Lakers Vs. Nuggets Preview: Lakers Face Derailed Nuggets

Jordan Clarkson vs Denver NuggetsThe challenges presented by the Denver Nuggets front office, coaching staff and personnel have sunk the organization to new depths. Former general manager Masai Ujiri capped out the roster then fled to the Toronto Raptors and his inheritor made the mistake of doing the exact same thing. Head coach Brian Shaw was subsequently fired because of a visible rift between he and the locker room. Now the Nuggets are a team of overpaid misfits with no clear direction of how to climb out of its dreaded mediocrity. The Los Angeles Lakers will try to snap a four game losing streak on the road in Denver tonight.

Frontcourt: Brian Shaw’s successor, Melvin Hunt oddly starts the hobbled swingman, also known as Danilo Gallinari, at center. A questionable decision for three reasons: 1) he thrives on the perimeter, 2) he’s an atrocious rim protector, and 3) a 7-foot Bosnian behemoth named Jusuf Nurkic is rotting on the bench as a result. Clearly, some funkiness is occurring internally in terms of Denver’s desire to win. But, that’s beside the point. The best years of Gallinari’s career are behind him. In 2013, the Nuggets infamously mishandled his ACL tear one year after he signed an extension worth $42 million over four years. Knee injuries have plagued and hindered Gallinari throughout his career. Gallinari was slightly rejuvenated last month, though, averaging 17.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in 13 games played.

Another regrettable signing for Denver, Kenneth Faried, is still plugging away. A ferocious rebounder and ultra-energy guy, Faried earns his living on the offensive glass where many of his 12 points per game originate. Outside of layups and dunks, Faried is an incompetent offensive player with no range or jump shot whatsoever. And despite averaging a career 8.6 rebounds per game, Faried’s undersized frame and questionable effort have landed him in the doghouse amongst NBA executives. General manager Tim Connelly has quietly shopped the power forward in the past, but nobody is willing to part with a substantial asset to acquire a poor defender with attitude problems. Thus, Denver is likely to be stuck with Faried’s $12.5 million annual salary.

Wilson Chandler was a hot commodity on the trade market in February with several contenders rumored to have expressed interest in him. But, Connelly’s asking price was far beyond any proposed offers, landing Chandler back in a Nuggets uniform. Denver could simply cut Chandler this summer, as the final year of his contract is unguaranteed, or hang onto him as a movable expiring contract next season. An 8th-year player from DePaul, Chandler is a nice rotation player who’s on the floor primarily to score. Chandler’s efficiency has dipped since his days with the New York Knicks because of assumed expanded responsibilities, but he’s proven to be an elite attacker. His offense thrives when he drives into the lane and stagnates when he settles for outside shots where he shoots 33.8 percent for his career. Chandler is a shifty defender and capable rebounder too, averaging a career-high six rebounds per game this season.

Backcourt: Randy Foye has bounced around quite a bit in nine years making stops in Minnesota, Washington, Los Angeles and Utah before landing with the Nuggets. Again, Foye is a quality rotation player, but his limitations offensively have been the main reason for his nomadic career. Sure, Foye will engage in occasional bouts of offensive brilliance, then follow it up with absolute atrocity. Yet, teams continue to gamble on the former seventh overall pick, perhaps for the glimpse of hope that he will somehow suddenly live up to the standards expected of a lottery pick. Until then, Foye is nothing other than a streaky three-point shooter who can defend the perimeter fairly well.

Much like Faried, Ty Lawson quickly fell out of favor with Brian Shaw because of differences in philosophy and attitude problems. And like the remainder of Denver’s roster, Lawson was shopped at the deadline seeking a rumored package consisting of two first-round drafts pick in return. Obviously, there were no biters. Attitude aside, Lawson is the only player capable of orchestrating an offense on Denver’s roster and he has done wonders with a limited supporting cast. Lawson is averaging 15.4 points and the third most assists in the NBA with 9.5 per game. The point guard murdered the Lakers in their previous matchup recording 32 points and 16 assists, as Los Angeles couldn’t put a stop to Lawson’s incredible drive-and-kick game. Entering year seven, the question still surrounds Lawson of whether he can be the starting point guard on a championship team or if he’s best suited as an overqualified sixth man.

Keys To Victory:
Close Off Lanes: As previously mentioned, Lawson excels when he gains dribble penetration, especially with shooters all over the court. Jordan Clarkson must redeem himself after Lawson dominated him last game and focus on limiting his driving lanes.

Frontcourt Production: Jordan Hill and Ed Davis tower over Denver’s frontline, so Byron Scott should defer to them early and often. Hill is the more polished offensive player, but is useless if he continues to settle for mid-range jumpers. However, when Nurkic is sent in, forget about that size advantage.

Ryan Kelly: Faried will likely cover Kelly to begin the game, which will draw Denver’s only true rebounding threat away from the basket. The Lakers boast superior rebounders at center, from Davis to Hill to Tarik Black, making Kelly’s outside shot vital to a potential rebounding advantage.

Los Angeles Lakers (20-57) at Denver Nuggets (28-49)
6:00 PM PST, April 8th, 2015
Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Nuggets Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Ty Lawson
SG: Randy Foye
SF: Wilson Chandler
PF: Kenneth Faried
C: Danilo Gallinari

Key Reserves: PG: Jameer Nelson SG: Will Barton C: Jusuf Nurkic

Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: Jeremy Lin
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Ryan Kelly
C: Tarik Black

Kobe Bryant Vows Lakers Will Be ‘Much Better’ Next Season

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