2011-12 Season Summary:
Balance, balance, and more balance. That was the key for the Nuggets this past season as ten players who finished the season on the roster averaged at least eight points per game. Those numbers are a bit misleading since injuries limited the court time of several of those players. Regardless, it's a formula that George Karl has adopted in Denver since the franchise dealt Carmelo Anthony. Karl's system led the team to have one of the most potent offenses in the NBA and gain a respectable amount of success.
Leading the charge for the Nuggets was their backcourt of Ty Lawson and Aaron Afflalo. Both players made significant strides with their game, which helped offset the separate ankle and thumb injuries that sidelined Danilo Gallinari for 23 games. Almost as important for Denver was the leadership and experience that veteran ironman Andre Miller brought to the backcourt.
Newcomers Corey Brewer and Rudy Fernandez played important roles off the bench though Fernandez's season was cut short due to a back injury. Wilson Chandler was supposed to add even more depth after his stint playing professional ball in China during the strike, but his return to the NBA ended after just eight games because of a bum hip.
Perhaps the most surprising part of the Nuggets' season was the trading of veteran big man, Nene, who the team had just signed to a long-term extension last offseason. Dealing Nene to the Wizards for JaVale McGee brought a younger, more defensive-minded player, which was needed due to Chris Andersen's injury and off-the-court issues. Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufus added more size and depth inside, which most NBA teams always seem to covet.
After failing to immediately crack the rotation, rookie Kenneth Faried became a fan favorite due to his hustle and aggressive style of play (and quite honestly, emerged as one of my favorite rookies of this past season.) His energy and ability to crash the boards added a missing dimension from Denver's roster. Al Harrington had a nice bounce back season after a rough inaugural year in town and accepted his role as the top scoring threat off the bench.
SF: Danilo Gallinari/Wilson Chandler/Jordan Hamilton
SG: Aaron Afflalo/Corey Brewer/*Rudy Fernandez
PG: Ty Lawson/Julyan Stone
NBA Free Agents:
PG-Andre Miller (UFA)
*C-JaVale McGee (RFA)
*SG-Rudy Fernandez (RFA)
2012-13 Team Salary: Approximately $48.1 million
NBA Offseason Needs:
1. Pay McGee?:
While swapping Nene for McGee temporarily saved the Nuggets some money, that won't be the case this offseason since he is a restricted free agent and due for a significant pay raise. The question for Denver becomes how much is the team willing to pay to keep him around?
It recently given long-term extensions to Gallinari, Afflalo, and Chandler. Plus, the team will have to pony up some cash for Ty Lawson in the near future since he becomes a restricted free agent next summer.
Denver does have the advantage of being able to match any offer McGee signs, but anything in the $10-$12 million per year range could be out of their price range.
2. Re-sign Miller:
At 36 years old, Andre Miller isn't near as productive as he was a few years ago. However, his leadership and ability to distribute the basketball still make him a very valuable asset on a still rather youthful team. If Miller can land a starting job elsewhere though, he could once again be on his way out of the Mile High City.
3. 3-Point Shooter:
While the Nuggets defended the three-point line better than any other team in the league, they struggled shooting it from distance, finishing 24th in the league in three-point percentage. Getting Gallinari healthy should help that number improve but Denver should still be proactive in looking to add a long-distance specialist off its bench, which would only make the Nuggets a more dangerous offensive team.