Following the Dwight Howard trade, the Denver Nuggets were able to snag Andre Iguodala and brought him to the Mile High City, but how will the addition affect the Nuggets when they face off against the Los Angeles Clippers?
Series Matchup 2011-2012:
Series Matchup 2012-2013: December 25th, January 1st, March 7th
Ty Lawson has shown improvement every year that he’s been in the league — as most players should — and this season will prove no different. During the 2011-2012 season, he averaged 16.4 points on 48.8% shooting from the field, 6.6 assists, 1.3 steals and knocking down 36.5% from downtown.
Lawson is an incredible — as well as underrated — point guard, but Chris Paul is freaking Chris Paul. Paul averaged 19.8 points on 47.8% shooting from the field, 9.1 assists, 2.5 steals, and hitting 37.1% from the perimeter.
CP3 is the best point guard in the game, and although Denver would need perfect execution from both Lawson, and backup point guard, Andre Miller, I believe these two are ready for the task. Lawson could actually learn a thing or two from Paul, as he dictates offense and leads a team like a general. With that being said, Paul can take a cue from Lawson AND Miller in being creative with an offense and drawing from their teammates strengths to do this.
Newly acquired Iguodala will start at the shooting guard position and the Western Conference will have to deal with his tenacious defense regularly, as well as, Iguodala will get a taste of the run-and-gun west. Last season he averaged 12.4 points on 45.4% from the field, 6.1 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.7 steals, and scoring 39.4% from three-point land. Chauncey Billups, who suffered a season-ending injury last season, will be back in action for the Clippers this season; however it’s been reported he may not be ready until December. Thus, it’s possible he will be facing off with his former team during their first meeting.
Jamal Crawford, one of the best sixth men in the league, will also be suiting up for the Clippers at the two. He averaged 14 points on 38.4% from the field, 3.2 assists, 30.8% from downtown and a staggering 92.7% from the charity stripe coming off of the bench except six games last season. Crawford is a fantastic slasher, as well as ball-handler, and will for certain help Paul on the offense. However, he has to deal with a defensive surgeon in Iguodala, who will make it his mission to squash any attempt made by Crawford to get a hot hand.
Starting at small forward for the Nuggets will be Danilo Gallinari, who had a bout of bad luck last season with not one, but too ill-timed injuries, obviously health is the number one priority for Gallinari. Despite only playing in 43 games last season, he averaged 14.6 points (second-lowest of his career) on 41.4% shooting, 4.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steal, and shooting 32.8% from beyond the arc. Caron Butler averaged 12 points on 40.7% shooting from the field, 3.7 rebounds, and 35.8% shooting from downtown.
Something that Gallinari and Butler have in common is shooting inconsistencies, and both are looking to improve their shot coming into the 2012-2013 season. Much how Gallinari found his hot hand in shooting — until he was injured in January, same was true for Butler. Caron averaged nearly 16 points in January, but would see it fall to less than 10 points per game in March. Gallinari has worked on his shot — especially from downtown — and I would put money that Gallinari out scores Caron during their matchups in 2012-2013.
Second-year player, Kenneth Faried, will start at the power forward position, and his first season with Denver was anything but dull. His 2011-2012 NBA averages were 10.2 points on 58.6% scoring, 7.7 rebounds, and 1 block. While, Faried is tenacious, and could have an impact year. Faried will square off against the League’s darling, Blake Griffin.
Griffin averaged 20.7 points on 54.9% shooting, 10.9 rebounds and .7 blocks per game last season. In essence, Faried’s and Griffin’s games are similar; Yes, Faried is a more efficient shooter from the field, and he challenges more shots. Yes, Griffin is a theatrical powerhouse that can’t shoot free throws, but the two have a similar style. They are both impact players, Griffin is the better basketball player, but majority has to do with his time in league and is skill set is sharper than Faried’s. Also, it’s because Griffin — other than Paul — is the focus of the offense, while Faried is just good without having being a major offensive option.
Finally, we come to the center position which George Karl has admitted that Kosta Kousta may start over JaVale McGee or even Timofey Mozgov for that matter, depending on how they look during the preseason. For arguments sake, let’s use JaVale McGee as the starting center for the Nuggets.
Some will laugh at McGee, but somehow, someway, he works in Denver’s system. In addition, he has tremendous upside that will affect the young squad in a positive manner. Last season, he averaged (with Denver), 10.3 points on 61.2 shooting from the field, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks over 20 games with five of those he started. DeAndre Jordan is the starting center for the Clippers, and last season — after the McGee-like contract — he averaged 7.4 points on 63.2%, 8.3 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game.
Jordan has had the privilege of working with a steady roster for a full season in 2011-2012, while McGee certainly improved when he landed in Denver, but he doesn’t have an entire season under his belt with his current team as he still is acclimatizing himself with a skilled roster and coach. With that being said, McGee has an offensive repertoire compared to Jordan’s offensive skill-set that consists of dunking. Moreover, both are terrific shot blockers, but McGee has the upside due to his length and size.
Looking at benches, Denver has a bench as deep as an ocean, which is helpful during the regular season — not so much during the post-season — as they have one of the best backup point guards in the game, Andre Miller, paired with Wilson Chandler, Jordan Hamilton, Corey Brewer, Timofey Mozgov, Anthony Randolph, Kosta Koufos, and Evan Fournier, nevertheless the Clipper’s bench is deep as well with Lamar Odom, Grant Hill, Eric Bledsoe, Ryan Hollins, and Matt Barnes.
In comparing the two teams, the Nuggets are clearly the fastest of the two, however they both have a very similar offensive efficiency. One of the biggest challenges for both teams — besides health — is becoming tenacious defensive teams and whichever team can successfully become more defensively efficient will become the team with homecourt advantage at the end of the season.
Series Prediction: 2-1 Denver Nuggets