With the Southwest Division squared away, this week 3 Shades of Blue moves on to take a look at what’s brewing up over in the Northwest.
Enemy: Denver Nuggets
Coach: George Karl
Potential Starting 5: Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Javale McGee
Other Key Players: Wilson Chandler, Andre Miller, Corey Brewer, Timofey Mozgov
Threats: Length, Versatility, Athleticism, Hustle, Outside shooting, Depth
Grizzlies 2011-12 Record vs: 3-0
So much upside, youth, and balance to that roster. It’s a very raw group, but with a coach like George Karl, you have to like their future. With their backs against the wall, they took the Lakers to 7 last year, displaying pride and poise. After the king’s ransom that he got for the Carmelo deal, flipping an aging and frail Nene for the super-talented, albeit enigmatic Javale McGee, and acquiring Iguodala while shedding the contracts of Harrington and Afflalo in the process, Masai Ujiri deserves a gold medal. Unlike most recent teams to have done so, they managed to unload their superstar and carry on without much of a hiccup. I’m not certain there’s a better run team in the league right now. They’ve come a long way in terms of image and team make up from their “Thuggets” days. Obviously, they’re still lacking a true go-to guy, but there may be enough talent and fight in this roster to make up for it. Besides, everyone knows that the real issue is that the team is going to be a lot less colorful next year, in light of the recent amnesty of decorated and embattled fan favorite Chris “Birdman” Andersen.
The Nuggets’ roster’s got it all. Size? Check. Kenneth Faried and Lawson are undersized for their positions, but outside of Tony Allen, Faried may be the epitome of grit n’ grind, and Iggy, Gallo, Chandler and Brewer is a wing rotation with unreal length length to help compensate. If that’s not enough, Javale boasts a 7’6 wingspan to anchor inside. Shooting? Check. Lawson, Gallinari, Brewer, and Chandler can all get hot on any given night. Corey Brewer, especially, went HAM against us last year, averaging 16.3 points per game in the contests, including a 26 point, 5 three pointer, outburst in the second half of one game. Coupling the fact that they’re coached by George Karl with the acquisition of Iguodala who is one of the better passing wings in the league, one can likely expect to see some pristine ball movement from this team. Guarding the 3 ball has been a bit of an issue for us over the past few years, so we’ll have to be real careful when we play these guys. An interesting question mark for the Nuggets is how their “misfit” investments will pay off. In the first round they drafted Evan Fournier, who should be anywhere from average to pretty good, but I’m more interested in two other acquisitions. They drafted Quincy Miller in the second round, and signed Anthony Randolph this offseason. Again: two long guys (wingspans over 7′) who can play multiple positions, and are oozing with potential. Personally, I think that if there’s talent there, George Karl will find a way to tap into it. I’d keep my eye out for how those two guys progress with this team.
The record that we posted against them last year is deceiving, as all three games were decided by three points or less, including the ever-memorable February 17th Dante Cunningham buzzer beater tip in at the forum. This year Dante’s not going to be around to bail us out. Denver has the versatility and depth to really match up well with anybody, as far as I am concerned, and unfortunately, I don’t see us being an exception. The good news? Our team is pretty darn talented and versatile (and hopefully deep), as well. With what figures to be a better bench for us this year (especially at the point guard spot) should help our cause big time. To beat the Nuggets, the Grizzlies will need to bring their hard hats, because it will be a grindfest up and down the floor. We play them four times this coming year, starting on Nov. 19th at home. Not that I won’t be watching all of our other games, but I’ll be absolutely sure to tune into this one. Should be a lot of great, fun basketball.