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Danilo Gallinari (#8) and Wilson Chandler (#21) as well. Gallinari missed the entire 2014-15 season with a damaged tendon and later a torn ACL in his knee. If Gallinari can return as the same player he was before, he’ll give the Nuggets a third excellent three-point shooter and a player who is excellent at drawing fouls as well. While Gallinari isn’t quite a superstar, he’s a very good player and should give the Nuggets a significant boost this season. Power forward Faried is a particularly interesting player. Faried is not particularly tall and can’t shoot from long distance, but he makes up for these deficiencies with tremendous hustle. Faried scores transition baskets frequently and is also an excellent rebounder. Often, Faried will catch an opponent off guard and score a quick basket after simply running the floor faster than his counterpart. While today’s NBA is moving towards having a stretch four who can shoot three pointers, Faried provides value by simply outworking his opponents. The center position figures to be the biggest hole in Denver’s roster from an offensive standpoint. After the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, McGee might be the biggest threat in the League at finishing alley-oops, but doesn’t shoot and lacks a plus low-post game. Mozgov is similarly limited; he’s decent at drawing fouls but has difficulty creating shots for either himself or his teammates. Overall, the Nuggets have some genuine scoring threats and should be able to run up the score on opponents once in a while. However, they lack the superstar necessary to be one of the league’s great offenses. Outlook There are reasons to think the Nuggets will be a significantly improved team this s e a s o n . G e t t i n g Gallinari healthy and back in the lineup should add a few wins to Denver’s total, as he is an upgrade over Bart Young/NBAE/Getty Images a decent player in Wilson Chandler. The team also will have another year of experience under head coach Brian Shaw and could become a more cohesive unit this season. At the same time, Denver’s upside as a team is limited until they find a player who can be a franchise cornerstone. As good as Gallinari is, he’s a better fit as the sidekick to a franchise player than the franchise player himself. With Gallinari, Lawson, Afflalo, and Faried, the Nuggets will be a competitive team, but until they find the superstar they can build around, Denver should expect about 40 to 45 wins, which will probably put them in the draft lottery in the competitive Western Conference. SPOTLIGHT: Danilo Gallinari When Gallinari had surgery to repair a damaged tendon in his knee, doctors were left with a decision: they could either also repair Gallinari’s sprained ACL, leaving Gallinari out for an extended length of time, or let it heal on its own and hope to get Gallinari back by December. As it turns out, the doctors chose to let Gallinari’s ACL heal on its own, and the decision backfired when further damage prompted a second knee surgery in January. That’s the bad news—the good news is that Gallinari has now made a full recovery and should be ready to play when the season begins. On offense, Gallinari gives the Nuggets a three-dimensional player: somebody who can shoot, dribble-drive, and pass. On defense, Gallinari’s height and lanky 6-10 frame can cause problems for opponents as well. Gallinari is the closest thing Denver has to a two-way player, and the Nuggets will need every bit of Gallinari’s abilities if they want to contend this year. Two questions linger: first, will Gallinari be the same player after two knee surgeries? Second, if Gallinari is the same player, will it make the Nuggets a contender in the Western Conference? In an era where NBA teams are either contending or tanking, Denver is somewhere in the middle. If Gallinari’s return doesn’t put Denver on the path back to contention, the Nuggets will have some very hard decisions to make about the team’s future.


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