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With Mudiay aboard, Nuggets hoping for change of fortune

Team hoping youth, injury luck can help make impact in West

POSTED: Oct 21, 2015 11:18 PM ET

By Shaun Powell

BY Shaun Powell

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The remaking of the Nuggets continues with new leadership on the bench and on the floor. Michael Malone brings the reputation for being a player's coach, which is welcome after the tumultuous stint of Brian Shaw. And rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay now has the ball in his hands, which is welcome after the departure of Ty Lawson, who ran afoul of the law once too much.

ICYMI

Pete D'Alessandro has returned to the front office; he was exiled in Sacramento along with Malone. ... Denver gave a combined six years and $80 million in extensions to Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari. ... Mike Miller, 35, turned down offers elsewhere to sign with the Nuggets. ... Jusuf Nurkic had surgery in May to repair a partially torn left patella tendon and wasn't ready when camp began.

THREE POINTS

1. The Nuggets had to dump Lawson, their best player; he was just too much of a headache. But the most they received from Houston was a future protected first rounder that'll probably fall in the 20s.

2. Kenneth Faried was one of the Nuggets who openly defied Brian Shaw. Well, they got their wish, and now he and the rest need to grow up and show some accountability.

3. The Nuggets don't have anyone returning who averaged 14 or more points per game, and once again are searching for a go-to player.

MAN ON THE SPOT

Only three players remain from the Nuggets team that won 57 games in 2012-13, and yet in a sense, Danilo Gallinari hasn't been heard from since. A string of knee injuries chopped up his career and threatened to end it. But in 24 games last season after the All-Star break, Gallinari averaged 19 points and shot 40 percent from deep and suddenly, he was back on track. Can he do that for a full season? Well, the Nuggets apparently think so, especially after extending his contract last summer. Gallo is a very creative offensive player who brings enough deception to create space on the floor between him and his defender. Now he must create space from his injured past; Denver badly needs someone who can drop 20 points on any given night.

STARTING FIVE

Emmanuel Mudiay | 18 ppg, 6.3 apg, 5.9 rpg (China)
Multi-skilled rookie brings great maturity but still needs time.

Wilson Chandler | 13.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.7 apg
Steady and reliable will have to be good enough here.

Jusuf Nurkic | 6.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.1 bpg
The 21-year-old appears ready to assume a major role.

Danilo Gallinari | 12.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 35 3p%
Has two-plus years of injury struggles to overcome.

Kenneth Faried | 12.6 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 50.6 FG%
Still looking for a reliable offensive touch.

KEY RESERVES

Randy Foye | 8.7 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 35.7 3p%
A staple off the bench, Foye also brings decent ball-handling.

Darrell Arthur | 6.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 40 FG%
Solid defender who can guard three positions.

Gary Harris | 3.4 points 1.2 rebounds 30.4 pct.
Needs to show he can shoot a lot better.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The 50-win seasons under George Karl are well behind the Nuggets by now, and the only way to return is with smart personnel moves and developing players. Another lottery appearance is all but given, but if Mudiay is in the race for Rookie of the Year, the season will be a success of sorts.

Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.

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