Denver Nuggets: Three reasons to watch

By Michael Singer, USA Today

Denver Nuggets: Three reasons to watch

With the 2016-17 NBA season on the horizon, USA TODAY Sports highlights the top three reasons to watch all 30 teams. We also recap any significant moves made in the offseason and project how your favorite team will finish.

Watchability ranking: 29th

What’s different? Continuity might be one of the team’s biggest strengths. The Nuggets addressed their perimeter shooting in drafting Jamal Murray out of Kentucky and should benefit immensely from the return of forward Wilson Chandler, who missed last season with a hip injury.

What to make of Mudiay? Emmanuel Mudiay had a roller-coaster rookie season in which he turned the ball over too frequently (3.2 per game) and shot it poorly for a primary guard (36.4%). But he was tossed into a difficult spot, taking over the offense of a rebuilding team that suffered a number of injuries. Assuming players such as Danilo Gallinari and Chandler are healthy, Mudiay could benefit simply from the maturation of the Nuggets offense.

Prospective growth: Gary Harris and Nikola Jokic could solidify their standing as building blocks in Denver this season. Entering his third season, Harris needs to stabilize his three-point shooting from last season (35.4%), especially if the Nuggets continue to play him the same number of minutes, though he’s expected to miss the first few weeks of the season with a groin injury. He is a balance to Mudiay and could eventually play well off the ball to Murray. Jokic began building buzz later in the season, as his ability to stretch the floor, find seams and rebound became apparent to Nuggets opponents.

Where have you gone, Manimal? Kenneth Faried, who is 6-8, is an athletic, albeit undersized, forward. But he played his fewest minutes since his rookie season last year and might be the victim of a cluttered lineup, especially with versatile Chandler returning. Between the 6-foot-10 Gallinari, 6-foot-8 Chandler and Denver’s interest in developing its big men, Faried might ultimately be best served on a different team.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP

(Statistics from 2015-16 season)

Emmanuel Mudiay – Points: 12.8, assists: 5.5, rebounds: 3.4, steals: 1.0, field goal percentage: 36.4%

Will Barton – Points: 14.4, rebounds: 5.8, assists: 2.5, steals: 0.9, field goal percentage: 43.2%

Danilo Gallinari – Points: 19.5, rebounds: 5.3, assists: 2.5, steals: 0.8, field goal percentage: 41.0%

Kenneth Faried – Points: 12.5, rebounds: 8.7, assists: 1.2, blocks: 0.9, field goal percentage: 55.8%

Nikola Jokic – Points: 10.0, rebounds: 7.0, assists: 2.4, blocks: 0.6, field goal percentage: 51.2%

How good can they be? If the Nuggets can avoid injuries, continue to develop Mudiay and Harris while introducing Murray into the offense, they can consider 40 wins a legitimate goal.

USA TODAY’s projection: 35-47

Source: MSN Sports

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