|08-26-2004, 05:50 PM||#1|
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Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Sherman Oaks, CA
Training Camp Preview: Denver Nuggets
Training Camp Preview: Denver Nuggets
by Rick Kamla - Senior Editor, Fanball.com
Thursday, August 26, 2004
2003-04 Recap: The Cavaliers improved by 20 games with the first overall pick, LeBron James, but the Nuggets got 26 games better with third overall pick, Carmelo Anthony. Melo got lots of help along with way, but his arrival awakened this sleepy franchise from a 17-65 nightmare. Feeling fresh and frisky after hibernating for nine years, Melo's Nuggets embarked on a 43-39 dream season that ended with a playoff berth in the Western Conference. That's one of the best turnarounds in NBA history. Anthony was sensational during the regular season, averaging 21 points, six rebounds, three assists, and 1.2 steals, but his clutch shots during Denver's playoff run were even more impressive. Melo wasn't alone in resurrecting the Nuggets, as free-agent acquisition Andre Miller, the suddenly healthy Marcus Camby, and second-year beast Nene all had solid seasons. Miller ranked 10th in assists (6.1) and steals (1.7), Camby set a new career high with 72 games, and Nenecontinued his improvement with 11.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 53 percent shooting. The Nuggets ultimately lost to the Timberwolves in a five-game, first-round series, but they pulled off a minor miracle to get there.
Offseason Overview: General manager Kiki Vandeweghe wasn't super busy this summer, as he opted for quality over quantity with his moves. Early in the free-agency period, he re-signed Camby to a well-structured contract that hinges on games played. A little later in the free-agency period, Kiki stole Kenyon Martin from the Nets for three future first-round picks. Presuming they stay signed and healthy, Denver's frontline of Camby, Nene, Martin, and Anthony should strike terror into the entire league for the next decade. I don't know if the NBA has ever seen a more athletic frontline. But I do know this: fantasy players get to reap the fruits of Vandeweghe's labor all season.
2004-05 Outlook: Look for another big leap from the Nuggets, who are much stronger with Martin. (It just doesn't seem fair that the Nugs can add Martin without yielding any core players. That move alone makes Kiki a favorite for executive of the year.) I see at least 50 wins from what will be one of the most exciting teams in the league. Let's face it, there's nothing better than having fantasy players on a fast-break team. That's right, freaks, Showtime has returned to the NBA—just not in Los Angeles. The Nuggets vault from eighth to fifth in the West, but it may take them another year or two to get out of the first round.
Rotation Analysis: The early word is that Nene starts at the five, Martin starts at the four, and Anthony starts at the three, leaving Camby as the sixth man. Martin has played between 33.4 and 34.6 minutes per game in his first four seasons, so let's give him 34 again this year. The Nuggets re-signed Camby for 30 hyperactive minutes per night, so that leaves 32 minutes for Nene in the team's 96-minute rotation at the four and five. Look for Melo's minutes to increase from 36.5 to right around 40 this year. I wish coach Jeff Bzdelik luck in dragging Melo off the floor for those eight minutes a night. Miller's minutes were down a year ago because the Nuggets couldn't keep third guard Earl Boykins off the floor. After averaging nearly 37 minutes the previous two seasons, Miller dropped to 34.6 last year because Boykins logged 22.5. If the Nuggets decide not to bring back swingmen Jon Barry and Rodney White, there should be plenty of clock for reigning three-point champion Voshon Lenard, who would be the only true two on the roster.
Player(s) to watch: I'm telling you, the Nuggets may have the best frontline in basketball. Ultimately, it could go down as one of the best in history. Miller, Lenard, and Boykins are solid performers, but the players to watch on this team play the three, four, and five.
Player(s) to fear: I don't fear Camby because of the Martin trade or his probable sixth-man status. I fear Camby because he has been a magnet for ice bags over his eight-year career. Understand that I have renewed confidence in Camby because he played through several nagging injuries last season. But also understand that until he plays 70-plus games again, I have no choice but to remain slightly skeptical.
The Stat: The Nuggets had five players average at least one steal in 2003-04: Miller (1.7); Nene (1.5); Anthony (1.2); Camby (1.2); and Barry (1.0).
Bold Prediction: Anthony once again fails to earn an invite to the All-Star game. Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, and Dirk Nowitzki are locks. Then you have, in my opinion, Amare Stoudemire and Andrei Kirilenko rounding out the five forward spots out West. That leaves Anthony on the couch with Martin, Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, Shawn Marion, Elton Brand, Zach Randolph, Pau Gasol, Carlos Boozer, and Lamar Odom. The East is making its move, but that murderer's row of forwards is why the west is still best.