The NBA Season is ready to start on Christmas Day, the last couple of preseason games are being played as I write this up, and it's time for me to cater to every serious NBA fans love of season previews! The 2011 Geektastic Preview is going to be way too large for one article, so I'm dividing it up into divisions (and even so, it's going to be long, so get a cup of coffee!). In this article I'm going to preview the Denver Nuggets, who I think are poised to shock a hell of a lot of pundits this season.
The 2011-12 Denver Nuggets
Lost: J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, Wilson Chandler (....maybe? All are free agents in China who won't play before March)
Added: Kenneth Faried (R), Rudy Fernandez (T), Corey Brewer (T)
Outlook: With their very deep bench, this team is going to be very good. They're going to be a beast to play against as long as Al Harrington doesn't get too much burn.
I've already talked a lot about the Nuggets; they're one of my favorite teams and highly underrated by most of the pundits. They have a lot of great players (especially their guards), and a lot of depth. They are incredibly efficient offensively. They really only have two weaknesses: George Karl and lack of big man depth Al Harrington. And of course, the two are entwined; Harrington wouldn't be as large a weakness with a better coach (who wouldn't give Harrington any minutes at power forward).
Harrington has always been a low-efficiency chucker. He does not rebound or defend well (so he fouls a lot), he turns the ball over a lot, and worse, he barely ever gets to the line, and considering how much he likes to call his own number, that's a travesty. Basically, he's weak in every category that's important to being a productive basketball player. He was a terrible signing.
Per48 Comparison of raw stats
Whether or not the Nuggets can contend is another matter -- it's very, very hard to win a championship without a genuine superstar on the roster, and the nuggets are chalk full of good players (which will win them a lot of games) but I don't see a superstar here anywhere. And unfortunately, even if Faried is the second coming of Dennis Rodman, Karl is probably not smart enough (or bold enough) to put Harrington on the bench and give Faried the minutes. And the pre-season provided ample evidence that this will be the case: in the first game, Faried scored 14 points on 6-9 shooting, with 6 rebounds (5 offensive!), a steal, an assist, two turnovers and zero fouls...in fifteen minutes. One would think this might merit that in a second, meaningless pre-season game, one might give him a little more burn to see if it was just a fluke, right? Nope. The genius that is Karl gave Faried 11 whole minutes of burn in that meaningless second pre-season game. 11 minutes where Faried scored 6 (2-4FG), got 5 boards (!), an assist, a turnover and a foul. Those are some ridiculous per-48 numbers. But it's a small sample size. Gee, sure is a ****ing shame that those pre-season games were so critical that the Nuggets couldn't throw Faried out there for another 10-20 minutes, huh?
I think the Nuggets are going to be close to 50 wins this year (yes, out of 66!). If Harrington gets more than 1400 minutes, it will be closer to 45. Either way, they are definitely a playoff team and I expect them to be a top four seed in the West.