Team Name: Denver Nuggets Last Year’s Record: 38-28 Key Additions: Andre Iguodala, Quincy Miller, Anthony Randolph, Evan Fournier Key Losses: Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington 1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season? This offseason has seen significant moves around the league. Among the several winners, Denver is a quite one, but many would argue they have sneakily got an upper hand in the Dwight trade, and instantly lift their team to another level. They acquired Andre Iguodala, the former leader of Philadaphia Sixers and arguably the best perimeter defender in the NBA. He fits right into George Carl’s system. A point forward who excels in transition and makes good decisions might be the most coveted player that Karl has ever imagined. Another huge plus–He plays defense. You cannot contribute Philly’s defense solely on Iggy, but he is the leader by action, and motivates players around him to play tougher. He is a ultimate team player whose stardom is underrated. ESPN ranked him 28 this year behind likes of James Harden and Manu Ginobili while a lot of fans who have seen Iggy played would rank him in Top 20 in a blink. Paired with Ty Lawson/Andre Miller, Iggy will flourish running up and down, and will ignite one of the most dynamic offense around the league. The team shipped out Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington to clear out some room for a deep roster. Afflalo has turned more into a Kobe-lite throughout last year, imitating his moves and getting into the lane more. He has improved and become Denver’s go-to scorer in the second half of the season, but he is 28 years of age, and probably won’t be staying at this high level for long. Harrington can still shoot it, and his mini low post game is efficient over shorter defenders, but overall, he is on decline over the recent years. Another big move gone unnoticed is resigning JaVale McGee, who showed signs of dominance in last playoffs. He is a physical freak, but he is yet to know how to utilize his gifts but dunking recklessly. Under Carl, McGee will grow and find his role eventually. JaVale needs to work on his upper body strength. Too many times he was overpowered by opposing center and power forwards. News that he has worked out with Olajuwon gets Denver fans excited, but those moves requires strength to hold your own down low. If you cannot gain possession effectively as the Dream, those moves won’t be effective at all. Their draft is solid as usual. Evan Fournier is still a big unknown, but with 20th pick, you take whoever has the highest stock. A big steal came in the second round when Denver was able to draft Quincy Miller this late. He is a very talented KG-type power forward who is long enough to stand in the paint, and has solid ball-handling and penetration skills. Anthony Randolph is another good pickup in terms of adding depth and athleticism to the front court. 2. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses Although they add Iguodala, they have yet to prove they can contain powerful big man like Howard and Bynum. With Howard moving to the Lakers, Denver is likely to match up with them in the playoffs. Faried is such an elite rebounder that grabs rebound in transition, but struggles in half-court defense setting because of his size. McGee has size, but his sense for rebounding is not very acute despite his deceptive rebounding number. He forgot to box out often, and went for wild blocks to get on SportsCenter. If he can somehow understands where he should position himself in the defensive system, he could be a very impact big man who has the ability to direct the defense. Their perimeter defense are solid. Ty Lawson takes his chances with his steals, but pressure the ball well. AI, Chandler, Brewer are defenders that can defend small and big wings one-on-one. Galo is above average as well. In short, if this team wants to go further, they have to emphasize on rebounding and protecting the paint. Another issue to be addressed with the departure of Afflalo and Harrington is their outside shooting. It is almost laughable for a team that has running gun offense and emphasizes on quick offense. AI is not an average shooter who had a fluke shooting season. Galo and Lawson are streaky. Brewer and Miller do not shoot much from outside. If they can shoot around 40 percent as a team, they have a shot to win any game. 3. What are goals for this team? They went to conference final years ago with Melo and Billups, and now they have struggled to get out of the first round. However, things are looking brighter for those young guns. They are on the top of the second tranche in the Western conference behind the first tier that combines Lakers and Thunders(who just traded James Harden to Houston). They may be edged by the experience of Clippers and Spurs, but they have a more legitimate chance than ever to beat those two teams. If they can end up winning home court advantage in the regular season, they will at least advance to the second round. They match up well with Spurs, but might not have such advantage against the Clippers, who has Jordan and Griffin inside. 4. The key to their success? Prediction of their records Ty Lawson-Iguodala-McGee has got to be the leaders of this team. The development of Ty Lawson has opened a lot of eyes, and if he can be more of a team leader like Rondo is right now, it will help this team tremendously. Not every team possess a player like Iguodala, who can defend the likes of Lebron, Pierce, Kobe, Wade on his own. It is a luxury for defense. If he can step up on the offense to generate the secondary offense behind their duo point guards, this team would be scary. McGee has to evolve into the player that everyone expects him to be. Be more team-minded and be the defensive coordinator eventually, he has a long way to go, but the kid has got great upside. I expect them to win 55 games this year given the fact that they are very young and durable. In the playoff, since they are most likely the three or four seed, a match up with Memphis, Clippers or Mavericks will happen in the first round. Except Clippers, I like Denver’s chances over the other two.