Denver Nuggets: Will They Develop Their Own ‘Big 3′?

Ty Lawson

The Nuggets’ Ty Lawson has averaged 16.0 points a game this year. Photo Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr.com

The Denver Nuggets stayed the course during the NBA trade deadline on Thursday.

They kept their roster together.  The front office decided to let their young team grow and see where this group takes them. It was the right thing to do.

“We believe in our young players,” Nuggets general manager Masaii Ujiri said on 104.3 The Fan on Friday, Feb. 22. “We really really believe in them. We see these guys every day. We see them practice and see their work ethic.”

While Ujiri also said during the radio interview that he is always looking to make his team better, he feels he has guys on his roster that have superstar potential. He also wants to win a championship in Denver and that is the team’s No. 1 goal no matter what.

But what was interesting was his thought that that Nuggets have potential superstars on this roster already. Could they develop their own “Big Three” without spending big money or getting a bunch of friends together to play on one team? Ujiri said the team can’t be concerned about attracting a superstar to Denver.

“There are few great superstars in the league and we can’t cry about not having one,” he said during the radio interview. “[Danilo Gallinari] could be a superstar. Ty [Lawson] could be a superstar. [Kenneth] Faried has star qualities.”

Who could develop into the Nuggets’ “Big Three”? There are several candidates on the roster this season.

Ty Lawson

The speedy point guard has already shown flashes of being a superstar since he took over the full-time starting job two seasons ago. He was part of a national championship team at North Carolina so he knows what it takes to be the best. He has improved his mid-range jump shooting this season and combined with his speed, it has given plenty of defenders fits. Sometimes he disappears during games and it seems like he isn’t even on the floor.  This has to stop for him to reach true superstar status.  He is working on it and this year he has no problem taking the last shot.

The Nuggets believe he is the future of the franchise. He was given a contract extension this offseason and after a slow start has been the best player on the floor in recent games. He is the leader and there will be no “Big Three” without him.

Danilo Gallinari

The streaky-shooting Italian has finally been healthy this season and has started to show his clutch gene. Gallinari is the leading the scorer for the Nuggets at 17.3 points a game and is one of their best 3-point shooters. At the deadline, there were rumors that he could be traded, but the Nuggets chose to keep him. He was probably never going anywhere. He was the centerpiece of the Carmelo Anthony trade to the New York Knicks. The Nuggets want him to be a superstar and they gave him a contract extension last season.

When Gallinari is healthy he can be a force on the floor. He is good from the 3-point line and also has a good first step and to get to the basket with ease.  The Italian also shoots free throws at an 81 percent clip. Denver wants to team him with Lawson to lead the team in the future. Lawson and Gallinari are solidified as the top two players on the Nuggets. The third piece of the puzzle is a little more unknown.

Andre Igoudala

There are a lot of questions surrounding Igoudala’s role and future with the Nuggets. His defense has been outstanding. When he was injured on the road trip before the All-Star break, Denver lost two games that the outcome may have been different with Iguodala in the lineup. He can be left alone to guard anyone one-on-one, which is something the Nuggets have never really had.

His offense is what has been questioned. In Tuesday’s win over the Boston Celtics, Igoudala missed all seven shots he took and missed all but one of his free throws. A lot of those misses were bad. He is still the third-leading scorer on the team at 13.2 points game.

“It will take time,” Ujiri said in his radio interview Friday. “Andre is a great all-around player. He is not a flamboyant superstar. He plays unselfish basketball.”

Another issue with Igoudala is his contract. He has a player option for $16 million that he will probably pick up. If he doesn’t pick up the option, he will become a free agent. If the Nuggets see him as an important piece then re-signing him is a must.

Kenneth Faried

The second-year forward brings a lot of energy to the floor. He averages almost 10 rebounds a game. He also contributes 12.2 points a game. He seems to improve every game. The real worry for the Nuggets is his defense. Head coach George Karl doesn’t have him on the floor at the end of close games because of his struggles guarding top power forwards and his poor free-throw shooting.

The Nuggets' Kenneth Faried is a force on the offensive glass. (Photo Credit: KB Colorado, Flickr.com)

The Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried is a force on the offensive glass.
(Photo Credit: KB Colorado, Flickr.com)

Faried has become a fan favorite in Denver due to his monster dunks and all-out effort on every play. He needs to gain the trust of Karl to really become a superstar on the Nuggets. If he gains that trust, he could team with Lawson and Gallinari to form a great young core. Continued struggles on defense and the foul line could lead to him staying in the role he is now.

JaVale McGee

McGee has tons of talent and the Nuggets realized it when they gave him a $10 million a year contract in the offseason. No one has ever doubted how good the center could be but his maturity and basketball smarts seem to always be in question. He averages close to two blocks a game but only four rebounds a game. Improving his rebounding game may give him more minutes in crunch time. Until then he will play about 20 minutes a game while making great plays but also a couple stupid ones.

Someone else

Ujiri has talked about looking at shooters in the free agency. Is there someone out there that can become a star for the Nuggets? Probably not. Drawing big free agents to Denver has never been easy.

Lawson, Gallinari and Igoudala seem to be the best fit if Igoudala signs a new deal. He has said he likes Denver but if he continues to struggle on the offensive end he could move on. The Nuggets are showing the league that building a team through trades and the draft can equal success. Karl is the perfect coach for a team like this because he has a problem dealing with superstars. He will probably deal with superstars he helped created better than ones forced on him.

The NBA has become a superstar driven league. If the Nuggets can make an impact by growing their own team, the league may see a shift in power.

Follow Chris Schmaedeke on Twitter: @ChrisSchmaedeke

 

Topics: Andre Igoudala, Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets, NBA, Ty Lawson

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  • Walt Coogan

    Gallinari is never going to be a “superstar” and that label is tossed about much too lightly. I wouldn’t even describe Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen as “superstars” in the truest sense of the term; if they’d been “superstars,” they arguably wouldn’t have needed to join forces as a trio to reach the NBA Finals.

    The question is whether some of these Denver players will become genuine “stars.” Lawson seems like he is well on his way and I think that the Nuggets could certainly win one playoff series in 2013, with a fair chance for two playoff series victories in 2014. Either way, that success would be much better than what the Nuggets achieved with the “superstar” tandem of Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson. Indeed, supposed “superstars” can be overrated, especially if they fail to constitute the genuine article.

  • Walt Coogan

    Also, I don’t see why the Nuggets need a “Big Three” per se. They just need improvement from these guys (the younger players in particular).

    The man to watch may be Faried. His athleticism and energy are off the charts and the way that he runs the floor and rebounds is a little reminiscent of A.C. Green, who constituted an important complementary player on championship clubs with the Lakers and championship contenders in Phoenix. But while Green wasn’t nearly as athletic as Faried (who is a sort of “power rabbit”), he was savvy defensively and he developed a credible outside jumper to space the floor for all the stars that he played with (or else to make the defense pay when it collapsed on the likes of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Byron Scott, Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant). Whether Faried also develops those aspects (or if he builds a legitimate post-up game) could go a long way to determining Denver’s ultimate success with this group of players. If he could become a hybrid of Green and Horace Grant (who combined to win seven championships by providing defense, speed, and sufficient outside shooting at power forward), then Faried could be a borderline All-Star (both Green and Grant each made an All-Star team) and one of the better power forwards in the league.

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