Team Preview #11: Denver Nuggets
by Eric Wong AKA Roto EvilAugust 12th, 2008
LAST SEASONThe Nuggets scored a lot of points, gave up a lot of points, and edged out the Warriors for the 8th and final Playoff spot in the West. It was a shame, because they got swept by the Lakers and had essentially given up by Game 3, when they lost by 18 at home and went out like suckaz. Fantasy-wise, their 99.7 pace factor was easily tops in the league (see below for much more on pace factor).
OFFSEASON MOVESKey Additions: Chris Andersen, Renaldo Balkman, Dahntay Jones, Sonny Weems
Key Losses: Marcus Camby, Eduardo Najera, J.R. Smith?
After a 2-year suspension for hard drugs, Chris Andersen got his wings back late last season and has returned to Denver, where the "Birdman" was a fan favorite from '01-04. He'll have big shoes to fill, because Denver decided to give Marcus Camby away to the Clippers for an autographed Tim Thomas jersey and a bag of magic beans. If that wasn't bad enough, Denver also let the underrated Najera go to New Jersey. Balkman can't knock down jumpers like Eduardo, but he should bring the same defensive intensity that Denver sorely needs. If the Nugz are smart, they'll re-sign the young & talented J.R. Smith. I'm guessing he'll re-sign soon, but if not, the Nuggets added two athletic swingmen in Dahntay Jones and Sonny Weems.
ROTATION / PLAYING TIMEYou know that Allen Iverson plays a lot of minutes, but this stat may surprise you. In '07-08, his 41.8 mpg average led the league for the 3rd year in a row and the 6th time in the past 7 years. For his career, only Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Oscar Robertson have played more minutes per game, so expect 40+ from A.I. once again (split at both guard spots). Anthony Carter started at PG last season and played 28 minutes, but I'm projecting that number to fall to 24 this year as J.R. Smith (assuming he re-signs) gets more PT. George Karl has had a short leash on the young & talented Smith, but I'm expecting his minutes to increase from 19.2 to around 22-24 this season. Veterans Chucky Atkins & Dahntay Jones and the rookie Weems will battle for the remaining backcourt minutes.
At small forward, Carmelo Anthony saw 36.4 minutes of action in '07-08, but if he's in better shape (which Jerry Colangelo recently said he needs to be in), I could see a slight bump up to 37-38 this year. Kenyon Martin (30.5 mpg) will start at power forward and see 32-33 minutes of action if he can handle it. Denver's first forward off the bench will be Linas Kleiza, who should see his minutes increase from 23.9 to 26+ this year. Balkman is a defensive stopper and high energy guy, so he'll get some backup minutes as well. At center, Nene will finally have to live up to the six-year, $60 million contract he signed a couple years ago. He's battled serious injuries, but now the starting job is his and Denver needs him to step up. He played a career-high 32.5 mpg back in '03-04, and could match that number if he's healthy. Chris Andersen & Steven Hunter will back him up, and must be ready for big minutes in case of injury.
DON'T SLEEP ON: NeneBasketball-wise, last season was a forgettable one for Nene "don't call me Hilario." He tore a ligament in his thumb a week into the season, returned for 2 weeks after Christmas, then had surgery to remove testicular cancer and sat out most of the rest of the season. Thankfully, Nene recovered, and I'm rooting for him to have a successful '08-09 season. The guy has played just 81 total games in the past 3 years, but surely better news is just around the corner.
With Camby now in L.A., Nene has a chance to play big minutes and be a major force in the paint for Denver. To see what kind of stat potential he has, just look at his post All-Star stats from '06-07. In those 30 games, he averaged 32 minutes, 13.9 points, 8.3 boards, 1.1 steals, and .8 blocks per game while shooting a monstrous 62.4% from the field and a decent 72.7% from the line. Nene will likely fall far in your draft for obvious reasons, but this guy has Top 50 potential if healthy.
BE CAREFUL OF: Allen IversonIverson finished 3rd in field goal attempts last season and has ranked in the Top 5 in that category 10 times in his illustrious 12-year career. But after averaging roughly 25 FGA per game for Philly, he's attempting just 19 shots per game for Denver, and that number could fall even further in '08-09. How come? Well, in recent years, he's been helped out by the fact that Denver had the #1 pace factor (an estimate of the number of possessions per 48 minutes by a team) last season (99.7) and the #2 pace factor the year before (97.4). The Nuggets like to play an uptempo offense and don't seem to care too much about defense, which is why they finished 2nd behind the Warriors in both points per game and total field goal attempts.
However, total rebounds is also directly correlated to a team's pace factor, as evidenced by the Nuggets, Warriors, Pacers, Sonics, and Lakers all finishing in the Top 7 in BOTH pace factor and total rebounds. So why should you be careful of AI this season? Because Marcus Camby, one of the league's leading rebounders, is no longer in town. Theoretically, less rebounds means fewer possessions, which means fewer shot attempts, fewer points scored, and fewer assists. The big guys (Melo, K-Mart & Nene) won't be as affected, because they will have to rebound more due to Camby's departure. However, Iverson could see BOTH his points and assists decline in '08-09. Just a little food for thought...
ROUND BY ROUND TARGETS(Where you should draft these guys in an 8-cat Roto league with 12 teams and 14 man rosters)
Iverson: 2nd - 3rd