Sizing up the competition: Denver Nuggets

August, 20, 2012
8/20/12
12:01
AM CT
First in a series looking at the five teams ahead of the Dallas Mavericks in our early 2012-13 Western Conference rankings and how the revamped Mavs match up.

No. 5 Denver Nuggets

George Karl's group plays it fast and loose and likes to have fun -- and Karl is having more fun ever since the exits of Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. The Nuggets showed it in a steamroller performance on Dec. 26, the second game of the season, with a 115-93 whiplashing of the Mavs. Of course, the Nuggets weren't as good as that game might have suggested and the Mavs weren't as bad. Dallas took the next three meetings with both teams missing various key players in each game. Much has changed since their last meeting on March 19 starting with center JaVale McGee's arrival and Nene's departure a few days earlier -- although the sometimes comically erratic McGee didn't play in that series finale against Dallas -- as both squads bring new looks into the 2012-13 season.

[+] EnlargeJaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireLast season's addition of JaVale McGee, right, gives Denver a long and versatile frontcourt.
Last season's results (Mavs won 3-1)
Nuggets 115, @Mavs 93
Mavs 105, @Nuggets 95
@Mavs 102, Nuggets 84
Mavs 112, @Nuggets 95

This season's games
Dec. 28: @Nuggets
April 4: vs. Nuggets
April 12: vs. Nuggets

What's changed?
The Nuggets had a deep roster dotted with impressive players last season, but boasted not an All-Star among them. That changed last week with the four-team blockbuster Dwight Howard deal that sent longtime 76ers wing Andre Iguodala to Denver with the Nuggets sending shooting guard Arron Afflalo and reserve forward Al Harrington to Orlando. Iguodala, a 2012 All-Star and member of gold-medal winning Team USA, will share the backcourt with speedster point guard Ty Lawson and he'll bring a missing defensive mentality that can only help the league's top scoring team last season that finished 29th in scoring defense. A long and versatile frontcourt includes Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried and the 7-foot McGee. Denver also made a nice pickup with 6-11 Dallas native Anthony Randolph to add to a solid bench that includes ever-steady point guard Andre Miller, Chandler -- if Karl chooses to make him the sixth man -- Corey Brewer and a couple of 7-footers in Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos.

How the Mavs match up
New Mavs point guard Darren Collison, a 6-foot, 180-pound blur, certainly gives the Mavs more backcourt speed than ever before to stick with the shifty 5-foot-11 Lawson. That should come as music to the ears of small forward Shawn Marion, who too many times last season was asked to take the opposing point guard because Jason Kidd and Vince Carter simply couldn't. Marion won't be singing long now that Iguodala gives the Nuggets a formidable trio at the wing with Gallinari and Chandler now potentially popping off the bench. This type of squad could be a situation in which Mavs rookie forward Jae Crowder becomes a valuable addition as a strong, 6-6 wing defender to assist Marion. Shooting guard Dahntay Jones also gives Dallas another defensive option on the perimeter it didn't have last season. Iguodala really helps the Nuggets' defensive situation. Against the Mavs he'll be able to stick O.J. Mayo, who the Mavs hope will emerge as the second scorer behind Dirk Nowitzki. Denver still has no answer for Dirk, not that many teams do. Last season against the Nuggets, Nowitzki averaged 22.5 points in 29.3 minutes and shot 53.8 percent from the floor, well above his season average of 45.7 percent.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsS. Dalembert 6.8
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksS. Dalembert 1.2