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 Utah Jazz?
Series Matchup 2012-2013: November 9th, November 26th, January 5th, April 3rd
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 and he will pair off against Utah’s veteran point guard Mo Williams. Williams averaged 13.2 points on 42.6% shooting, 3.1 assists, 1 steal, and 38.9% from downtown. So far this season, Lawson is averaging 14.5 points on 42.7% shooting, 38.5% from three, and 6.9 assists per game this season. Adversely, Mo Williams is averaging 19.8 points on 49.4% shooting, 36.8% from three, and 6.8 assists per game.
Lawson is speedy, agile, and can facilitate, but Williams is quick — not Ty Lawson quick — but he still has speed, can score, and can handle the ball. However, when it comes to defending Lawson, that’s another matter entirely and history shows that Lawson typically burns Utah; if Lawson is on point, he will have the clear advantage.
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. He may face off with Gordon Hayward who is an adequate scorer as well — although he’s dealing with a shooting slump at the moment — as having a nice size about him. Last season, he averaged 11.8 on 45.6% shooting, 3.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 34.6% shooting from downtown.
Over 5 games, Iguodala is averaging 14.4 points on 43.8% shooting, 33.3% from three, 6.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.6 steals compared to Hayward’s 13.2 points on 42.1%, 21.4% from downtown, 3.6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Iguodala should have Hayward on lock this game and shooting shouldn’t be an issue.
Starting at small forward for the Nuggets will be Danilo Gallinari, who had a bout of bad luck last season with not one, but two 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. He will pair up with Marvin Williams who averaged 10.2 points on 43.2% shooting, 5.2 reobounds, and 38.9% from the perimeter.
Gallinari was performing at All-Star levels last season until he was riddled with two injuries; his shot is still struggling into this season as he seems to want to take contested three-pointers versus knocking down open three-pointers and driving to the basket. Unless Gallo contributes more, especially when paired with Iguodala, something will have to give.
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, he will square off against Paul Millsap who averaged 16.6 points on 49.5% shooting, 8.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals per game.
Like Faried, Millsap can clean the glass, and is very strong as well; however I’m a firm believer that Faried can outwork most power forwards in the league when it comes to cleaning the glass, although Millsp may make Faried work for it. With that being said, he has struggled defensively allowing double-digit point to the opposition. The solution isn’t clear, but his efficiency outweighs his lack of defense at times. Moreover, if the Manimal is unleashed, Millsap will have a hard time matching Faried.
Through 5 games, Faried has averaged 12.2 points on 56.9% shooting, 9.6 rebounds, and .6 blocks; adversely Millsap is averaging 12.4 points on 43.1% shooting, 9.6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1.6 blocks.
Finally, we come to the center position which George Karl has started Kosta Koufos over JaVale McGee, 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. He will still make boneheaded plays, but his positives outweigh his risks, but his conditioning is still an issue.
He will face off against Al Jefferson, who averaged 19.2 on 49.2% shooting, 9.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game last season. Through 5 games this season, he is averaging 13.4 point on 44.1% shooting, 10 rebounds, and .8 blocks so far; adversely, McGee has averaged 10.4 points on 59.4% shooting, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game so far this season. Denver will thrive when McGee is full conditioned, aware on every possession, and of course, when George Karl pairs him with Andre Miller/Kenneth Faried.
As aforementioned, both teams have deep and adequate benches. Utah has Randy Foye who went off on the Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday night from the perimeter, Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, Earl Watson, and Alec Burks. However, Denver may have a slight edge with such talent as Corey Brewer, Wilson Chandler, Andre Miller, Jordan Hamilton, Anthony Randolph, along with McGee.With that being said, George Karl has been using his better players and sticking to an 8-man rotation.
The Denver Nuggets have an offensive rating of 102.6 (17th in league) and a defensive rating of 104.1 (19th in league) and compare that to the Utah Jazz’s offensive rating of 104.4 (9th in league) and a defensive rating of 102.9 (16th in league), it will be vital for Denver to get into an offensive flow early in the game. Keys for Denver is to come out of the gate early in defending – especially the perimeter – making wise offensive choices, taking fewer contested three-pointers — I’m looking at you Gallinari — and George Karl to play Manimal/McGee as much as possible, while limiting Iguodala/Gallinari in tandem if Gallinari isn’t being productive. Most of all, Denver needs to exhibit an urgency to win like they have showcased the past three games.
Series Prediction: 2-2