Season Preview: Denver Nuggets
Quietly, the Denver Nuggets have turned into an offensive juggernaut led by a budding superstar in center Nikola Jokic.
With the NBA season just a week away and the majority of player movement being done, I’m going to start previewing the teams. Based on my projected order of the standings, we’ll start at the bottom and work towards the top rotating between East and West. Past previews will be linked as well.
Atlanta Hawks | Brooklyn Nets | Charlotte Hornets | Chicago Bulls | Cleveland Cavaliers | Dallas Mavericks | Detroit Pistons | Los Angeles Clippers | Los Angeles Lakers | Memphis Grizzlies | Miami Heat | Minnesota Timberwolves | New Orleans Pelicans | New York Knicks | Orlando Magic | Phoenix Suns | Portland Trailblazers | Sacramento Kings | San Antonio Spurs | Washington Wizards
Last season the Pacers pushed the Cavs to the brink in the first round of the playoffs, and were a couple plays away from knocking them out. However the biggest takeaway from last season was that Victor Oladipo emerged as a borderline superstar. Kevin Pritchard took a lot of heat in the Paul George trade, but he with Oladipo's emergence and promising big man Domantas Sabonis he came away a winner. Tyreke Evans comes over in free agency off a quietly outstanding season, and Doug McDermott gives the Pacers much needed floor space. Big man Myles Turner has shown flashes but isn't there yet, and the Pacers have a solid nucleus in place. If Tuner can stay healthy and Oladipo can continue his rapid ascent, the Pacers might be in position to compete with the best teams in the East.
Offensive Rating 107.2 (12th)
Defensive Rating 105.6 (12th)
Net Rating 1.6 (12th)
True Shooting Percentage 55.7% (13th)
Assist Percentage 54.4 (28th)
Rebound Percentage 49.6 (19th)
Turnover Percentage 13.5 (5th)
Pace 98.21 (24th)
Tyreke Evans SG (free agency), Aaron Holiday PG (draft), Alize Johnson PF (draft), Doug McDermott SF (free agency), Kyle O'Quinn C (free agency),
Glen Robinson III SF, Lane Stephenson SF
Emergence of Oladipo
No one saw the transition of Victor Oladipo coming, not even the most optimistic Pacers fan. Oladipo increased his production and shooting percentage across the board. Oladipo has always been a solid defender, but posted the second best defensive real plus minus amongst shooting guards last season. You can probably count on one hand the players in the NBA that are the primary scoring option and best defensive player on their team, and Oladipo is right there with the best of them. Part of the reason that there are so few players like that is that they have to spend max energy on both sides of the court. No matter how well conditioned a player is, it's extremely difficult to do. If Oladipo can take possessions off on the offensive end of the floor it should only help his defense.
Part of the reason that the Pacers fell short in the playoffs was that they did not have a reliable secondary scoring option. Lance Stephenson left in free agency, but he was one of the few players that was able to create his own shot (which wasn't always great). Darren Collison, Bojan Bogdonovic, Myles Turner, Thad Young, and even Cory Joseph had their moments, but they were reliant on Oladipo setting them up. With Oladipo off the court, the Pacers had a -8.2 net rating (which would have been second worst in the NBA), and offensive rating of 101.5 (which would have ranked fourth worst). Tyreke Evans should take on the role of secondary scorer, but has been inconsistent throughout much of his career. If Myles Turner can continue to improve as a shooter and scorer on the low block, it will give the Pacers a truly reliable second option.
The Pacers ranked 26th in three point attempts per game, 27th in free throw attempts per game, and 2nd in mid range attempts per game. What they did worked to a certain extent, but if they want to take the next step they have to improve their shot selection. Free agent addition Tyreke Evans should help and last season he averaged 12.9 drives per game and 1.9 free throw attempts on those drives. Doug McDermott is an excellent three point shooter having a career three point shooting percentage of 40.1%. Darren Collison, Bojan Bogdonovic, Cory Joseph, and Myles Turner aren't great at scoring at the rim, but can take more shots from three rather than taking mid range jumpers.
Player to Watch: Myles Turner
Myles Turner showed some real signs of promise as a rookie, but his development hasn't continued at quite the same level. The good news is that Turner has been able to improve his three point percentage every year, raising it to 35.7% last season. Right now Turner is a solid pick and pop player, but to take his game to the next level he needs work on scoring around the rim. A way to give Victor Oladipo possessions off on the offensive end of the floor would be dumping the ball into Turner and letting him work. His lack of agility makes it tough to play him at the four, and with Domantas Sabonis improving and pushing for playing time at center, Turner needs to continue to evolve his game.
PG: Darren Collison
SG: Victor Oladipo
SF: Bojan Bogdonovic
PF: Thaddeus Young
C: Myles Turner
PG: Cory Joseph
SG: Tyreke Evans
SF: Doug McDermott
PF: TJ Leaf
C: Domantas Sabonis
Westgate Projected Win Total: 47.5
Projected Record: 45-37 (5th in Eastern Conference)