Updated: Oct. 27, 2006, 12:03 PM ET

SPECIAL PREVIEW EDITION
Do Nuggets have a shot?

Nuggets

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | Hollinger Stats

Where will the Denver Nuggets finish in the Northwest Division and the Western Conference? Get 10 takes from ESPN's NBA experts.

ANALYST COMMENT
Marc
Stein
ESPN.com
Carmelo Anthony is getting lots of props these days, and deservedly so, but the Nuggets -- given their lack of shooters and the shaky George Karl-Kenyon Martin relationship -- don't have much room for error in a division liable to send only one team to the playoffs.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 4
Chris
Sheridan

ESPN.com
Carmelo will be even better than he has already been, but we don't expect them to leave the roster alone during the season. Look for Andre Miller, not Kenyon Martin, to be dealt.
DIVISION RANK: 2 | CONFERENCE RANK: 8
Jim
O'Brien

ESPN.com
They will win this weakest of divisions again, but unless they can open up the court, they will struggle to get to the second round. J.R. Smith will provide some downtown relief, but at what cost to their defense?
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 4
Tim
Legler

ESPN.com
They have depth and a premier scorer in Carmelo Anthony, but no one can make a shot outside of 18 feet. It also remains to be seen if Kenyon Martin and George Karl can coexist. It's feast or famine.
DIVISION RANK: 2 | CONFERENCE RANK: 6
Scoop Jackson
ESPN.com
'Melo. The end-all, be-all. Now that he let the world know this summer who he really is (one of the five best players in the L), the world is going to get a chance to see if he can do in nine months what he did in three weeks.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 4
John
Hollinger

ESPN.com
Hard to know what to expect from this team with all the injury questions up front (Marcus Camby, Kenyon Martin and Nene), the lack of shooters and the lingering chemistry issues. But 'Melo's magic and a weak division should keep them afloat.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 4
Chad
Ford

ESPN.com
Once again, a lackluster offseason. But playing in a weak division, 'Melo's coming-out party this summer, the return of Nene and the acquisition of J.R. Smith should at least keep them about where they were last year, with hope for more.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 4
Ric
Bucher

ESPN Mag
They're a bubbling beaker when it comes to chemistry, but they have too much talent and George Karl is too offensively creative to lose this division. But despite all of Anthony's improvement, this is a spatter pattern waiting to happen.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 4
Chris
Broussard

ESPN Mag
Carmelo's a winner, and that's why Denver will survive to win the Northwest despite a less-than-ideal working environment.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 4
Greg
Anthony

ESPN.com
I'm not sure they're the fourth best in the conference, but they'll win their division. I don't have any concerns about Carmelo or George's coaching, but their Achilles' heel is an inability to knock down J's.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 4
 
Average ranks

DIVISION: 1.2 | Standings
CONFERENCE: 4.6 | Standings


Karl's Marks: Incomplete
Karl
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
Under George Karl, Denver has had regular-season success but has yet to make the grade as a team that goes deep in the playoffs.


Lineup Breakdown

STARTERS ANALYSIS
Andre Miller
Point Guard
6-2 | 205
He's gonna be busy: Karl wants points within 10 seconds.
J.R. Smith
Shooting Guard
6-6 | 220
In other words, the Nuggets are desperate for a shooter.
Carmelo Anthony
Small Forward
6-8 | 230
Motion O works only if he ups his career 2.7 apg.
Kenyon Martin
Power Forward
6-9 | 240
Tough-guy rep, but weakling on boards (6.3 rpg last season).
Marcus Camby
Center
6-11 | 230
Stop us if you've heard this one: All-Star play derailed by injury.
Bench: Loads up front (Joe Smith, Nene, Eduardo Najera, Linas Kleiza), little -- literally (Earl Boykins) and figuratively (DerMarr Johnson) -- in back.

ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands October 25.



Hollinger's Player Spotlight
Earl Boykins
Player efficiency rating
projection: 16.14
vs. NBA avg.: +1.14
Nuggets profiles

Scouting report: Boykins is a speed demon who can get anywhere he wants off the dribble. As amazing as he is to watch, he was entirely too reckless in 2005-06 and needs to get his shot selection under control. Even after made baskets, Boykins would fly up court and launch 18-footers early in the shot clock without teammates getting a touch. Boykins managed to convert a decent percentage, but it would have been much higher if he had been choosier about when to pull the trigger -- and his teammates probably would have been much happier, too.

Despite his size, Boykins is a better shot-maker close to the basket, where he has an amazing ability to loft the ball just out of the reach of taller players and drop it in. From the perimeter he's shaky, shooting 33.3 percent on 3-pointers for his career, but he's money from the line (87.7 percent career).

It's much easier to hide Boykins under the new defensive rules than it was under the old ones, but at 5-5 he is still a major defensive liability. He is vulnerable to being posted up by big guards, obviously, but the more insidious aspect of his size is that he's almost useless in help situations or zone defenses. Boykins tries to make up for it by pressuring the ball up court, but he's not that good at it -- he gambles too much and doesn't force many turnovers for his efforts. Overall, the Nuggets were a whopping 6.8 points per 100 minutes worse with Boykins on the court.

2006-07 outlook: Projecting Boykins' numbers is difficult considering the lack of comparable players of his size -- Spud Webb comes up as the most similar player based on size, not on how they play. However, short guards historically haven't aged real well, and Boykins turned 30 in June, so the storm clouds are gathering. It's an important year for Boykins because he has an opt-out in his contract and it's his last chance for a big payday. Unfortunately, Denver's offseason shooting-guard shopping seems to be with the intent of limiting him to 15-20 minutes a night as Andre Miller's backup.


Shooting Gains
Anthony
Jerry McBride/AP Photo
Carmelo Anthony elevated his field-goal shooting percentage to 48.1 last season, up from 43.1 the year before. He averaged 26.5 ppg for the division-winning Nuggets.


SportsNation Speaks
'Melo needs help! Here's who Denver fans expect him to get it from.

Which of these returning players will have the biggest impact this season?
37.9% Kenyon Martin
35.8% Nene Hilario
16.8% Andre Miller
4.8% Earl Boykins
1.7% Reggie Evans
1.7% Eduardo Najera
1.2% DerMarr Johnson

Vote: Nuggets in 2006-07



Ask A Blogger
Nuggets

What would it take for you to get a tattoo of the Nuggets' logo on your chest?

The Denver Nuggets would have to win the NBA championship with Carmelo Anthony leading the league in scoring for me to get inked.

Marcus Camby winning the Defensive Player of the Year, Earl Boykins taking home the sixth-man honor, and J.R. Smith finishing the season with an average of better than 20 a night would dictate how big the tatty would be.

And one more thing ... it would have to be the city skyline logo. Nothing touches that throwback!

Nick Sclafani | The Nugg Doctor



Coach's Corner

GEORGE KARL COACHING FILE
Experience: 18 years
Record: 784-545
Playoffs: 61-75
NBA titles: 0
Coach's profile

George Karl will install a new offense to take the burden off Carmelo Anthony, especially in the postseason. He intends to run like the Suns and play in the half court with a passing game instead of just pro sets.

But can he get veteran Marcus Camby -- his most valuable big -- to sprint all year?

Can he get Kenyon Martin, his most talented big, to buy anything he says?

And who can stretch the defense in the half court with solid long-range shooting?

The Nuggets are poised to make a run for the conference finals if Karl can create a harmonious team, the opposite of what he had in Denver last season.

David Thorpe, ESPN.com NBA analyst



Hollinger's Team Strength
Frontcourt depth. I was tempted to write "The Northwest Division" here -- certainly that was Denver's biggest advantage a year ago -- but it's hard to deny how good this frontcourt might be if everybody stays in one piece.

Camby is one of the league's premier defensive players thanks to his shot-blocking and ability to control the glass, while Nene is a solid big man who could take another step forward.

For all his troubles in the locker room, Martin is now a year removed from microfracture knee surgery and could be much more productive this year, and he combines with Nene and Camby to give the team three of the league's quickest big men.

Behind them are several other solid players. Smith is a reliable shooter and underrated rebounder who could start if Martin's troubles continue; Evans and likely 12th man Jamal Sampson are both rebounding beasts; sometimes-power forward Linas Kleiza had a solid rookie year and could be ready to blossom; and Najera may still have some of his "Energy Eddie" mojo left in the tank as well.

With this strength comes another luxury -- the Nuggets can pick and choose which deal looks right when they inevitably go shopping for shooting help near the trade deadline.

With frontcourt help at a premium around the league and Denver holding the most obvious excess, they're sure to have plenty of offers to sift through.

More Hollinger Nuggets analysis Insider



Fantasy Fix
Miller
Miller

Sleeper: Andre Miller is not so much a sleeper as he is underappreciated in fantasy circles. Sure, he's a total nonfactor from 3-point land and you can barely slide a Sunday newspaper under his feet when he jumps, but he's a great option for assists and shoots a solid percentage for a guard.

And Denver will look to run more this season, which can only increase Miller's value.

Bust: J.R. Smith fell out of favor with Byron Scott with the Hornets, and he's got a new lease on life in Denver. But that doesn't mean he's going to thrive immediately. For all the athleticism he's been blessed with, he rebounds like he's 5-foot-6 instead of 6-foot-6 and he'll curse your team's field-goal percentage, even if he is built for the up-tempo game the Nuggets plan to play.

Keith Lipscomb | Fantasy Hoops Index

 

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