Stop me when you've heard this before: it wasn't a great year for the Denver Nuggets. Oh wait, that can be said for every single team that I've done rankings for so far? Well, I guess that comes with the "Lottery Team" territory. Specifically for the Nugs, a bad year looks like this: they fired coach Brian Shaw in midseason, their standard-bearers for the future (namely Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried) had merely good/great seasons, and didn't transcend into "spectacular", and they saw many key valuable pieces go in midseason trades once the front office realized that 2015 isn't quite the Year of the Nugget (Arron Afflalo, Timofey Mozgov, and Nate Robinson being some of them). Bright pieces to the season? The unheralded rise of Will Barton (received back from Portland in the Afflalo/Alonzo Gee trade) and Jusuf Nurkic (certainly hoped to be good as a 1st-round draft pick, but maybe not as effective as he's been so soon). There are enough holes in this organization that Denver should shoot more for hiring a great coach and finding more valuable pieces instead of shooting for home-court advantage in the playoffs next year.
|Sorry Nuggets fans: Jusuf Nurkic is a soft-smiler. And thus, he can't be trusted.|
1. Ty Lawson - PG 15.2ppg, 9.6apg, 1.2spg, 18.5 PER
Tywon (what a great name. I wonder if he's popular in Southeast Asia?) has proven through his 5 years in the league that he's a capable point guard, which is by far the deepest position for good/great/elite players, so that's quite a compliment. And this year in particular was a good one for Lawson - anytime you can average 15/10 while playing in 75 games, that's nothing to sneeze at. Two other things that Lawson brings to the table: he's one of the fastest guys in the league and he makes that speed a factor in his game (probably the second-best at that, behind John Wall), and then he makes enough of his 3's to keep you honest (he hit a career-low 34% this year). Additionally, at 5'11'' (listed) he's one of the shortest starters in the NBA. Respect.
2. Kenneth Faried - PF 12.6ppg, 8.9rpg, 1.6 "stocks" per game (steals+blocks), 18.5 PER
"The Manimal" had a little bit of a down year this year. That is to say, he essentially had a carbon-copy (that's such an outdated phrase - seriously, when was the last time you actually kept one of those "yellow copies" or whatever they give you for a receipt?) statistical year as his previous 2 years. So what's wrong with that? Well, "we" the viewing public called for Faried to do what all great superstars do: go from good to great. And by repeating his insane line of rebounding, low-post defense extending to the perimeter, and average big-man scoring, The Manimal has proven that what you see is what you get with him. And that's enough. He'll never be DeMarcus Cousins, so we should all stop expecting that of him.
3. Danilo Gallinari - SF 12.4ppg, 40% 3FG, 0.8spg, 16.8 PER
"The Rooster" has that gift: he makes throwing the orange, round ball into the tall rim-and-net contraption look so easy. Dude can score, and he makes it look so...Italian. Confident, relaxed, and made completely of cheese and tomato sauce. Unfortunately, Danilo hasn't been gifted with the rebounding gene - that must be native to Detroit (what with Dennis Rodman and Ben Wallace's careers taking off there). My guess, while unaided by actually watching many Nuggets games, is that Gallo's high steals numbers are because he's cheating and gambling on the defensive end - not because he's a stalwart.
4. Wilson Chandler - SF 13.9ppg, 6.1rpg, 13.9 PER
Chandler is like Gallinari's long-lost twin - another gifted scorer, but exchange Gallo's odd steals numbers with Chandler's rebounding numbers. I mean, I've never seen him work hard on the boards, so when is he getting these rebounds? Baffling. Wilson Chandler also has the best neck tattoo this side of DeShawn Stevenson.
|Creepy tat game strong. It's like the other face is trying to sneak up out of his jersey.|
|Sorry Wilson, but you can't beat MONEY ON YOUR THROAT.|
5. Jusuf Nurkic - C 6.9ppg, 6.2rpg, 1.1bpg, 14.8 PER
Nurkic came out of mild obscurity (he was taken in the 1st round of the 2014 draft, but there are other international guys taken in the 1st round haven't even stepped foot in the US yet) to be an impactful backup big guy in his first season with the Nuggets. Big and strong, Denver is undoubtedly hoping that Jusuf can keep the defensive prowess working while he becomes more adept on the offensive end.
6. JJ Hickson - PF 7.6ppg, 6.2rpg, 14.4 PER
JJ has been a high-energy big man ever since his days at NC State, but he's come to carve out his niche as a rebounding machine - especially given his per-minute stats.
7. Will Barton - SG 6.8ppg, 2.8rpg, 13.6 PER
"The People's Champ", as he was nicknamed when he played in Portland, has been an under-the-radar talent during his 3 years in the league. Involved in the midseason trade that sent Arron Afflalo to Portland, Barton had a chance to change scenery, and he took to it very well - filling the role of bench scorer. Barton plays in such a way that his outgoing personality can be easily seen whenever he's on the court - the people of Denver would be wise to adopt him as their champ too.
8. Randy Foye - SG 8.7ppg, 2.4apg, 11.0 PER
Well, things have definitely been better for Raaaaaandy (thank you, Aziz Ansari). In a year where Foye saw almost all his averages decrease, as well as his total minutes played and games played in general, newcomer Will Barton added insult to injury by proving that he could handle the load of playing the 2-spot. Next year, the reins should be handed over even more, so hopefully Foye transitions from the "it man" like he had been during his time with the Timberwolves and Clippers, to a wizened veteran bestowing knowledge on the young'un.
9. Jameer Nelson - PG 8.3ppg, 4.0apg, 35% 3FG, 12.1 PER
Remember when Jameer Nelson was an All-Star in 2008-09, and then got hurt right before the ASG itself? Well, Jameer is probably still recovering from that, because he's never been the same. Dude used to ball out at St. Joe's though.
10. Darrell Arthur - PF 6.6ppg, 2.9rpg, 11.6 PER
One of the guys who, coming out of college (Kansas), I figured was a can't-miss. I also went to Texas A&M, who made losing to Kansas their personal mission every year - so I saw quite a few good games out of Mr. Arthur. However, Darrell hasn't lived up to my personal hype for him. For his size, and for his sheer talent level, Arthur should rebound at a better clip, which would lead to increased point-production.
11. Joffrey Lauvergne - PF 3.9ppg, 3.2rpg, 10.5 PER
Denver's "fall-off-the-cliff" section of their roster is larger than most teams, so these last 5 guys aren't such hot commodities. Interesting about Lauvergne: he has a higher usage rate than even JJ Hickson - basically, dude is a total ball hog.
12. Gary Harris - SG 3.4ppg, 20% 3FG, 5.0 PER
A 1st-round draft pick last year, Harris came into the year with moderate expectations on his game - and underwhelmed. He shot 30% from the field, and 20% from 3 - and yet still found his way onto the court in 55 games this season.
13. Erick Green - PG 3.4ppg, 0.9apg, 9.0 PER
A late 2nd-round pick two years ago, Green is a bit of a success story, given the expectations and the fact that he played in over half of Denver's games this year. He also has a near-3:1 assist/turnover ratio! That's pretty neat.
14. Ian Clark - SG 1.9ppg, 36% 3FG, 8.9 PER
I know you're curious what I've got to say about Ian Clark, who played in 7 of Denver's games. But I'm not going to let you know. So there!
15. Jamaal Franklin - SG 1.0ppg, 1.0apg, 4.9 PER
Jamaal wears number 99. That's ballsy.