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Brian Shaw

Deconstructing a 57-win team: Denver Nuggets Season Preview

Starting five: PG Tywon Lawson, SG Evan Fournier, SF Wilson Chandler, PF Kenneth Faried, C JaVale McGee
Key bench contributors: PG Andre Miller, SG Randy Foye, PG Nate Robinson, PF Darrell Arthur, SF Danilo Gallinari (expected back in December-February from a torn ACL), PF JJ Hickson
Offseason additions: JJ Hickson, Darrell Arthur, Nate Robinson, coach Brian Shaw
Offseason subtractions: Coach George Karl, SF Andre Iguodala, SF Corey Brewer, C Kosta Koufos
FACT OR FICTION: Did the Denver Nuggets spend the offseason dealing themselves out of the playoffs?

FICTION. Without one single All-Star player, the Denver Nuggets (literally) ran through the rest of the NBA last season. George Karl’s squad nabbed the third-best record in the Western Conference, winning a remarkable 57 games–just one less than the seconds-away-from-a-title San Antonio Spurs. They finished with the NBA’s fifth most efficient offense, ran the second fastest pace and racked up a deceivingly good 11th ranked defense.
But it all started and ended for the Nuggs on the run, as they were terrors on the fast break, destroying teams with run and gun specialists like Tywon Lawson, Corey Brewer, Andre Iguodala, Kenneth Faried and a sneaky set-up maestro in Andre Miller. They compounded this offensive attack with the league’s best offensive rebounding and started it all with fantastic rim protection from Kosta Koufos, JaVale McGee and Faried. Still, the Nuggets featured two facets of their basketball identities that absolutely belied their excellent record. Surprisingly, they were one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the NBA last season (.343%, good for 25th) and yet, they still sent opposing defenses scrambling. And yet, despite the facade of a reckless scoring avalanche, they were actually one of the most careful teams in basketball–only three teams in the league turned the ball over less. It’s for all those reasons just stated that the Nuggets were such a strange anomaly in the NBA last year: a fast paced team that couldn’t shoot three pointers well, never turned the ball over, didn’t have a single dominant scorer and lacked a post scorer whose hair didn’t look like a newborn baby’s.
Perhaps for those reasons, and many more, it was so easy for ownership to almost completely reshape the face of the Nuggets this offseason. In a matter of weeks, Denver had allowed the newly minted Executive of the Year, General Manager Masai Ujiri to take a job with the Toronto Raptors and had fired newly crowned Coach of the Year, George Karl. With a new front office regime in place, two starters were traded (Koufos to Memphis for Darrell Arthur and Iguodala sign-and-traded to Golden State) and the bench was almost completely turned over. New hires like Nate Robinson, Randy Foye and JJ Hickson were brought in to try and recreate some of last year’s reserve’s offensive energy that they no longer will have with Corey Brewer gone to the Minnesota Timberwolves and both JaVale McGee and Wilson Chandler elevated to a starting roles. Coach Brian Shaw was finally given his shot at running a team and is almost certain to slow things down from the break neck speed Karl operated his squad at last year.… Read more...