Thursday, October 4, 2012

Rocky Mountain high reward?

Rocky should be happy this season!
An examination of the Denver Nuggets 2012-13 roster shows a team that has a ceiling that is nearly unlimited. How so, you ask? Well, if you believe in efficiency - and I do, you might already know that the Nuggets boast a potential starting lineup where each player ranks in the top-eleven in the NBA at their position. 

Ty Lawson ranks eleventh at point guard. It is a educated guess that Andre Iguodala will ultimately play the majority of his minutes at the TWO, and Danilo Gallinari at the THREE, with Kenneth Faried, and JaVale McGee up front. The newly acquired Iguodala ranked sixth in efficiency at small forward last season, while Gallinari was tenth at the same position. Many teams consider their TWO's and THREE's interchangeable - labeling them simply "wing players". Iguodala can certainly guard opposing shooting guards and his play-making ability is ideally suited for a guard. 

What may shock some folks is that Faried was second in power forward, per-minute efficiency. Only Kevin Love boasted a higher rating. While some who have not seen Faried play enough may see his ranking for his rookie season as an anomaly, we don't think it is. If you watch Faried play - you easily see how his energy is a benefit.  

McGee guards the rim
McGee meanwhile holds his own as the tenth most efficient center in the NBA. The issue with McGee is not efficiency. The issue with McGee is that he must be viewed as a bit of a risk. He simply has not shown the hoops i.q. that is needed to play consistently winning basketball. The 24 year-old center has perhaps unfairly been labeled to the point of caricature for his "brain-fades" which are the laughing stock of Shaquille O'Neal and the TNT crew. It's true. McGee does some silly things. But he also blocks shots and has a high points per minute rate. 

The key with McGee in my eyes is that he HAS improved. And now George Karl will have him for a full training camp and full season. I'm not expecting McGee to challenge the likes of Andrew Bynum, Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson, and DeMarcus Cousins for a spot on the All-NBA team at center, but I do think McGee is potentially capable of having a consistent positive impact on a team. There is no reason other than the mental part of the game why McGee shouldn't go from being tenth in center efficiency to battling to be a part of the top-five. 

Will Randolph stick in Denver?
Denver's bench has a "risky" player on it as well. Golden State, New York and now Minnesota have passed on the obviously offensively talented Anthony Randolph. Randolph's per-minute efficiency was good enough last regular season to rank as a "starter" (23rd). It could have been higher if Randolph would simply pass up some outside shots for shots in the paint. I'm betting George Karl improves this 23 year-old kid. 

If Karl can't make Randolph better - maybe backup point guard Andre Miller can. Miller is still getting it done at a high level and if he didn't have Ty Lawson as a teammate - Miller would probably be a starter somewhere. Miller is excellent at feeding players around the hoop, and Randolph is excellent finishing at the rim. They might make a good combination. 

Finally, we have noticed improvement in Kosta Koufos' game. He is only 23 years old and if he continues to improve at the rate he is going, he will be a regular starter in the NBA one day. Koufos' regular season per minute efficiency in 2011-12 was better than the rating of Roy Hibbert, Nene, Tyson Chandler, and Marc Gasol. 

The summary for Denver is that they have some cats that today's kids might call "sketchy". But if the old master George Karl imparts his wisdom and McGee, and Randolph soak it up and mature even a little, they will propel Lawson, Iguodala, Faried, Miller and Gallinari into a Western power not to be slept on. 

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