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Enemy Lines: Nuggets

NBA Enemy Lines
 
 
Denver Nuggets
2011-12 Record: 38-28
 
Andre Iguodala should fit nicely in Denver's up-tempo system. (D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)
AN OPPOSING TEAM'S SCOUT ANALYZES THE NUGGETS

I'm interested to see how they're going to be with all of their guys playing a full season together. They've totally changed their roster over the last couple of years and now I think they're pretty good. They did a great job of restructuring, even though I thought it was a terrible trade for them when they moved Carmelo Anthony a year and a half ago. They received less talent than they gave up, but at least their new players fit George Karl's system.

Andre Iguodala is a great fit for how they play. Karl is going to have him rebounding and pushing the ball along with Ty Lawson. Iguodala can be too unselfish, but George will make sure he shoots. He hadn't wanted to be a scorer with Philadelphia, but now he's going to get a lot of shots up because they're going to be a high-steal, up-tempo team with a lot of pressure and trapping. Iguodala is a streaky shooter, but he can make threes.

Iguodala is right there with the best perimeter defenders in the league. So many guys with great defensive reputations don't do it all the time; I think Iguodala does it most of the time. When LeBron James wants to, he can be the best perimeter defender in the league, but he doesn't do it every possession. The same with Kobe Bryant. But I'd say Iguodala is in the top five because he does it more consistently -- not as consistently as a guy like Thabo Sefolosha, but then Sefolosha also has less to worry about.

[Ben Golliver: Iguodala an X-factor in Western Conference]

They have a lot of under-the-radar guys, and one of the best of them is Andre Miller. He is like a poor man's Jason Kidd. He's a big, strong guy who helps his teammates play better. Lawson helps the team with his speed and getting inside the defense, while Miller does it the other way. He'll look at a teammate who is sealed and he'll find the angle to make the pass where it needs to be to spring the guy loose for a catch and layup. Miller is a competitor who knows what he's doing. It's a big advantage for them to have two point guards who complement each other and can even play together.

Lawson is a leader who has a great energy about him. He looks like he loves to play. He's a little guy who is very fast and can get to the rim and finish, and he can make a three. He's perfect for Karl. Lawson loves to be playing in the way that George wants him to play.

Immaturity is center JaVale McGee's biggest weakness. At least now he's with a coach who will try to build a relationship. George doesn't seem to mind players like him. Plus, George knows which buttons to push and he isn't afraid to say if you're not going to do what we need then you're not going to play. He has the bodies to back up those threats.

[Chris Mannix: What to expect from the Nuggets this season]

McGee's strengths are blocking shots, rebounding and defending. He could be a different-level star if he just concentrated on those things. He's so long and athletic that he's going to get some baskets off the boards and alley-oops even if they don't get him the ball in the post. He does bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm, which are things that George has always encouraged. He is the kind of big defender Mike D'Antoni's Phoenix teams always could have used in the middle, though maybe he wouldn't have been able to play for Mike because of his limitations offensively. But the way Denver is going to play, McGee will fit right in.

They have decent depth at center with Timofey Mozgov, who is a clog-the-middle kind of guy. They loved him when he first came to Denver [in the Anthony trade], but he's nothing special. That doesn't mean George can't use him to put a little bit of pressure on McGee. Mozgov rolls hard and he'll attack the basket and suck some defenders into the paint. He'll get to the offensive board. He'll block a shot here and there. He moves fairly well for a big guy. They'll also play Kenneth Faried some at the 5, and Kosta Koufos is a serviceable big guy. I can even see Danilo Gallinari trying to guard a big guy and fighting him in the post for position while they trap and scramble.

It's a huge year for Gallinari. He has to show he can stay healthy. This is a perfect system for him and he obviously loves to play in it -- he's been showing more confidence than he did in New York. Gallinari shoots it really well, and at the same time he's unselfish. He'll shot-fake, and if somebody is running at him, then he'll hit the open guy for a layup. He knows how to play, and he has figured out how to hide his slow feet by using his length defensively. He plays his butt off, he'll get some rebounds and he's not at all soft. He'll never be an All-Star, but he can be a really good player.

It's a good system for Wilson Chandler, too. He can make a shot, though he's more of a threat to catch the ball on the wing and attack the basket. He's a 6-8 guy who was able to play the 2 in New York because he was a threat to put it on the floor. He's a good offensive player all-around, and he's not a bad defender, either.

[Sam Amick: Northwest Division preview]

You know the Nuggets will emphasize offense, but they can be effective defensively because many of their guys are the same size and they can all switch and jump in the passing lanes. That's another thing that makes this such a good roster. They don't have any weak links. They're all good players.

Faried is another guy who brings so much energy and plays so hard. He wasn't even playing at the start of last year [as a rookie] but ended up coming on and playing well and taking minutes. He will be in and out of the doghouse because he's a bit undersized and there will be times when he's struggling. I'm not saying he can be as good as Dennis Rodman, but he's in that mold. He goes after the ball, and all his numbers seem to come on effort plays.

Anthony Randolph has been given so many chances, though if there's anybody who can reclaim that guy, it's George. He'll tell Randolph to get out and shoot and just play. He did get Corey Brewer to play well in Denver, and I have seen Randolph have some decent games with other teams. But I don't think he can do it consistently.

I think in the playoffs the Nuggets can put a scare into Oklahoma City, which is going to have a hard time guarding them. Oklahoma City would have to play well to win that series. But if Denver is playing the Lakers, I don't see how it can deal with those big bodies.

 

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