We should probably wait a little longer before publishing a Denver Nuggets preview, like maybe right before the season. Or January. Or before next season. Carmelo Anthony is holding us all hostage, and the real danger – everyone associated with the NBA throughout the globe is aware of it – is he could render this blog post meaningless. Until then, we’ll proceed as if Anthony is going to grace the Nuggets with his presence and Denver management realizes they can’t trade ‘Melo and risk Bubbly scolding us in the Comments section.
It’s a shame Carmelo is thinking of breaking this group up. He was rather terrific last year, fantasy-wise, and could lead Denver deep into the playoffs if he is indeed the player he thinks he is. Fantasy owners taking him in the second round are signing up for something similar to the 28.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.3 SPG and 83.0 FT% on 8.9 FTA/game he delivered last year. If he takes a step back we’ll be disappointed. Anthony has also played in less than 70 games in three of the last four years. I don’t doubt he’ll take his time coming back from any injuries this season as he prepares for potential free agency.
Chauncey Billups continues to defy age and he poured in a career-best 19.5 points last year. Should Anthony be traded, Billups will flirt with 20+ points and six assists per game. Where he helps the most is from the three-point line (2.2 per game as a Nugget in the last two years) and at the free throw line (89.2 percent career FT shooter). Billups is a sturdy No. 1 point guard and late-second round/early third-round fantasy selection. Denver’s other solid roto option is center Nene Hilario. While his rebounding isn’t as productive as the top fantasy centers, he averages better than a block and steal per game and shoots near 60 percent from the floor. You can get away with him as a No. 1 center and are golden if he’s your No. 2.
Denver head coach George Karl is a two-time cancer survivor, the latest a bout with neck and throat variety and the first a recurring case of J.R. Smith. Smith’s off-court antics hold him back from being the player his talents tell us he could be, and he is always in Karl’s doghouse. What kind of effort will Smith give this year? He’s always capable of being a fantasy stud, but the question marks are too myriad to count on him as a fantasy starter. Nevertheless, if he has his head on straight, and Anthony is traded, look out. The rest of Denver’s lineup is wacky as both Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen are hurt to start the season and the PF position could come down to Shelden Williams, whose lasting impression with this writer was of a pitch-perfect Shoeless Joe Jackson impression in the 2010 Finals. Williams won’t be a fantasy factor even if he starts, as Denver signed Al Harrington in the offseason for precisely this sort of scenario, as a multiple-position injury replacement and insurance in case Anthony bolts. If chuckers Anthony, Smith and Harrington are all on the floor at the same time security is going to have to evacuate the arena for safety reasons. Denver is better off giving minutes to team guys Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson. Afflalo will start and provide no fantasy value. Lawson is a must-have handcuff for Billups if you play in a league with a deep bench.
PG – Chauncey Billups, Ty Lawson
SG – Arron Afflalo, J.R. Smith
SF – Carmelo Anthony, Al Harrington
PF – Kenyon Martin (injured), Shelden Williams
C – Nene Hilario, Chris Andersen (injured)
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