Nuggets make roster improvements through draft, trades

Denver could have as many as 11 returning players in 2014-15
by Aaron Lopez

When the Denver Nuggets gathered for a final time in April, coach Brian Shaw told the players to look around the room. History said that not everyone would be back next season.

While that proved to be true, the Nuggets haven’t made wholesale changes to their roster this summer; they could have as many as 11 returning players when training camp opens in October.

As continues its look at what offseason moves each team in the Northwest Division has made since the season ended last spring, we turn our focus to the Nuggets.

Background: The Nuggets began their first season under Shaw with a wealth of depth, but the rotation options gradually dwindled as the season went along. Denver players combined to miss 294 games due to injury or illness, second in the NBA only to the Los Angeles Lakers.

By the final week of March, the Nuggets had lost four players (Danilo Gallinari, J.J. Hickson, JaVale McGee and Nate Robinson) for the season. Starting point guard Ty Lawson sprained his ankle on April 4 and sat out the final six games.

Beset by injuries, the Nuggets finished 36-46 and landed in the NBA Draft Lottery for the first time in 11 years.

Summer moves: With the challenge of working around 12 guaranteed contracts, general manager Tim Connelly has been as aggressive as possible over the past month.

Denver acquired shooting guard Arron Afflalo from the Orlando Magic in the hours leading up to the NBA Draft. Connelly then traded the 11th overall pick, along with forward Anthony Randolph, to Chicago in exchange for the rights to center Jusuf Nurkic (16th overall) and guard Gary Harris (19th) on draft night.

The Nuggets aren’t necessarily done making changes, but Connelly and Shaw would be comfortable with the roster as it stands heading into 2014-15.

Big picture: Denver’s biggest free-agent acquisition might just come in the form of a clean bill of health.

Gallinari, Hickson, McGee and Robinson are all ahead of schedule in their rehabilitation programs. If they can return to full strength, the Nuggets will be just about three-deep at every position.

The depth is essential to Shaw’s “Wear ‘em down, wear ‘em out” philosophy as the Nuggets try to overpower the opposition in waves. If Denver reverses its fortunes in the health department, a return to the postseason might be around the corner.

Next Up: Utah Jazz