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30 Teams, 30 Days: Nuggets build around Mudiay, Malone

Denver's new rookie and new coach begin a new era in town

POSTED: Sep 7, 2015 9:15 AM ET

By Shaun Powell

BY Shaun Powell


2014-15 Denver Nuggets Top 10 Plays

Relive the top plays from the Denver Nuggets 2014-15 season!

Since the Warriors grabbed their first NBA title in 40 years in June, NBA teams have undergone a number of changes over the summer break. will evaluate the state of each franchise in the month of September with a look at 30 teams in 30 days.

Today's Team: Denver Nuggets | All 30 Teams

Who's gone: Ty Lawson

Who's new: Emmanuel Mudiay, coach Michael Malone, Kostas Panpanikolaou

The lowdown: Just when the Nuggets thought the 2014-15 season couldn't get worse, it did. It followed them into the summer. It forced them to unload their best player and get virtually nothing in return.

Ty Lawson was troubled even before he was ticketed for suspicion of driving under the influence, and that was merely the last straw for him and a franchise that had seen enough. He's the Rockets' problem now after being dealt there this summer. Meanwhile, the Nuggets now attempt to sift through the rubble and find something to salvage going into a new season, one that doesn't look too promising.

They'll have a new coach, and Michael Malone represents one of the few moves made by Denver recently that feels right. Malone was run out of Sacramento not because the Kings underachieved or he rubbed DeMarcus Cousins the wrong way, but because he refused to mesh with a quirky owner. As the son of a long-time NBA assistant coach, Malone knows the turf well and his strength is keeping good relationships with players. After the Brian Shaw experiment detonated in their face -- and it wasn't all Shaw's fault -- the Nuggets are all too happy with the promise of positive coach-player relations.

Rather than add significant pieces, hard to do when the cupboard is bare of assets to trade, the Nuggets decided to spend on their own players this summer. It comes with a bit of risk, investing in players that couldn't pull the franchise out of its doldrums. But such is the way of things right now in Denver, a team on the rebuild.

They extended Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, giving both players generous deals. Gallinari was the bigger surprise as he has missed most of the last two seasons with injuries. But he looked strong down the stretch of last season, which convinced the Nuggets to give him another look. When healthy, Gallinari can shoot from deep and help a team that's light on scoring. And he's still in his prime. Chandler is a solid swingman who doesn't do anything spectacular. At best, both deals were a safe move.

The big issue is how to fill Lawson's point guard vacancy. Say what you will about his off-the-court habits, Lawson was a steady player who at times was a borderline All-Star. Lucky for the Nuggets, the solution fell into their lap on Draft night. Emmanuel Mudiay was a no-brainer decision even before Lawson lapsed.

NBA Rooks: Emmanuel Mudiay -- Las Vegas Summer League

After being selected 7th overall by the Denver Nuggets in the 2015 NBA Draft, Emmanuel Mudiay works hard during Las Vegas Summer League and is excited for the season ahead.

Mudiay appears NBA-ready, bringing good size and surprisingly mature court sense for someone who two years ago was in high school. A year spent in China helped Mudiay deal with life on the road, and he appears to be well-grounded, coachable and personable. It could be that the basketball gods were smiling on the Nuggets, or simply having pity on them.

To give the kid help, the Nuggets re-signed Jameer Nelson and Mudiay would be wise to follow the advice of a veteran who's known for his professionalism and hard work.

That represents the extent of Denver's summer doings. The Nuggets weren't in position to attract a big-name free agent, or even a B-lister, coming off a 30-win season. It wasn't the right time, and besides, Denver is better off keeping the payroll trim and sinking back into the lottery, not that they'll have much choice in a very deep and talented Western Conference that is all but destined to keep Denver in the basement.

The Nuggets would love to see further development from big man Jusuf Nurkic and swingman Gary Harris, whose rookie season was a wash. Mainly, though, this will be Mudiay's year to learn how to run an NBA team and make his mistakes. Better to get that out of the way now, while expectations are low and fans are thinking about the future, not the present.

Pete D'Alessandro is back in the front office fold after escaping the Kings, like Malone, and the Nuggets have a whiff of stability. It'll be a while longer before the smell success, however. Lots will depend on a rookie point guard, and a coach who's preaching patience, and what moves are made in the near future by a franchise that lost its way after George Karl and Masai Ujiri departed.

Another trip to the lottery won't hurt them. Two more trips, however, translates into a trend.

Coming Next: Detroit Pistons

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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.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.