NBA front offices can take two routes in the offseason. Either take steps toward a title by adding depth to the roster or clear cap space and look ahead to the draft lottery. Some teams have their hearts set on an NBA championship and others are looking the opposite direction at the projected first pick Andrew Wiggins, satisfied to build a foundation for the future. The decisions NBA teams make in the summer fully expose their approach to the upcoming season and shows if winning is a priority.
The Denver Nuggets are stuck in the middle. Without Andre Iguodala or an All-Star caliber replacement, the current Nuggets roster doesn’t look improved on paper, nor like a team that is built to make a deep playoff run. The offseason additions of J.J. Hickson, Randy Foye, and Nate Robinson will alleviate the loss of depth in Iguodala, Kosta Koufos, and Corey Brewer, but it won’t necessarily fill the void. What will make the difference for the Nuggets is the improvement of the players that were on the team last year.
A supposed gripe president Josh Kroenke had with former head coach George Karl was the lack of playing time Karl gave to younger players. Karl is notorious for making youngsters earn playing time instead of giving them immediate trust.
This season will be a different story, and the most notable change will be JaVale McGee starting at center. McGee was used sparingly by Karl since arriving in Denver and new head coach Brian Shaw will surely increase his playing time. McGee’s height and athleticism are automatic, but this season the Nuggets are expecting McGee to make drastic improvements in his basketball IQ and polish a rudimentary post game. If he can handle the promotion, McGee would add a welcomed addition to a starting front court that will be among the most athletic in league alongside Kenneth Faried. Jordan Hamilton, Evan Fournier are other young players that will be given a chance to earn a spot in the rotation.
Bottom line- the Nuggets still have encouraging pieces on the squad that give them a pulse. Ty Lawson and Faried are potential All-Stars and should be counted on to lead the team after spending time with Team USA over the summer competing for a spot on the 2014 World Cup team. Danilo Gallinari will be counted on to come back from injury and be a 20+ scorer. Wilson Chandler will need to prove he can consistently provide the impact on both ends of the court he gave the Nuggets last season.
The Nuggets have the potential to make some noise as an underdog in the West. Players that were buried on the bench will be dusted off and given an opportunity to contribute. Even so, more questions than answers cloud the Nuggets immediate future.