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NBA 2016-17 Team Previews -Denver Nuggets: Magic Mike

By Tamberlyn Richardson
Oct 21, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone looks on from the sidelines in the third quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 101-75. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 21, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone looks on from the sidelines in the third quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 101-75. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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Oct 21, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone looks on from the sidelines in the third quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 101-75. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 21, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone looks on from the sidelines in the third quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 101-75. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 21, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone looks on from the sidelines in the third quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 101-75. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

NBA 2016-17 Team Previews – Denver Nuggets. In what is now the toughest division in the Association the Nuggets may be sitting near the bottom, but their glut of young assets has them poised for future success. And, while no one expects them to be players in the West, they could turn out to be this year’s dark horse.

To prepare our readers for the regular season SCS provides our NBA 2016-17 Team Previews.  Who will return to the playoffs? Which team will fall from grace and who will be the Cinderella team?

Get a complete break down of each team. Included in the profiles are:

  • Where the team finished 2015-16
  • Key 2015-16 stats
  • Future draft pick status
  • Current and future salary rank
  • Off Season Moves
  • 2017 Free Agents
  • Schedule, NBA League Pass and Win Projection Ranking
  • Team Overview entering season (Starting 5, reserves and notable injuries)
  • When each team will play the Houston Rockets
  • Strengths, Weaknesses and Prediction

NBA 2016-17 Team Previews now looks at arguably the toughest division – the Northwest.

Up next is the team in the division who many pundits predict won’t make the playoffs, but they are loaded at every position: the Denver Nuggets.

NBA 2016-17 Team Previews: Denver Nuggets

2015-16 Record: 33 – 49

Playoffs:

Missed playoffs, finished 10th in Western Conference

Apr 10, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton (5) dribbles the ball in the fourth quarter against the Utah Jazz at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Points Per Game: 101.9 (20th )

Opponent Points Per Game:  105.0 (22nd)

Pace: 95.7 (16th )

Offensive Rank: 105.6 (17th)

Defensive Rank:  108.9 (24th)

Three Point Rank:  33.8% (26th)

Rebounds: 44.6  (8th)

Assists: 22.7 (14th)

Steals: 7.4 ( 20th)

Blocks: 4.8 (16th)

Turnovers: 14.7 (18th)

Next: Future postioning - draft, free agents

Oct 21, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari (8) dribbles the ball against Dallas Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes (40) in the first quarter at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Free Agents

Restricted:

  • none

Unrestricted:

Future Draft Picks

As per Real GM

Incoming:

  • 2017 first round draft pick from Memphis Memphis’ 1st round pick to Denver (via Cleveland) protected for selections 1-5 in 2017 and 1-5 in 2018 and unprotected in 2019 [Cleveland-Memphis, 1/22/2013; Cleveland-Denver, 1/7/2015]
  • 2017 second round draft pick from Memphis Memphis’ 2nd round pick to Denver (via Oklahoma City) protected for selections 31-35 in 2017 and unprotected in 2018 [Boston-Memphis-Oklahoma City, 1/7/2014; Denver-Oklahoma City, 8/30/2016]
  • 2017 second round draft pick from Oklahoma City Oklahoma City’s 2nd round pick to Denver protected for selections 31-35 in 2017 and unprotected in 2018 [Denver-Oklahoma City, 8/30/2016]
  • 2018 second round draft pick from Golden State Golden State’s 2018 2nd round pick to Denver [Denver-Golden State-Utah, 7/10/2013]

Outgoing:

  • 2017 second round draft pick to Houston Denver’s 2017 2nd round pick to Houston [Denver-Houston, 7/20/2015]
  • 2018 second round draft pick to L.A. Lakers Denver’s 2018 2nd round pick to L.A. Lakers (via Utah to Chicago) [Denver-Golden State-Utah, 7/10/2013; Atlanta-Chicago-Utah, 2/18/2016; Chicago-L.A. Lakers, 7/7/2016]

Average Age of Team: 25.4 years

Next: Off Season Moves

Oct 21, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews (23) defends against Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) in the first quarter at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Draft Picks

Round 1: Jamal Murray (7), Juan Hernangomez (15), Malik Beasley (19)

Round 2: Petr Cornelie (53)

2016 Free Agents prior to July 1, 2016:

Nuggets began their 2016 free agency with the following free agents:

Unrestricted:

  • Darrell Arthur
  • D.J. Augustin
  • Mike Miller

Moves made following July 1, 2016:

Incoming: None

Exiting: 

Re-upping:

Next: Schedule, League Pass, Win Projection Rankings

Oct 14, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) defends Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) in the third quarter at the Pepsi Center. The Warriors won 129-128. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas over-under for wins: 34.5

Schedule strength:

As ranked by ESPN: 8th with 1.20 extra losses

The Nuggets will always have the high-altitude advantage at home, but this season only three teams have a lower percentage of their games coming against teams with less rest than their opponent (45.7 percent).

Games versus Rockets:

  • Friday, December 2nd, Pepsi Center, Denver, CO at 10:30PM EST
  • Saturday, March 18th, Pepsi Center, Denver, CO at 9:30PM EST
  • Monday, March 20th, at Toyota Center, Houston TX, at 8:00PM EST
  • Wednesday April 5th, at Toyota Center, Houston TX, at 8:00PM EST

Zach Lowe NBA League Pass Rank: 29th

Jokic shocked the league as a rookie with his shooting touch and Gasolian playmaking, including a taste for leading fast breaks. Nurkic is a bulldozer who swears so loudly you can hear it through the TV, and he had the balls to taunt Kobe freaking Bryant as a rookie.

Malone played better defense along the sideline than James Harden played in any actual game last season, and Danilo Gallinari’s hunched drives trick everyone into fouling him. And, hey! Remember Wilson Chandler?

Next: Team Overview

Oct 3, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) dribbles the ball against the Toronto Raptors during the third quarter at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Committed Salary

2016: $75,113,998 – 28th ranked

2017: $74,201,136 – 15th ranked

Team Salary Ranking as per Hoops Hype, and team salary overview also via Hoops Hype

Starting 5:

Point Guard:  Emmanuel Mudiay- 12.8 points,  5.5 assists,  3.4 rebounds

Shooting Guard:  Gary Harris – 12.3 points,  2.9 assists, 1.9 rebounds

Small Forward:  Danilo Gallinari – 19.5  points,  2.5 assists,  5.3 rebounds

Power Forward:  Kenneth Faried –  12.5 points, 1.2 assists, 8.7 rebounds

Center:  Nikola Jokic – 10.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 0.6  blocks

Reserves:

Guards: Jamal Murray, Jameer Nelson, Malik Beasley

Wings: Wilson Chandler, Will Barton, Juan Hernangomez, Mike Miller, Darell Arthur

Bigs: Jusuf Nurkic, Jarnell Stokes

Injury News:

  • Following knee surgery Arthur is working his way back, should be ready to go at the end of October
  • Mudiay didn’t play in the final preseason game due to a sore ankle, but should be ready for season opener
  • Harris: groin didn’t play in the final preseason game due to a sore ankle, but should be ready for season opener

All injury news as per rotoworld

Next: Strengths, Weaknesses, Prediction

Jun 23, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Juan Hernangomez greets NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected as the number fifteen overall pick to the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Strengths:

A coach with a message:Mike Malone has quickly moved up the ranks of coaches in the NBA. He now has a resume that includes the only coach DeMarcus Boogie Cousins ever respected, was able to work with vets with character issues in Sacramento and after last season was successful at developing young talent in Denver. In fact the team has taken on his tough nosed identity, especially the youth.

Depth: there is a glut of talent in Denver with specific depth at the two ends of the spectrum. Jokic and Nurkic are arguably the two most talented youthful tandem at centre and there is real promise for the future backcourt of Mudiay and Murray. Harris will begin the season at the shooting guard, but let’s see how long he keeps that job when (or if)  the Nuggets fall out of the playoff race.

I suspect Malone and the Nuggets management may lean towards Murray who isn’t afraid to take the clutch shot. In fact in several instances in preseason he rose to the occasion and took over the game.  And don’t sleep on Juan Hernangomez who will be another huge asset Malone is likely to develop in the same way he did his 2 young centers. His presence makes Gallo’s job less safe.

Promising youth: there is so much talent on the Nuggets the older players are more vulnerable. Faried has been shopped for months and Gallinari may also get moved.

Weaknesses:

What makes matters interesting is there is almost too much depth on the squad. Chandler and Arthur are solid character guys so it’s likely Faried and Gallo are moved before them. But this embarrassment of riches poses a problem in that the Nuggets need to start their ascent. Another lottery pick while fine (along with all the other picks they own) could put the team in a perpetual wash, rinse repeat cycle. Now is the time to package up some of Denver’s plethora of draft picks and ship them out  to land a star.

With so much talent playing time becomes an issue at some point, so Malone has his work cut out.

Health: several players have battled the injury bug with Gallo missing ample time, Chandler back after missing last season and already Harris is nursing a groin injury.  The trick will be keeping the right players healthy long enough so Malone can figure out which line-ups work together best.

More from Space City Scoop

Prediction:

Though this team is definitely a dark horse contender for the 8 seed, they look like they’ll need one more season of growth.  Malone has an extremely tough job trying to develop his youngsters while keeping his vets happy with their playing time.

As much as I see the squad building an identity, I can’t say for sure who the true leader is on the squad. That said, I could see Murray having a solid campaign and becoming that individual very soon. It almost behooves Denver to get a high lottery pick to find the perfect small forward and join the likes of Minnesota and Utah as they begin their ascent upward.

Murray is like Lillard in that, he hates to lose and loves all the pressure. For that reason I have a feeling he could end up winning Rookie of the Year. I suspect he’ll acclimate sooner than Buddy Hield as well. Already he’s shown a  natural desire to “be the guy” as he relishes those opportunities. Mark my words Jamal Murray will win some games for Denver in spectacular fashion this season and before the season is over people will be talking about the Canadian as someone Denver stole in the lottery.

FanSided Affiliate Site:   NuggLove

Next: Houston Rockets 2016-17 Team Preview

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