2010-11 Preview: Denver Nuggets
Every season, we have a couple of "crossroads" teams, ones that seem set to make or break their futures with key decisions in the coming months. The Nuggets are perhaps the most salient example in 2010-11.
Denver reached the conference finals in 2009 and seemed primed for a return trip in 2010 before falling apart down the stretch. A knee injury to Kenyon Martin and coach George Karl's departure for cancer treatments left the Nuggets short one big man and a great deal of wisdom, and Denver lacked a capable replacement for either.
With their hands tied by a luxury-tax roster in a small market, the Nuggets haven't been able to make dramatic moves to push themselves over the top and remain hamstrung -- this season's team is $13 million over the tax line at present.
Is Greg Oden A Bust?
Hollinger's Player Profiles: Kevin Durant
KEVIN DURANT, SF
Projection: 32.5 pts, 7.4 reb, 3.3 ast per 40 min; 26.10 PER | Player card
• Prolific scorer with unrivaled length and quick, accurate shot off catch or dribble.
• Great at drawing fouls with "rip" through defenders' arms. Doesn't see floor well.
• Lacks great lateral quickness on D but can bother shots with length.
Durant kicked his scoring into another gear with the discovery of the "rip" move. With defenders crowding him to take away his jumper and overplaying his right hand, he began swinging his arms under the defender's while going up for a shot, drawing a foul nearly every time. That move helped him earn a league-leading 10 free throw attempts per game, which proved deadly since he shot 90 percent from the line.
Durant ranked among the top 10 small forwards in eight different categories, including a couple (blocks, rebounding) that have nothing to do with offense. He nearly led the league in usage rate and led it in scoring. The only question then, is this: When's he gonna create shots for somebody else?
Durant ranked 65th out of 67 small forwards in pure point rating. His turnover ratio, in particular, was exceptionally bad for a high scorer who doesn't get many assists. Durant has a bad habit of bringing the ball down to his waist after he's passed a defender and wants to go up for a shot, and he was stripped at that point countless times. According to 82games.com, the majority of his turnovers weren't bad passes or offensive fouls -- they were simply losing the ball on the drive.
Right now, that's the lone chink in his MVP armor. He has become a solid defender in addition to an unstoppable scorer, and at 22 he continues to improve. He just needs to help his teammates do the same.
Starting Lineup: Oct. 12
NORTHWEST DIVISION CHAT SCHEDULE
Jefferson's New Home
Fantasy Outlook: Wolves
Special to ESPN.com
How will the minutes shake out in the Timberwolves' frontcourt?
Unsurprisingly, the Minnesota Timberwolves responded to their brutal 15-win 2009-10 campaign by conducting a roster makeover. The short list of holdovers is headed by Kevin Love, Corey Brewer and Jonny Flynn (who's expected to miss the start of the season while recovering from hip surgery). The lengthy list of newcomers starts with Michael Beasley, acquired from the Miami Heat, and No. 4 overall draft pick Wesley Johnson.
Looking over this roster, a couple of things jump out: One is that most of these guys were in diapers when the Timberwolves entered the NBA in 1989. Then there's the number of "F's" you see on the roster. With this star-crossed franchise, those F's could be letter grades, but what I mean is the Timberwolves have tons of forwards.