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Marlowe Blog: Big things ahead for Lawson, Nuggets

Arron Afflalo (left) and Danilo Gallinari are part of Denver's strong young nucleus.
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images

Early this season, Denver Nuggets Head Coach George Karl was asked what it would take for his team to have a successful season.

In his answer, George listed four players on the Denver roster – Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari and Nene – who had the ability to step up to the next level.

He continued on to say that if two of these four players had career years, the Denver Nuggets would have a “very good” season. He followed that by predicting if three of the four Nuggets (or perhaps all of them) had big years, that the Mile High Crew would have a “great” season.

Well, let’s evaluate how it all played out.

In my opinion, of the big four, point guard Ty Lawson was the one Nugget who DID go to the next level.

In his first full year as a starter, the 24-year-old from North Carolina averaged career highs in points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, free-throw percentage and minutes. In the playoffs, Ty averaged 19 points, six assists and shot 51 percent from the field!

I don’t think that it’s a stretch to say that next season Lawson could average 18-19 points, eight assists and make the Western Conference All-Star Team.

By the way, did you know that no Denver Nugget received a single vote for any of the three NBA All-League squads? That needs to change next year.

Arron Afflalo certainly had a roller coaster ride. After signing a new five-year contract late in training camp, AAA had a very slow start to his season. However, by the All-Star break he had found his stride, and down the stretch in April he averaged 18.5 ppg and was the Nuggets most productive player.

In the playoffs, Arron, guarded by Kobe Bryant, was held to 11 ppg on 40 percent shooting and was just 4-for-20 from downtown.

Bottom line: Arron Afflalo had a good year, posting a career-high 15.2 ppg, shooting nearly 40 percent from downtown and hitting just under 80 percent from the line. But he didn’t take it to the next level and have the career year George Karl was hoping for.

One more line about Arron Afflalo: Nobody in the NBA works harder; he’s probably in the gym as I write and you read!

Everyone, including myself, had high hopes in 2011-12 for forward Danilo Gallinari. He started the season like he was shot out of a cannon and was one of the main reasons the Nuggets got off to a 14-5 start.

Gallo led Denver in scoring at 17 ppg and was part of the All-Star conversation. Then the injury bug took a bite. A sprained ankle sidelined him for a month and caused him to miss 13 games. As soon as he came back, he broke his thumb and missed another 10 games. After that, Danilo never seemed the same. Could Gallo have gone to the next level? Maybe, but because of the injuries we’ll have to wait until next year.

I do know one thing about Gallinari: his poor performance in Game 7 against the Lakers wounded his pride greatly. Expect “The Rooster” to bounce back in a big way.

And then there was Nene. The Nuggets signed him to a mega contract, moved him to his natural position of power forward and hoped he would respond with an All-Star caliber year. Unfortunately, Nene was unable to deliver. Injured much of the first half of the season, he put up modest numbers and was traded to Washington as part of a three-team deal.

Nene, in my opinion, was never going to get to the next level. The guy they got from Washington, 24-year-old JaVale McGee, still has a chance.

So, a brief refresher course on this long blog:

George Karl said he needed 2 of his “Big 4” to have career seasons for Denver to put together a “very good year.” He got one … Ty Lawson. Arron Afflalo and Danilo Gallinari, for a variety of reasons, were unable to take the next step. Nene, after a lackluster first three months, was sent packing.

Next season, the Nuggets will have new candidates looking to step up into the big time. Who will they be? Kenneth Faried? JaVale McGee? Jordan Hamilton?

Stay tuned.