I wouldn’t buy a gallon of milk if I could only use half of it before it went bad. I wouldn’t judge an iceberg when I can only see the top fourth of it. And it’s not a wise decision to make an investment only knowing half of what you’re buying into.
Similarly, it’s hard to scout and find the core of this Denver Nuggets team that only has half of its rotation players.
All SIX players were out due to injury during Thursday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nuggets, with a star-studded starting lineup of Aaron Brooks, Randy Foye, Evan Fournier, Timofey Mozgov and Kenneth Faried (can someone say DYNASTY??) only managed to score eight points in the first quarter.
Hard to blame them, since a regular NBA rotation usually consists of about 12 players. So the Nuggets have literally lost half of their team. The Denver Post’s Chris Dempsey put these injures into a quantifiable amount:
#Nuggets players have missed 176 games due to injuries this season. Today will be their 19th different starting lineup.
— Chris Dempsey (@dempseypost) February 27, 2014
With that much difference from game to game, the Nuggets developed zero team chemistry this season. The intended core of Lawson, Gallinari, McGee and Faried haven’t had any minutes on the floor together this year. Keeping that core together would mean starting from square one next season. The players would need to learn each other’s’ game and Brian Shaw’s system fresh starting from game one next season. That’s practically chalking up two seasons as a big waste.
So, the Nuggets right now have no true core, and they need to find one to build around FAST.
A core is what gives fans hope going into a draft. It’s what general managers use to develop chemistry, and mold a team with. A core is what defines a franchise more than anything. Who makes up the Nuggets core going forward? If General Manager Tim Connelly could start fresh and have an expansion draft, he probably would.
We know Lawson is a stud. He’s the easy (and probably only) core piece for the Denver Nuggets. But Gallinari and McGee are coming back from major injuries, so it will take them time to get back to normal. From that alone, it’ll be hard to put that initial core back together. Faried is fun to watch, but he doesn’t have the post play for Brian Shaw’s system. Nor is his post defense good enough for the Nuggets to have him play in a late playoff series against a Western Conference team.
Even without a core, the Nuggets’ JV squad would still be the fifth seed in the Eastern Confernce if the playoffs started today. They have young players, a good new head coach, and a lottery pick coming in the 2014 NBA Draft. So there is potential to move forward next year. But if they fail to develop a core, the Nuggets will go through many seasons like this one.
Going into next year, the Nuggets need to focus on developing Evan Fournier, use their lottery pick to draft a stud, and pair the two to form a three-headed core with Lawson that can develop chemistry on the floor next season.
Fournier has shown the stuff that general managers want when looking for a core piece. Since Nate Robinson went down on Jan. 29, Fournier has been playing point guard for the Nuggets (not his natural position). In that time he’s averaging 12.2 points, 1.9 assists, and 4.3 rebounds, all on 40 percent shooting.
He’s one of the only Nuggets that has stepped their game up since the injuries, since he only averaged 7.6 points and 2.1 for the season as a whole. So, he is someone Denver can build around, and therefore needs to be part of the core.
From that point, it will be Connelly’s job to put really solid pieces together to make the Nuggets balanced, defensive-minded team that plays like the Indiana Pacers. Getting the right players on the floor as soon as possible is crucial so the team can develop chemistry, get playoff experience and continue to work on bringing a championship to Denver.