Top-10 NBA MVP narratives, from Giannis to Simmons

In today’s social media-driven NBA, MVP candidates don’t just need the numbers, they need an accompanying narrative to take home the MVP award. Just ask James Harden. 

Three seasons ago, Harden finished second to Russell Westbrook in the MVP vote despite averaging 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds and leading the Rockets to 55 regular-season wins. Westbrook edged Harden because he had the best narrative: Westbrook was the first player to average a triple-double since Oscar Robertson and  the superstar who stayed in OKC even after Harden and Kevin Durant had left

The next season, however, Harden beat LeBron James for the award, despite having inferior statistics, because he had the better narrative: It’s about time we recognize Harden’s greatness and reward him because he probably should have won last season.

Last season, Harden finished second to Giannis Antetokounmpo because people had crowned Giannis as the best two-way force in the league and the next face of the NBA. As Harden so aptly put it in a GQ interview, “[I had] a 32-game 30-point streak, eight 50-point games, two 60-point games… and all the talk was about [Giannis]? There’s no way. You can’t pout or be mad, and the kid had an unbelievable season, so did his team. But the things I was putting up were legendary. You going to look back in 10, 15 years from now and be like, is that really true? Did that really happen?”

Narratives matter in the MVP race. So, as a primer for this season’s MVP race, here are the top-10 MVP contenders and their accompanying narrative (in italics) entering the season (in alphabetical order):

May 19, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) shoots the ball as Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) defends in overtime in game three of the Eastern conference finals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

Based on the past two seasons, it’s clear Giannis is on a LeBron James-Kevin Durant kind of career trajectory. That being the case, we should expect Antetokounmpo to ascend even higher in this, his seventh season, in the middle of his athletic prime. Giannis’ MVP narrative will be one of dominance, a season where he erases any doubt as to whether he’s the best player in the world. Look for him to improve his game in some obvious way this season -– the most obvious hole in his game is his jump shot (26 percent from three-point land last season) -– but he could also double-down on his already one-of-a-kind post game or become a better playmaker.

Jun 7, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) shoots the ball against Toronto Raptors center Serge Ibaka (9) during the third quarter in game four of the 2019 NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Steph Curry, Warriors

Steph has a chance to remind everyone that he’s still the toughest player to game plan for in the league … and maybe ever. He’s back to being the unquestioned best player on his team and the player who won back-to-back MVP awards before taking a step back to make way for Kevin Durant

After having the second-highest usage percentage in the NBA during his record-setting 2015-16 MVP season, Curry finished the next three Durant seasons at 11th, 10th and 13th. With no Durant and no Klay Thompson for most of this season, Curry’s usage rate should easily jump back into the top-five again. Thus, his stats will almost certainly mirror his stats from that 2015-16 MVP season, when he averaged 30.1 points, 6.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds and made an NBA-record 402 three-pointers. If the Warriors are near the top of the West, and Curry leads the league in scoring and flirts with breaking his own three-point record, he’ll be right in the mix for MVP.

Sep 27, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward/center Anthony Davis listens to a question during the Lakers media day at the UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo, CA. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Davis, Lakers

Like Shaquille O’Neal before him, AD is hitting his prime and poised for a Hall of Fame leap as the two-way centerpiece and next great big man for the Los Angeles Lakers

If he plays anything like he did during the second half of the 2017-18 season, when he averaged 31 points, 12.1 rebounds, 3.4 blocks and 2.1 steals over the last 27 games of the season, he’ll probably be a frontrunner for his first MVP award. And if he is playing like that, you can bet your bottom dollar that LeBron and Klutch Sports start campaigning for AD to take home the MVP award. In fact, you don’t even have to read between the lines from the Lakers’ media day to see that James is already doing that.

May 2, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) reacts after scoring against the Toronto Raptors during the fourth quarter in game three of the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Embiid, 76ers

Embiid’s narrative began shortly after Kawhi Leonard’s fourth bounce fell through the basket in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The world saw Embiid crying as he left the court, exhausted from a grueling seven-game series. If Embiid plays his way into the MVP conversation, it will mean he spent the offseason getting into the best shape of his life, vowing that he’d never lose another playoff series due to fatigue. He’ll have realized that few people on this Earth have been blessed with his size and athletic prowess, and he decided it’d be a travesty if he didn’t maximize those God-given gifts. It’s time to do what Shaq and Wilt and all the other historic NBA centers did before him: dominate

With Jimmy Butler taking his talents to South Beach, Embiid will have ample opportunities to show off his newfound conditioning as the closer for the Sixers.

Sep 27, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) poses for a picture during media day at Post Oak Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

James Harden, Rockets

The Beard knows first-hand how a narrative can swing an MVP vote. He believes he got robbed of the award last season. He has a point. And that means that Harden’s narrative this season will be one of revenge against the voters who wronged him out of capping off a historic season with no MVP trophy. Revenge against the people who think he isn’t the best player in the league. Revenge against the people who don’t think he can lead the Rockets to a title. 

An MVP season for Harden might not include the same massive scoring as last season (36.1 points per game) now that his high-usage buddy Russell Westbrook is in H-Town. But if his isolations and pick-and-rolls remain two of the most highly efficient plays in basketball and his assist numbers go back to what they were in previous seasons (10.0 per game from 2016-17 to 2017-18), Harden will have another crack at MVP.

LeBron James, Lakers

This is the most obvious narrative: LeBron’s “Forgot About Dre” season. LeBron is coming off of a miserable first season with the Lakers in which he suffered his first major injury and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06. However, missing the playoffs means that he finally got an extended rest after eight straight trips to the NBA Finals. 

He’s also undoubtedly been listening to the media mock his team the past 12 months and declare that he’s no longer the Best Player on the Planet. It’s all set up perfectly for LeBron to come out and have a G.O.A.T. kind of season to remind the basketball world that he’s still the King.

An MVP season for LeBron won’t be his typical 27-7-7 season –- voters are too bored of that. Instead, look for him to average double-digit assists now that the Lakers have Davis, but a dearth at point guard.

Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

The Joker’s narrative is mostly tied to his team’s success. If the Nuggets, who should have some of the best chemistry in the league, are the best team in the Western Conference and flirt with winning 60 games, Jokic will get plenty of MVP votes and his narrative will sound something like this: Jokic is doing it all alone as the lone superstar in a conference loaded with superstar tandems. He flashed his true potential as a franchise centerpiece in last season’s playoffs, averaging 25.1 points, 13 rebounds and 8.4 assists. That performance has carried over into the 2019-20 season as he has Denver at the top of the league earlier than anyone would have imagined. 

September 29, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard speaks with media during media day at LA Clippers Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Kawhi Leonard, Clippers

After last season’s playoff run and subsequent free-agency power flex, Kawhi is the Alpha Dog of the NBA, and he isn’t ready to relinquish that title just yet. In fact, as a little more of Kawhi’s personality has come to the forefront, it has become apparent that he relishes destroying opponents the same way MJ and Kobe did, albeit in a less expressive way. 

With Paul George out at the beginning of the season, the Clippers will need Playoff-Kawhi (30.5 points and 9.1 rebounds on 49-38-88 shooting splits) to keep them near the top of the Western Conference until George returns, which should force Kawhi to get rolling a lot earlier than last season’s load-managed season.

May 12, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) reacts following the win over the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers

Lillard’s MVP narrative is similar to Jokic’s in that it’ll be tied to the Blazers’ record this season. Most analysts seem to think that the Blazers will finish closer to .500 than the 53 wins the team had a season ago. Thus, if Lillard leads Portland to another top-three finish in the West, and with his typical Curry-lite numbers (25.8 points, 6.9 assists, 4.6 rebounds with 44-37-91 shooting splits last season), and none of the other candidates on this list are having other-worldly seasons, Lillard could start to garner some late season MVP buzz. 

He’s the best leader in the league, the superstar who chose to stay when most would have demanded a trade –- he’s as important to his team as any player in the NBA. Isn’t that everything you can ask for from an MVP candidate?

https://www.yardbarker.com/nba/articles/yardbarkers_top_10_nba_mvp_narratives_from_giannis_to_simmons/s1_13132_30133574

By: Pat Heery

Top takeaways from Blazers-Nuggets Game 7

All the chips were pushed to the middle of the table Sunday in a win-or-go-home Game 7 between the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets.

The home team dominated a testy first half that included a tense moment and went into the locker room up by nine points, 48-39. Portland scrapped back with a 32-point third quarter to pull to within one, setting up a balls-to-the-wall fourth quarter.

Portland continued to assert itself in the final stanza and outscored Denver 29-24 to pull off a spectacular 100-96 road win.

These were the top takeaways from Sunday’s series-clinching win by the Blazers over their Western Conference rival.

Shooters from both teams held fierce brick-laying contest

You think nerves played a role in Game 7? We do.

Nobody — and we mean nobody — was hitting from outside the arc. The two teams combined to make just six total three-pointers out of 45 attempts. Folks, that’s a 13.3-percent make rate. This postseason before Game 7, Denver had hit 35.7 percent of hits threes, while Portland had made 37.4 percent.

Just an astonishing display of Game 7 jitters as shooters couldn’t find their touch whatsoever.

Dame Time? Not this time

After ripping off 32 points in Game 6 to help his team pull even in this series against the Nuggets, Blazers star Damian Lillard was ice cold to open the game. He went into halftime with just seven points on 1-of-9 shooting, including 0-for-4 from behind the arc.

The second half was more of the same, as he stayed stuck at seven points well into the fourth quarter. Lillard’s first made three-pointer didn’t go in until fewer than nine minutes remained in the game.

However, it’s worth pointing out that Lillard did hit a key three a bit later in the fourth. He also nearly had a triple-double with 13 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Still, it wasn’t a signature game from Lillard, who will have to bounce back in a big way against the Golden State Warriors.

Joker couldn’t quite do it all in loss

Nikola Jokic had prettier games during this series than his Game 7 effort. He went cold at times and missed some key opportunities on offense — especially late. Additionally, he simply could not find his shooters like we’re used to, finishing with just two assists.

Despite that, Jokic continued to prove without a shadow of a doubt he’s one of the best big men playing in the NBA today. He struggled to find his stroke in Game 7 but still finished with 29 points and 13 rebounds. Notably, Jokic also blocked four shots and gave his team a chance while others, such as Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee, were unable to give the Nuggets a boost.

Zach Collins was a spark plug

May 12, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Portland Trail Blazers forward Zach Collins (33) fouls Denver Nuggets guard Monte Morris (11) in the second quarter in game seven of the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

One of the big reasons Portland was able to generate such a strong push in the second half is that Collins came alive. On both ends of the court, he was the energizing force the Blazers needed.

Playing 23 minutes in Game 7 while Al-Farouq Aminu was riding the pine, Collins didn’t put up a ton of points. But his scoring was timely, and his presence as a rim defender was a huge weapon for Portland. All told, the second-year forward racked up five rebounds and four blocks while scoring seven points.

McCollum was divine

May 12, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum (3) shoots over Denver Nuggets forward Mason Plumlee (24) and center Nikola Jokic (15) in the second quarter in game seven of the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

C.J. McCollum kept the Blazers in the game with 15 first-half points. However, without its leader in sync, Portland floundered badly on offense. As Lillard continued to lay an egg in the second half, however, McCollum picked up the slack.

The shooting guard was aggressive in all facets of his game. He kept attacking the hoop and wasn’t settling for his outside shot.

His third-quarter effort (14 points) was stunning. In the end, McCollum put up 37 points on 17-of-29 shooting while adding nine rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block. Portland wasn’t great overall in Game 7. But McCollum was.

By: Jesse Reed

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Isaiah Thomas Agrees To One-Year $2M Deal With Nuggets

Isaiah Thomas has agreed upon a one-year deal worth $2 million with the Denver Nuggets.

Thomas finished last season with the Los Angeles Lakers after his trade from the Boston Celtics to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Thomas is recovering from arthroscopic hip surgery.

Thomas will reunite with Michael Malone, who coached him with the Sacramento Kings.

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By: Adrian Wojnarowski

Wizards Stay Undefeated

Written by Candace Buckner at Washington Post.com

The Washington Wizards had not developed much of a three-point shooting identity through their first two games, but in a 109-104 win Monday night over the Denver Nuggets, the shots kept coming.

The Wizards took a season high 30 attempts from beyond the arc, making nine. It was early in the fourth quarter when Jodie Meeks, who pulls up as fast and as frequent from downtown as anyone on the roster, took a pass in transition from Tim Frazier and quickly turned it into a triple. Before jogging back on defense, Meeks spun toward the courtside fans and flashed three fingers.

That celebration aside, the Wizards (3-0) offered a refreshing change of pace for a team that had averaged the second fewest three-point attempts in the NBA before Monday night. Through the latter stages of the game, the Wizards remained in control while capitalizing on the mistake-prone Nuggets. Washington scored 29 points off 24 turnovers — the sloppiness muted Denver’s 41 bench points as well as a strong game from center Nikola Jokic, who led all scorers with 29 points.

However, with 32.2 seconds remaining in two-point game, Jokic was involved in an odd play, bumping into Coach Scott Brooks as he walked off the court. Brooks, who absorbed the shoulder contact and threw his hands in the air, immediately complained to referees. Jokic was assessed a technical foul for the “intentional” bump, according to referee Derrick Stafford.

Every Wizards starter reached double figures, including Otto Porter Jr., who made a pair of clutch free throws with 1:14 remaining to pad Washington’s lead to five points. Porter was 3 of 6 from beyond the arc and recorded his first double-double of the season (15 points, 10 rebounds).

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Clippers, Hawks And Nuggets Pull Of Trade For Millsap, Gallinari

Written by Colin Ward-Henniger at CBS Sports.com

The Atlanta Hawks knew they were going to lose Paul Millsap to the Denver Nuggets in free agency, but at least now they’ll get something for him.

According to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Clippers, Nuggets and Hawks have agreed on a trade involving Danilo Gallinari, Millsap and Jamal Crawford as the main components. From Vivlamore:

The Hawks have agreed on a three-way trade with the Nuggets and the Clippers, with a pair of sign and trades, that will return Jamal Crawford, Diamond Stone, a protected first-round pick and cash, according to a person familiar with the situation. The deal was worked on into the early morning hours Tuesday and agreed upon later in the day. The deal can not be announced until after the NBA moratorium period ends Thursday.

The Clippers would receive Danilo Gallinari in a sign and trade from the Nuggets in the other major part of the proposed deal. The Nuggets recently agreed to a three-year, $90 million deal with Hawks unrestricted free agent Paul Millsap on Sunday and would acquire the four-time all-star power forward in sign-and-trade. The Nuggets would recieve a second-round pick from the Hawks, a 2019 pick acquired from the Wizards.

The big piece of the trade for the Hawks is the first-round draft pick, the top-three protected selection in 2018 that the Clippers received from the Rockets.

The Clippers will then, according to ESPN, sign Gallinari to a three-year contract worth $65 million.

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Paul Milsap Joins Nuggets For 90 Mil

Written by Shama Charania at Yahoo Sports.com

Free agent Paul Millsap has reached agreement on a three-year, $90 million deal with the Denver Nuggets, league sources told The Vertical.

Millsap had discussions with the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns, but Millsap and his agent, DeAngelo Simmons, met with the Nuggets on Sunday and finalized an agreement.

In Millsap, the Nuggets are adding a proven star player to pair with young talents in Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris, and could make a legitimate postseason push in the Western Conference.

In four seasons with Atlanta, Millsap led the Hawks to a 189-139 record – including 60 wins and an Eastern Conference finals appearance in 2015. Around the league, teams believe Millsap’s unselfish style helped the Hawks flourish.

Millsap averaged 24.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists in the Hawks’ first-round series loss to the Washington Wizards this past season. In 69 regular-season games, he averaged 18.1 points and 7.7 rebounds, and earned his fourth All-Star appearance.

As a free agent in 2015, Millsap structured a three-year, $60.2 million deal with a third-year player option to give Millsap the flexibility to reach the market this summer.

Millsap, 32, has career averages of 14.2 points and 7.5 rebounds in 11 seasons with Atlanta and Utah. He was the 47th overall selection in the 2006 NBA draft.

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Pelicans Playoff Hopes Crushed In Loss

Written by Brett Martel at NBA.com

he Denver Nuggets aren’t done yet, as coach Mike Malone was happy to point out following a victory that tested the limits of his club’s offense and required about 30 seconds of good defense.

Danilo Gallinari scored 28 points, Gary Harris added 23 points and a pivotal late steal, and the Nuggets pulled to a half-game out of the Western Conference’s final playoff spot with a 134-131 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night.

”It’s funny. A lot of people keep counting us out,” said Malone, whose team has rebounded from a recent three-game skid with two straight victories to stay on the heels of eighth-place Portland. ”People kind of give up hope. We haven’t. Everybody in that locker room is remaining positive, optimistic, and we’re going to play this out.”

Harris was the game’s most accurate shooter, hitting 10 of 12 shots, including both 3-pointers he attempted. But it was his instinctive athleticism on the defensive end that helped decide a game that came down the final seconds. With Denver leading by two, Harris stole Jrue Holiday’s pass intended for DeMarcus Cousins along the perimeter.

”I didn’t even see it. I just put my hands up and my hands hit the ball,” Harris said. ”We found a way to get a stop. That’s what it comes down to. We’re fighting right now to stay in this playoff race, so I was just happy to see us get the stops when we needed it.”

Anthony Davis had 41 points and four blocks. Cousins capped a 30-point, 14-rebound performance with two late 3-pointers, the latter to tie it at 131 with 30.5 seconds left. Holiday had 18 points and 13 assists, but turned the ball over twice in the last 30 seconds and missed a 3-pointer as time expired.

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Denver Nuggets Get Steal with Murray at 7


Written by Christopher Dempsey at Denver Post.com

The Nuggets had a list of priorities going into the offseason. The need blazing like a bright neon sign within their Pepsi Center offices was a lack of shooting. The Nuggets finished 26th in the NBA in 3-point percentage last season.

Their draft Thursday night ensured they won’t repeat that next season. At least they did everything they could for history not to repeat itself.

“Our shooting was a big concern,” Nuggets GM Tim Connelly said. “When you look at the skill set of some of the guys we got this evening it helps us in a positive manner.”

The Nuggets used their three first-round draft picks on players who can shoot from deep, led by Kentucky shooting guard Jamal Murray. At No. 15, the Nuggets selected Juan Hernangomez, a shooting power forward from Spain. With the 19th pick in the draft, the Nuggets selected 6-5 shooting guard Malik Beasley of Florida State.

Combined, the three made 201 3-pointers, shooting 39.3 percent for their respective teams during their seasons.

Murray made 113 of them.

He was the big prize of the night. The Nuggets thought so much of him that they had him third on their draft board behind Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram.

“I knew they liked me, but I didn’t know they liked me as much as they did,” said Murray, who shot 40.8 percent from 3-point range for Kentucky last season.

He’s best in catch-and-shoot situations off of screens, a skill that translates immediately in the NBA. Murray was a sizzling 58 percent shooter off screens at Kentucky.

But he projects as much more than just a catch-and-shoot player. Murray has the ability to get to the rim and finish with either hand. He projects as the kind of player that will be a 20-or-more-per-game scorer in the NBA once he gets a foothold in the league. He’ll come in and immediately compete with veteran Gary Harris for the starting shooting guard spot, although he said he’d like to handle the ball as well.

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Clippers offer Griffin to Denver, who rejected trade

Written by Dan Feldman at NBCsports.com

The Clippers and Nuggets reportedly discussed a Blake Griffin trade.

The Clippers’ spin: Denver called, and the Clippers quickly said no.

Spin from the other side?

Chris Broussard of ESPN on SportsCenter:

I was told that the Clippers actually called Denver and offered Blake Griffin and Lance Stephenson for Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Nikola Jokic and Will Barton. And Denver turned it down.

Doc Rivers, I talked to him about that very deal. He said not true. There’s no way Blake’s getting traded.

It would have made sense for the Clippers to make that offer.

Gallinari is a versatile and underrated forward who’d provide the spacing the Clippers get with Griffin sidelined while significantly boosting their talent. Faried would provide a reasonable, though lesser, alternative to Griffin’s lob-finishing when the Clippers want a player of that style. Jokic is in the running for most impressive rookie, non-Karl-Anthony Towns, non-Kristaps Porzingis division. Barton is a high-flying wing who could win Most Improved Player and plays a position where the Clippers need more talent.

This is the type of monster haul that would justify trading a star like Griffin.

For similar reasons, it’s too much for the Nuggets to give up. Plus, they have the added problem of trying to re-sign Griffin in 2017. Keeping him in medium-market Denver would be challenging as is. Doing so after stripping the roster to acquire him would be far too daunting.

So, did this trade offer really happen?

Maybe.

I believe Griffin won’t be traded, because Rivers said Griffin wouldn’t be traded. It’s not that I believe Rivers is above misleading the public. But going back on his word would make Rivers look bad. I don’t think he would have said Griffin would remain a Clipper unless he were certain that’d be the case.

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NBA Season Preview: Denver Nuggets

Written by Brendon Donohoe

Welcome to our NBA season preview. Leading up to the first game of the NBA season, we will be counting down every team in the NBA. Next up, the Denver Nuggets.

26) Denver Nuggets

2014-2015 Record: 30-52

Roster Breakdown

PG Emmanuel Mudiay Bench C J.J. Hickson
SG Randy Foye PF Darrell Arthur
SF Danilo Gallinari SF Wilson Chandler
PF Kenneth Faried PG Jameer Nelson
C Jusuf Nurkic SG Gary Harris
C Nikola Jokic
PG Erick Green
SF Mike Miller
SG Will Barton
SG Nick Johnson
PF Joffrey Lauvergne
  • Key Offseason Additions: Emmanuel Mudiay (Draft)
  • Key Offseason Losses: Ty Lawson

Only one starter from last year is gone, but boy does this roster feel a lot different. Longtime point guard Ty Lawson was traded during the offseason, and replacing him is the top point guard from this year’s draft, Emmanuel Mudiay. Mudiay has great athletic ability, but will have to work on some of his skill set if he wants to be the star Denver hopes he will be. With him in the backcourt is Randy Foye. Foye has never shown anything spectacular in his career, but he can get the job done at shooting guard. However, if he slips up, there is a young guard on the bench waiting to swoop in. Danilo Gallinari will reclaim his role as the starter and hope to regain the form he had prior to his ACL injury. With Lawson gone, Faried will take the mantle as the team’s best player. Under Brian Shaw, Faried seemed to regress, posting career lows. With Shaw gone, and Mike Malone in, expect Faried to turn back into the Manimal. Last but not least, is the center Jusuf Nurkic. In his rookie season, Nurkic was a defensive beast, but lacked the offensive game. Nurkic’s offensive game will most likely take time to develop, so expect much of the same this year.

While young guys make up the starting lineup, the bench is mostly made up of veterans. Similar to Randy Foye, Wilson Chandler has never shown anything spectacular, but is a very capabale player.  Like last year, he will continue to have serious minutes, particularly when the team looks to play small ball. Jameer Nelson and Mike Miller are the two oldest players on the team. While I’m not sure how much they have left in the tank, their most important role will be mentoring the young guys. J.J. Hickson and Darrell Arthur are both good options off the bench, but it may be Joffrey Lauvergne and Nikola Jokic that will get the nod for more minutes. I would be cautiously optimistic about Lauvergne and Jokic (heavy on the cautious). Gary Harris will look to bounce back after a terrible rookie campaign. Harris was great and Michigan State, but could not get it going in the NBA. Once again, be cautiously optimistic about Harris (more on the optimistic this time). The trio of remaining guards, Nick Johnson, Will Barton, and Erick Green, are not expected to contribute much this season.

Question on Everyone’s Mind?

Will Emmanuel Mudiay be the star Denver has been missing?

Not since Carmelo Anthony have the Denver Nuggets had a true star. Yes, Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried are both very talented, but neither are near Carmelo’s level of talent. Fortunately for the Nuggets, Mudiay has the kind talent that can catapult him to the top of his position. Mudiay shares a lot of similarities as another point guard, a point guard that many consider to be one of the best in the league. That point guard is John Wall. Like Wall, Mudiay is big, fast, explosive, a good slasher, and a good passer. Also like a young John Wall, Mudiay is a bad shooter, has a hard time hitting the brakes, and has a high turnover rate. All of these are fixable problems though. John Wall has steadily improved in each of these weaknesses over the years, and continues to improve. While I believe that when John Wall entered the NBA, he was more talented than Mudiay, I still have high hopes for Mudiay. I’m not sure if Mudiay is an All-NBA guard, but I do believe he will be a perennial all-star.

Season Outlook

It’s going to be a rough season, but a fun season. If you’re a Nuggets fan, don’t take this season to seriously. Just laugh at Nurkic’s antics, and be amazed at what your young point guard can do. Most importantly, just be patient. Things will eventually come together. I predict a return to form for the Manimal, Jusuf Nurkic will become the fanbases most popular player, Emmanuel Mudiay will finish second in the Rookie of the Year voting, and a starter will get traded.

Las Vegas Over/Under – 26.5

Prediction – Under with 26, finishing 13th in the West

 

Check out the other installments of our NBA season preview.

30) Philadelphia 76ers

29) Brooklyn Nets

28) Minnesota Timberwolves

27) Portland Trail Blazers