Every one of these Nuggets will probably be back next year, except for that "Miller" guy (Getty Images)
After years of turnover, the Denver Nuggets you saw in 2011-12 might closely resemble the ones you'll see in 2012-13. We'll determine whether or not this is a good thing in the fall, when it comes time to dissect the team's standing amongst the best of the West, but for now all signs point to a similarly stout roster in 2012-13, full of the depth and balance that pushed a championship-contending Lakers team to the brink in seven tough games.
Or, Denver could blow it up. Which wouldn't be a sign of the team losing its nerve, but it wouldn't be surprising. After all, Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri is the same guy that signed center Nene to a franchise-level contract in December, only to deal him four months later; and not because Nene was playing terribly. This is a man who isn't afraid to think on his feet, and considering the team's numerous tradeable assets, the Nuggets would seem to be in prime position to make a move for a star of sorts, considering the team's recent run of star-less play.
Of course, the Nuggets have been in that position for over a year now. Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey, one of the more proactive personnel chiefs in the game, has been in that position for a while, unable (though he's tried) to pull the trigger despite a heap of players that other teams want. There's no given, out there, and fewer stars on the block to go after. So it appears that the team might stick with that depth, and that hero-every-other-game philosophy. Sounds good to us.
One such hero, veteran guard Andre Miller, indicated that he probably won't be returning to Denver next season following the team's loss to Los Angeles. Miller, who was traded to Denver in the offseason, isn't a fan of coming off the bench for a team working without clear championship credentials; and the Nuggets aren't a fan of starting a 36-year-old point guard ahead of Ty Lawson, so Miller is more likely to catch on with a super-duper contender.
(The Nuggets, as you've guessed, probably aren't a super-duper contender.)
The team will have another decision to make with restricted free agent JaVale McGee, who played well for Denver in the postseason (8.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, over three blocks a contest in only 26 minutes a game), but in a way the rest of the NBA has a decision to make with JaVale McGee. Because the athletic big man is a bit of an oddball, but he proved in spring he can contribute to a winning playoff cause even if his ball-following can hamper a team's defense from time to time.
It sounds incredibly trite, but rebuilding teams need not apply with McGee. The sample size is less than two months old, but it's become clear that he's best served on teams that already have the talent in place to make playoff waves, because if McGee is hit by loss after loss during an endless and hopeless regular season, he tends to float. The same can be said of just about any other NBA player, but in McGee's case the drop-off appears more severe. If the Nuggets can match any deal at around $8 million a year, then the group will be in good shape moving forward.
The group will also be allowed to extend Ty Lawson's contract during the offseason, and the third-year point guard should be giddy at the prospect of cashing in after a postseason that saw him average 19 points (making over half his shots) and six assists per game in 34 minutes a contest. Lawson's height doesn't make him the ideal point man, but he's proven capable of being more than the bit player many pegged him as when he was drafted three years ago.
This is all toss-in-the-air guesswork, of course. Not even the Nuggets know what they're going to do with this group, inspiring though it may be. On the good chance that things don't change for the Nuggies between now and October, though, it should be pointed out that a healthy return of this roster could produce a second or even third round showing if the matchups are right.
It just won't produce anybody that ranks in the top 200 of NBA jersey sales.
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