It was only two short seasons ago that the Denver Nuggets won a franchise best 57 games on their way to securing a third seed in a stacked Western Conference. Unfortunately, the promise of that season died as quickly as the anticipation for a playoff run could begin when the Nuggets were ousted by the sixth seeded Golden State Warriors.
It is now painfully obvious how much George Karl was able to get that team to overachieve, and for his efforts, the NBA named him the Coach of the Year only weeks before the Nuggets scapegoated him out of a job.
Looking at this year’s roster, many of the names and faces are the same, and those who have moved on have been replaced with equal, if not better talent.
Corey Brewer, Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller and Kosta Koufos are among the players no longer on this team, but Nate Robinson, Randy Foye, Gary Harris and J.J. Hickson have taken their place.
The only real net loss when comparing the two rosters is at small forward, where Brewer was such an important part of the Nuggets’ run in 2012-13. However, the Nuggets are still sufficiently deep at the three spot with a healthy Danilo Gallinari returning, Wilson Chandler and an ever-improving Quincy Miller.
This year’s Nuggets team is significantly more talented at power forward and center, however. Kenneth Faried is on the verge of becoming an All-Star, Hickson is a quality workhorse and one of the best rebounders in the NBA, Timofey Mozgov had a breakout season and JaVale McGee continues to be a wild card.
Iguodala was also an important part of the 2012-13 roster, but between the return of Arron Afflalo, the addition of Randy Foye and the drafting of Gary Harris, the Nuggets have significantly upgraded at this position.
Miller was always one of Karl’s favorite players, and was a solid veteran on the 2012-13 roster, but he lacked the pure scoring ability of Robinson. I would argue that the Nuggets have also upgraded at point guard.
Of course, it can’t be overlooked how important Karl was to the success of the 2012-13 team, and Brian Shaw is not even in his stratosphere yet, but going into his second season on the bench, Shaw should be significantly improved, and it is obvious that this team is buying into his system.
I am not saying that the Nuggets will win 57 games this season; they won’t. But, when comparing the two rosters, this year’s team is the overall better squad. Ty Lawson has recently stated that he believes people are sleeping on this team, and I think he is exactly right.