Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Once again back is the incredible ... Ball Don't Lie's NBA previews, outlining offseason moves, projecting win totals, spinning tracks and much, much more. It's a fun, hot mess. Up next, the Denver Nuggets.

2008-09 Record: 54-28, first place in Northwest Division
Head Coach/Facial Hair: George Karl/None
Key Additions: Ty Lawson(notes), Arron Afflalo(notes), Malik Allen(notes)
Key Losses: Dahntay Jones(notes), Linas Kleiza(notes)

It's popped up a few times in various outlets, but it's not something you heard a whole lot overall, especially as Saint Chauncey led the Nuggets to the third round of the playoffs last season.

That said, it's getting harder and harder to overlook the fact that Chauncey Billups(notes) got worse last season.

It's well within his rights. He turned 33 last month and he's played deep into the playoffs since 2003, but he did fade a bit in all areas. Was his presence (the Nuggets actually ran plays and defended point guards!) a massive, massive influence? The biggest reason for Denver's turnaround? Of course. And his mode of domination (a lot of standstill jumpers, not exactly relying on athleticism to get the job done even in his prime) would seem to age well. But there is the worry he could tail off a little further, on both ends.

Another huge 2009 factor was the return to health for Nene and Kenyon Martin(notes), and the addition of a possessions creator in Chris Andersen(notes). I'm not going where you think I am with this.

I'm not going to tell you that the pasts of Martin, Nene and Andersen are leading me to conclude they'll miss huge chunks of time in 2009-10 after they missed only 31 games combined last season. What kept these three on the bench in years prior was a combination of bad luck (ligament tears and bad breaks that led to microfracture surgery), illness and poor personal decisions on Andersen's part. Wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if they kept it up. The healthy bit, I mean.

And, more good news? Carmelo Anthony(notes), by his own standards, kind of stunk last season. He got hot toward the end of the season and was a beast in the playoffs, but everything points to him playing way, way better in 2009-10. He could have a killer season.

Arron Afflalo? Way better than Dahntay Jones. Way better. J.R. Smith(notes)? Gets better every year. Ty Lawson? Potentially a huge pickup in the draft.

So why am I giving them fewer wins?

The West is tougher. It just is. Utah will be healthier, both outfits in Los Angeles will be better, the Spurs are better, the Mavericks are better, the Trail Blazers will be better, the Timberwolves and Thunder might be better — this is a conference, somehow, that is still on the rise.

And George Karl teams just seem prone to post-honeymoon swoons. It happened in 1996-97. It happened in 2005-06. It happened in the 1980s.

This is still a championship contender. This is still a team that can beat anyone in the West in a seven-game series. Can happen.

Will it happen? Get to spring healthy and ask me then. Until then ...

Prediction: 51-31

Kelly Dwyer

Will their quiet offseason hurt the Nuggets?

The Lakers picked up Ron Artest(notes), the Spurs got Richard Jefferson(notes), the Mavericks landed Shawn Marion(notes). The Nuggets? They didn't really get anyone. And while that doesn't mean they'll be trampled as other teams try to chase the ring, it will mean they'll have to keep up the spirit, energy, patience and willingness to grow that marked last season's run to the NBA's final four. That's not a sure thing. Attitude and chemistry have been a problem for this team, from the coaching staff on down.

— KD, Yahoo! Sports 2009-10 NBA Preview magazine

The Nugg Doctor: "In my assessment, anytime a team is able to walk away from draft night with a first-round talent without having a first-round pick they've done themselves a tremendous service. Ty Lawson is a proven winner at the collegiate level and under the wing of veteran point guard Chauncey Billups his adjustment to the NBA should be fast-tracked. I also think the trade with Detroit was a very smart move by Nuggets' management. Arron Afflalo is a very strong defender who possesses quick feet and good length. Afflalo is also an upgrade on the other end of the floor from the offensively challenged Dahntay Jones while providing youth to the Denver roster." [more]

Denver Stiffs: "I'm concerned that everything that made this team special last season isn't going to be there this season. All the key components to the Nuggets 2008-09 success — from Melo to Chauncey to head coach George Karl to Nene to K-Mart to Chris Andersen and so on — had something major to prove and play for, be it pride, new contracts, living up to contracts and so forth. Will the underdog, no-one-believes-in-us mentality be there again? (Maybe having the number one Nuggets blog pick against you will help!)" [more]

The Baseline: "The Lakers eliminated [the Nuggets] last season in a clear 'separate the men from the boys' series. They play four times this season, and if the Nuggets can come off as worthy opponents, by no means one step behind or consistently outsmarted, it bodes well for Denver as more than just a team that keeps growing. At some point, you grow up, and then it's time to get stuff done." [more]

The Dells, "I Wanna Go Home"

In Denver, the Nuggets get the refreshing feeling of their own families, beds and North Face gear. They get the pleasure of enjoying their favorite local muesli, and the familiarity of their backyard ski hills. Being home has its advantages. Like, for instance, seven more points per game scored, an effective Chris Andersen and 12 more wins. That thin mountain air certainly has its advantages.

— Trey Kerby, The Blowtorch

The Nuggets were certainly kid to fantasy owners last season, and not much has changed with the team heading into 2009-10. Chauncey Billups is primed for another elite roto season at point guard — his line for the Nuggets was eerily familiar to his consistent production in his heyday with the Pistons. Drafting him around the middle of Round 2 is a very easy and comforting decision. An elbow injury limited Carmelo Anthony's games played (66) and his shooting percentage (44%) last season, and fantasy owners should expect that to normalize. That said, his fantasy impact does tend to be overrated, thanks to average-ish boards-plus-steals-plus-blocks and an assist-to-turnover ratio around one even. The fact that you'd have to draft him in Round 3 to acquire his services doesn't mean you should.

Nene Hilario(notes) totaled 93 games played last season (including the playoffs), put together a top-30 fantasy season along the way, and appears to finally be past the knee injuries that plagued him for a number of seasons. He only recently turned 27, so he's got time to make up for lost time — this should be the last time you'll be able to get him at a discount for the next few seasons, so give him serious consideration in Round 5. Kenyon Martin has been seriously limited by knee issues of his own, but he's currently claiming a new-found level of health. It's not wise to go overboard with expectations, but there are worse ways to spend a late draft pick than on someone with his potential to deliver defensive stats.

Speaking of defensive stats ... Chris Andersen thrilled in his return to Denver to the tune of 2.5 blocks in just 21 minutes per game. Just for kicks, compare his blocks-per-48 (5.8) to Dwight Howard's(notes) (3.9). Despite the enormous production, he's typically lasting into the ninth round — it's fairly simple, if you want massive amounts of blocks, draft Andersen before someone else does. J.R. Smith is another Nugget who should make a massive impact in a single category (threes). He'll be the designated sniper for the team upon his return from suspension, although it's not completely likely that he'll unseat Arron Afflalo as the team's starter. Regardless, he's a Round 8 selection for those in need of an offensive pick-me-up.

— Matt Buser, Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Basketball / BuserSports.com

Sign up now for Fantasy Basketball '09.

GusChiggins: Melo and JR are the new cinnamon and gravy! #Nuggets #NBA #SNL #Peaches
7:04 PM Oct 15th from TwitterBerry

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