Denver Nuggets position preview: Centers

Seven-footers JaVale McGee, Timofey Mozgov in line to patrol the paint
by Aaron Lopez

With the additions of guards Randy Foye and Nate Robinson and forwards Darrell Arthur and J.J. Hickson, the Denver Nuggets are once again one of the deepest teams in the NBA heading into the 2013-14 season.

As training camp approaches on Oct. 1, we will take a quick glance at the outlook at the guard, forward and center positions.

Final group, the centers.

Returning: JaVale McGee, Timofey Mozgov.

Newcomers: None.

More and more NFL teams are employing a two running back system, pairing a speedster who thrives in the open field and a dependable bruiser who can punish teams between the tackles.

The Nuggets have a similar setup with their two 7-foot centers.

McGee is the athletic leaper who can run the floor, block shots and convert just about any lob pass thrown in his vicinity. Mozgov is the more traditional back-to-the-basket big man who can provide defense, scoring and rebounding when his number is called.

After playing an average of 18.1 minutes off the bench last season, McGee enters training camp as the leading candidate to start at center. That became clear when Denver traded incumbent starter Kosta Koufos to the Memphis Grizzlies on draft night.

The role won’t be foreign to McGee, who was the starting center for Washington Wizards before he was acquired by Denver on March 15, 2012. In 153 career games as a starter, he has averaged 10.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.31 blocks.

Though McGee’s reputation is built upon his remarkable dunking ability, he will be asked to expand his game under a new coaching staff led by Brian Shaw. Additional responsibilities could include knocking down 15-foot shots to help keep defenders honest and making quick decisions when he gets the ball in the post.

Mozgov played sparingly in 2012-13 but should see more minutes as McGee’s backup. He runs the floor well for his size, has a nice shooting touch and is a solid defender and rebounder. In his only start last season, he went 3-for-5 from the field and grabbed 13 rebounds in 28 minutes.

In the event of injuries or foul trouble to McGee or Mozgov, Shaw could turn to forwards J.J. Hickson or Anthony Randolph. Hickson averaged a double-double while playing primarily at center for the Portland Trail Blazers last season, while Randolph is a mobile 6-foot-11 shot blocker who can hit midrange shots and defend the pick and roll.

The Nuggets have played at a frenetic pace for the past several years, with their centers playing a big role in the running game.

McGee and Mozgov give Shaw the option to maintain that pace, yet be effective when things start to slow down.


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