2009-10 Denver Nuggets Season Preview
Over the past five seasons, the Denver Nuggets (54- 28) have consistently finished either first or second in the Northwest. Last season it was first; this season, they look to be second. Honestly, last season’s performance was a surprise to many. The Nuggets had gotten rid of a lot of highly paid players, including Marcus Camby who went to the Clippers. But good fortune decided to shine a light on them as swingman Chris Anderson (6.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 0.4 APG) and center/forward Nene (14.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.4 APG) had better than expected seasons, and point guard Chauncey Billups became a Nugget at the start of the season. The trade of Iverson for Billups and Antonio McDyess was massive. McDyess, who went to the Pistons, agreed to low buyout terms that helped Denver’s salary cap numbers. The Nuggets had a better team than expected for less cash. On the court, Denver was one of the best shooting clubs in the league, and they did well in drawing fouls and converting free throws. On “D,” they were a better than average shot blocking team but their ability to force turnovers and grab rebbies was lacking.
In front, you’ve got small forward Carmelo Anthony (22.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.14 SPG), power forward Kenyon Martin (11.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.12 BPG, 1.45 SPG) and center Nene (14.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.31 BPG, 1.23 SPG). The trio can certainly manufacture points and defend. The biggest weakness in the frontcourt is rebounding. Also, there’s not much coming off the bench to help out.
The backcourt combo of Billups (17.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 6.4 APG) and J.R. Smith (15.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.8 APG) is one of the best around. Billups runs one of the tightest games in the league and he’s got an excellent shot, hitting 42% from the floor and 41% from the three-point arc. His free throws connect 91% of the time. Smith shoots 45% from the field and 40% from downtown. Off the bench, Aaron Afflalo brings an ability to successfully connect with the basket at the rate of 44%.
Denver’s greatest strength is its starting five. From Billups’ ability to direct the game from the point to Anthony’s penchant from drawing double teams to the front play of Martin and Nene to Smith’s deadly accurate shooting,this is a fine starting unit. The biggest concern revolves around wing depth, which is lacking. Arron Afflalo is a good shooting sub but who will give Billups a break?
In the post season, Denver went to the conference finals where they lost to the future NBA champs, the Lakers. This season could hold the same scenario. If they are able to replicate last year, they’ll have to do it with the same core of guys. Coach George Karl may be able to help make that happen, as he’s a whiz at adapting to changing situations while staying cool, calm and analytical. The Nuggets have a shot at the division title but they will most likely take second and end up somewhere around fourth in the conference.