured), G Andre Miller, G Nate Robinson, G
Evan Fournier, C/F J.J. Hickson, C Timofey Mozgov, F Darrell Arthur, F Anthony
FRONTCOURT: With a healthy Gallinari, this group is well above-average.
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
Chandler is the expected starter in Gallinari's absence. He only played 43
games last season after an injury from the season before delayed his start.
When Chandler played, he averaged 13.0 ppg, which, it might shock you, tied
for third on the team with Iguodala. He's still only 26 and the surgery might
have hurt his athletic ability some, but he's more than capable of manning the
small-forward post until, (or if) Gallinari comes back.
McGee is the wild-card. He signed a three-year deal in the offseason and the
starting center job is his. Karl never seemed to fall in love with McGee, thus
he averaged 18.1 minutes per game. If you expand McGee's numbers over 36
minutes a night, which would be too many, he would've averaged 18.0 ppg, 9.6
rpg and 3.9 bpg. More minutes will help as long as McGee is cooperative.
BACKCOURT: Ty Lawson led the Nuggets in scoring one season ago. He's fast,
quick and capable of scoring on his own. He always facilitated an offense that
was unselfish and efficient. How does Lawson fare without fellow North
Carolina Tar Heel Karl on the bench? That's the biggest question facing
Denver. Lawson was probably a result of the system, but 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 off guard spot is 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
BENCH: This is a deep, but flawed group. Miller is 37 years old, but still
effective. He averaged a career-low 9.6 ppg, but hit a game-winner for the
Nuggets in Game 1 against the Warriors. He was a Karl favorite, but with
Robinson in the Mile High City, could Miller and his $4.625 million contract
for next season be expendable?
Shaw will probably favor Miller over Robinson. But, Robinson has a niche. He
can score and score quickly. He can't or just doesn't pass, so if you need
some buckets, the little man is your guy.
Fournier was a non-factor last season, his first in the league. He could
threaten Foye for the starting spot and Shaw wouldn't be disappointed if he
Arthur is a stretch four who can shoot.
Mozgov fell down the depth chart last season, but he's McGee's primary backup.
Hickson was an interesting signing. He averaged a double-double for the
Portland Trail Blazers last season. What will he be like in a reduced role?
Hickson could help tremendously.
COACHING: Shaw has been the trendy name on the market for a few years now.
Denver gobbled him up and with his mentors, success shouldn't be too difficult
His approach, at least during the game, is still to be determined.
"Phil Jackson didn't stand up a lot, but he had a presence," Shaw said. "Some
coaches pace up and down the sideline. Will I be a coach that stands up most
of the game and paces the sidelines, or will I sit down and get up when I need
to get up?"
Shaw will have to replace one of the most respected minds in history fresh
off a Coach of the Year award while leading the Nuggets to their most
OUTLOOK: Denver will 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?
"We're going to try to get the most out of what we have," Shaw told the team's
site. "If it's 46 wins or 48 wins, 50 wins, that's what it is. In the process
of going through the season, we want everybody to get comfortable with the way
we're going to do things. And then if we are fortunate enough to make the
playoffs, we'll try to make some noise and go the distance."
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.
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