Hollinger's Team Forecast: Denver Nuggets

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The Nuggets began the year as dark-horse contenders in the West, and "dark" is certainly a good way to describe their season. It wasn't that the Nuggets were a bad team -- they won 44 games -- but they were a dysfunctional one. Upstairs they had a lame-duck general manager, while on the floor they had a volatile chemistry that centered on the discord between forward Kenyon Martin and coach George Karl. Further, the Nuggets seemed to have a cloud over their heads all season: Center Nene blew out his knee two minutes into the first game and was lost for the season, while rookie guard Julius Hodge got shot while driving on the highway.

Injuries in the frontcourt were a problem all season. Nene was the most prominent casualty, but Marcus Camby, Martin and Eduardo Najera all missed big chunks of time. The backcourt was a mess too. The Nuggets brought back Voshon Lenard to be their starting shooting guard after an Achilles injury cost him the previous season, but he had the mobility of a sleeping snail and had to be replaced almost immediately. That took Denver's only shooter out of the lineup, and long-range accuracy was a major weakness all year (more on that below).

Meanwhile, the team's biggest free-agent pickup, guard Earl Watson, was festering on the bench because the Nuggets had nowhere to play him -- they already had two good point guards. The Nuggets had signed Watson as an asset to use in a trade and eventually they pawned him, getting Reggie Evans and Ruben Patterson in a three-way deal. That left an even bigger gap at shooting guard, however, because Watson had often filled in there. It was so bad that Patterson -- as much of a non-shooter as you'll ever see -- was forced to fill in on occasion.