Blazer Banter

The Scouting Report: Denver Nuggets

In an attempt to help you get to know the Blazers opponent each night, we are going to post a little bit of a scouting report of each team on the blog before each game. Friday’s (Nov.1) opponent are the new look Denver Nuggets (0-1). Tip-off will be at 6PM and the game will be shown on Comcast Sportsnet Northwest or if you are out of market you can catch it through the NBA League Pass free preview through November 5th. It is available on radio on 620 AM.

Projected Starting Line-up: Ty Lawson, Randy Foye, Anthony Randolph, JJ Hickson and JaVale McGee

New faces: Foye (three-team trade from Utah), Hickson (free agency), Darrell Arthur (trade with Memphis for Kosta Koufos), Nate Robinson (free agency), new head coach Brian Shaw

After a franchise record 57-win season, the Nuggets come back for the 2013-14 season after losing last year’s Executive of The Year, Masai Ujiri, and last year’s Coach of The Year, George Karl.

Ujiri took a lucrative deal to control the basketball decisions for the Toronto Raptors. Karl was fired after eight seasons with the team after the Nuggets were upset in the first round of the playoffs by the Golden State Warriors.

In addition to their administrative losses, they also lost arguably their best player, Andre Iguodala. Iguodala was part of a three-team deal that got the Nuggets Randy Foye after it was clear that Iguodala was going to sign with the Warriors. The trade also got them a second round pick.

Making matters worse for the Nuggets, their second leading scorer from last season, Danilo Gallinari, is still on the mend for a few more months after getting his torn ACL surgically repaired.

In Brian Shaw, they brought in a coach with a very good resume in the league as an assistant. First, Shaw came up under Phil Jackson, giving him a background in the triangle offense and then he was an assistant for Frank Vogel in Indiana as the team reached the Eastern Conference finals last year.

With Shaw coming to the Nuggets, it appears that the breakneck pace has been slowed a bit. Their first game was two possessions lower than their average pace from last season. The Nuggets were second in pace (possessions per game) in the league last year.

The triangle offense usually relies on having very good post players (Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol) and it appears that one of the first casualties of Shaw’s philosophy is the playing time of Kenneth Faried.

The Manimal’s playing time has been more or less replaced by former Trail Blazer JJ Hickson. Hickson started and played in crunch time for the Nuggets. Hickson scored 12 points and had 9 boards in 33 minutes on Wednesday.

Faried played only 15 minutes onWednesday and averaged over 28 minutes per game last season and 22.5 minutes his rookie season. Grantland’s Zach Lowe wrote last week that the Nuggets were “putting out feelers” for Faried last month.

Despite the fact that JaVale McGee got the start, he only played 10 minutes on the night and Shaw closed the game with Hickson and former Grizzlies forward/center Darrell Arthur as the big men. His counterpart, DeMarcus Cousins, dropped 30 and 14.

There was a steady diet of post-ups by the Nuggets for all of their bigs, including Timofey Mozgov who had 10 points off the bench on six shots. It appears that Shaw is at least trying to get the Nuggets to play something like the Pacers team he just left. The Nuggets held the Kings to just 90 points in the loss.

The Nuggets had a handful of chances to beat the Kings but missed shots to tie or take the lead in the final seconds.

Denver, despite the fact they have a lot of the same players, with Shaw at the helm are a very different team.

Lawson presents another challenge as a lighting quick guard, like Bledsoe and Dragic, who likes to get to the paint. He had 20 points and 8 assists in the opener.

The Nuggets, unlike the Suns on Wednesday, like to keep two traditional big men on the floor and without Wilson Chandler (strained hamstring) don’t have a shooting big man that spaces the court.

Despite the changes in style and personnel, especially when Gallinari and Chandler come back, the Nuggets have the collective talent to compete for a playoff spot.

 

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen is the Trail Blazers beat reporter for The Columbian. He's a graduate of the Allen School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon in addition earning a degree in Spanish. He started writing about NBA Basketball for SwishScout.com before being the Sports Reporter Intern for TrailBlazers.com. He also fist-bumped with Kanye West once. Follow @BlazerBanter on twitter for more Blazers news.

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