Following the Dwight Howard trade, the Denver Nuggets were able to snag Andre Iguodala and brought him to the mile high city, but how will the addition affect the Nuggets when they spar with the Oklahoma City Thunder?
Ty Lawson has shown improvement every year that he’s been in the league, and this season will prove no different. During the 2011-2012 season, he averaged 16.9 points on 49.9% shooting from the field, 4.8 assists, 1.0 steal and knocking down 36.5% from downtown. While Lawson is an underrated pg, with amazing speed and efficient scoring, he’s just not the level of Russell Westbrook, yet. Westbrook averaged 23.6 points on 45.7% shooting, 5.5 assists, 1.7 steals and hitting 31.6% from beyond the arc.
Newly acquired Iguodala will start at the shooting guard position and the Western Conference will have to deal with his tenacious defense regularly, as well as, Iguodala will get a taste of the run-and-gun west. Last season he averaged 12.4 points on 45.4% from the field, 6.1 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.7 steals, and scoring 39.4% from three-point land. Thabo Sefolosha averaged 4.8 points on 43.2% shooting, 3 rebounds, and 43.7% from downtown. Iguodala and Sefolosha are both defensive specialists, but Iguodala is on an elite platform.
Of course, James Harden comes off the bench as he averaged 16.8 points on 49.1% shooting, 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.0 steal, and shooting 39% from deep last season. Also, he’s the reigning sixth man of the league and can torch from the outside and can initiate contact fouls with ease, and this is where Iguodala — when played together — will come in handy.
Starting at small forward for the Nuggets will be Danilo Gallinari, who had a bout of bad luck last season with not one, but too ill-timed injuries, obviously healthy is the number one priority for Gallinari. Despite only playing in 43 games last season, he averaged 14.6 points (second-lowest of his career) on 41.4% shooting, 4.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steal, and shooting 32.8% from beyond the arc. The second-best small forward in the game, Kevin Durant, averaged 28 points on 49.6% shooting, 8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.3 steals, and shooting 38.7% from downtown.
Offensively speaking, there isn’t a contest at the SF position, however, Iguodala will have a defensive assignment to guard the perimeter if it be Harden, Westbrook or Durant.
Second-year player, Kenneth Faried, will start at the power forward position, and his first season with Denver was anything but dull. His 2011-2012 NBA averages were 10.2 points on 58.6% scoring, 7.7 rebounds, and 1 block. While, Faried is tenacious, and could possibly have an impact year, there’s the reigning king of blocks, Serge Ibaka. He averaged 9.1 points on 53.5% shooting, 7.5 rebounds and 3.7 blocks.
Finally, we come to the center position which will feature JaVale McGee starting for the Nuggets. Some will laugh at McGee, but somehow, someway, he works in Denver’s system. In addition, he has tremendous upside that will affect the young squad in a positive manner. Last season he averaged (with Denver), 10.3 points on 61.2 shooting from the field, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks over 20 games with five of those he started. Kendrick Perkins is the starting center for the Thunder, and is obviously slower than McGee, but he still averaged 5.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks.
Looking at benches, Denver has a bench as deep as an ocean, which is helpful during the regular season — not so much during the post-season — as they have the best backup point guard in the game, Andre Miller, paired with Wilson Chandler, Jordan Hamilton, Corey Brewer, Timofey Mozgov, Anthony Randolph, Kosta Koufos, and Evan Fournier. Harden, Nick Collison, Perry Jones III, and Eric Maynor lead the Thunder’s bench.
In comparing the two teams, notice they are also the two of the fastest-paced and offensive teams in the league. Denver was a 20th defensive efficient team last season, while Oklahoma City was in the upper tier for defensive efficient teams. If Denver can wiggle it’s way into the 15th, or higher, defensive position, they may give the Thunder a little run in the regular season.
Predictions can be hit or miss, but missing out on games between these two speedy teams would be an utter loss.