Updated: Oct. 27, 2005, 7:28 AM ET

SPECIAL PREVIEW EDITION
Nuggets go north in Northwest

Nuggets

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | Hollinger Stats

Where will the Denver Nuggets finish in the Northwest Division and the Western Conference? Get 12 different takes from ESPN's NBA experts.

ANALYST DIV CONF COMMENT

Chris Broussard ESPN Mag

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Run and fun will continue under George Karl.
Ric Bucher ESPN Mag
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They've looked terrific in preseason, but then they should because they've made the fewest changes of any team in the league. Injuries have waylaid them the last two years, but maybe that's because this is a fragile team.
John Carroll Scouts Inc.
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Marcus Camby, Kenyon Martin, Carmelo Anthony and Nene give the Nuggets one of the NBA's most talented, athletic frontlines. Nuggets need Camby to play at least 75 games. It will be interesting to see how Karl mixes backcourt of Andre Miller, Earl Boykins and Earl Watson.
Chad Ford ESPN Insider
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The Nuggets still haven't addressed a big hole at the two, but if they keep playing the way they did last spring under George Karl, they should be the clear favorites in the Northwest this season.
John Hollinger ESPN Insider
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A dangerous team, but one that feels incomplete until or unless they can trade one of their three point guards for a deep shooting threat. If not, the Spurs beat them in five again.
Scoop Jackson ESPN
Page 2

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Don't let the playoffs fool you, they are/will be for real.


Tim Legler ESPN Insider
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See Item 7 for Legler's analysis of the Denver Nuggets.


Eric Neel ESPN
Page 2

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The only way they fail is if Carmelo and George go Gary and George, or Kendall and George, or Sam and George ...

Jim O'Brien ESPN
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Their depth is a great weapon. A healthy Voshon Lenard and the addition of Earl Watson make it likely they will win 60.

Will Perdue ESPN Insider
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It's time for Carmelo to step up. We have seen D Wade and LeBron raise their level of play to All-Star status. It's now Melo's time. He's playing for a max contract, and for his teammates' trust.
Chris Sheridan ESPN Insider
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The smart money says Kiki Vandeweghe will make a deal involving Nene by season's midpoint, likely for a shooting guard after George Karl is forced to make do for 41 games with DerMarr Johnson and Voshon Lenard.
Marc Stein ESPN.com
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They have to resolve Nene's future and find minutes for three point guards. Yet the real concern is frontcourt health. If the Nuggets get a full season out of Camby and Martin, alongside a slimmed-down Carmelo, they're a top-three seed.


Camp Tales
Martin, Anthony
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
You could look it up, 'Melo. Kenyon Martin's FG percentage has improved every year.


Lineup Breakdown
ESPN The Magazine sizes up the Nuggets roster:

PLAYER ANALYSIS RATING
Starters: Only Melo and Miller reached 75 games last year.
PF
Kenyon
Martin
7.3 rpg his lowest since 2001-02.
7
SF
Carmelo
Anthony
FG percentage jumped from 39.0 to 47.3 after coaching change.
8
C
Marcus
Camby
Had 121 more blocks than any teammate. In 66 games.
7
SG
DerMarr
Johnson
He's starting ... wait, why is he starting?
6
PG
Andre
Miller
Big reason Nugs were second in assists and steals.
8
Bench: A healthy Voshon Lenard will put Johnson on the pine, while Nene and sixth man award candidate Earl Boykins provide sparks on D and O.
7

TOTAL SCORE

43

ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands Oct. 26.



Hollinger's Player Spotlight
Marcus Camby
Player Efficiency Rating
18.08
vs. NBA Avg.: +3.08

Camby had one of his healthiest seasons ever and has had the best two-year run in his career by missing "only" 26 games. The Nuggets will have their fingers crossed for three in a row, but the odds don't seem to be in their favor. Even last season, Camby missed games with a stunning variety of ailments: a strained left hamstring, a bruised tailbone, bronchitis, a back strain, a sprained left ankle, a strained right hamstring, a sprained right ankle and a right hip contusion. OK, I made up two of those, but the rest all are true.

The Nuggets pumped Camby as a Defensive Player of the year candidate, but that was a stretch for two reasons. First, of course, are the aforementioned absences. Second, he didn't play that hard under coach Jeff Bzdelik. He often missed rotations and block-outs and didn't pick up his intensity until Karl took over. From that point on, he was brilliant, but it was only half a season. Camby averaged nearly four blocks a game after the All-Star break and dominated on the boards with 14.3 rebounds per 40 minutes in that same time period.

Offensively, Camby can finish around the rim but also loves to shoot jumpers from the foul line. He has increasingly relied on that in recent seasons and has forayed into the paint less frequently, resulting in a low rate of free throws and a correspondingly poor shooting percentage. However, he's one of the best passing big men in basketball and is great at entering the ball on high-low plays. He also has a low Turnover Ratio, so his overall offensive game is fairly effective despite the low TS percentage.

Camby is 31 and had never played in more than 63 games in a season before the past two campaigns. One can take that as a sign that he's healthier than ever, or as a sign that he's overdue, but one thing's for certain: His health will be the biggest determinant to Denver's success in 2005-06.

-- Nuggets player profiles from John Hollinger's "Pro Basketball Forecast: 2005-06," available at Amazon.com and Potomac Books.


Still Dre's Day?
Miller
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
Denver point guard Andre Miller ranked No. 8 in assists last year. But he now has two Earls (Watson and Boykins) to help distribute the ball and he might be on the trading block.


SportsNation Speaks
With the acquisition of Earl Watson, the Nuggets have three point guards capable of playing significant minutes, and coach George Karl plans to rotate two of them often into the game together.

We asked SportsNation which two Karl should play together. We've received more than 6,500 votes so far, and here's what fans are saying:

Which guard tandem is best?
62.4% Earl Boykins and Andre Miller
29.7% Andre Miller and Earl Watson
7.9% Earl Boykins and Earl Watson

Vote: Nuggets in 2005-06 | Results



Tim's Time
Carmelo Anthony

Legs on Nuggets: I'm officially buying into the George Karl hype. Remember, the man took over in mid season and the Nuggets had the best record in the league after the All-Star break. A tough first-round loss to the Spurs notwithstanding, Denver should rise to the top of the division with Karl around for an entire season.

The biggest beneficiary of Karl's tutelage will be Carmelo Anthony. After the coaching change, Melo went from being a one dimensional, inconsistent scorer to a much more efficient offensive player and a better team defender.

Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby, Andre Miller, and the return of 3-point threat Voshon Lenard round out a very solid starting five.

Earl Watson (from Memphis) and Earl Boykins will give the Nuggets some serious speed and scoring off the bench. Look for the Nuggets to enjoy a Rocky Mountain high and a ride into the second round.

Tim Legler, ESPN Insider



Coach's Corner
George Karl
Experience: 17 years
Reg. season record: 736-505
Playoff record: 60-71
Coach's profile

With a 32-8 record after taking over in midseason, George Karl proved to be the best replacement coach in NBA history.

The Nuggets helped themselves with the addition of Earl Watson and a healthy Voshon Lenard.

If Karl can convince his guys to accept sharing minutes they have a shot at winning 60 games.

Jim O'Brien, ESPN Insider



Hollinger's Q & A
How do they play three point guards?

The Nuggets struck out in their efforts to sign a free-agent shooting guard over the summer, so they made an interesting decision: They used their full midlevel exception on point guard Earl Watson, even though point guard was already their strongest position.

The former Grizzly certainly is a valuable player -- he's perhaps the best defensive point guard in the game -- and his ability to push the ball upcourt will help a running team like the Nuggets. However, Denver already has Andre Miller and Earl Boykins, both of whom are at least as good as Watson.

The Nuggets' approach was to procure an asset (Watson was the best free agent remaining) so that if an opportunity for a trade comes up, they'll be able to pull the trigger.

In the meantime, the team thinks it can find minutes for all three by pairing two of them in a small backcourt lineup. This is especially true at home, where the Nuggets can push the pace even further and take advantage of Denver's high altitude.

Since Karl frequently used the alignment of Miller and Boykins to end games last year and had success with it, adding Watson is a logical extension of the strategy.

More Hollinger Nuggets analysis Insider



Fantasy Fix
Lenard
Lenard

Sleeper: Voshon Lenard would like to forget about last season. This sharpshooter has been a consistent 3-point threat who scores in double digits for eight years. Fantasy owners might forget about him, since he only played in three games, but he's a good bet for 150 3s and 14 points per game.

Bust: Earl Boykins was a fine fantasy pickup last season, when he averaged 12.4 points. But the Nuggets don't figure to need Boykins as much. With Lenard back, Andre Miller will play less two-guard. Also, Earl Watson was brought in and could steal a lot of Boykins' minutes. Watch Denver's rotation before drafting Boykins at all.

Eric Karabell | Fantasy Basketball Index

 

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