After setting the franchise's regular-season win record, the Denver Nuggets gutted their front office before losing their head coach and best player this summer. It's hard to imagine that will bode well for 2013-14, but with a roster still pretty much intact and a head coach known as a motivator, the sky isn't too gray.
Brian Shaw has a lot to work with: a deep roster that's experienced with high upside should give him the tools to legitimately preach "playoffs or bust."
Ty Lawson -- Lawson enters the season as the Nuggets' most important player following Andre Iguodala's departure to Golden State. The undersized point guard doesn't get enough credit because, well, he's undersized. Nonetheless, the offense will undoubtedly begin and end with Lawson -- even if Shaw brings in parts of a triangle offense that doesn't necessarily need a ball-dominating point guard. If nothing else, he'll be leading the fast break.
Kenneth Faried -- The double-double machine fits well into Denver's plans if they continue to push the pace and score in transition. Faried's an excellent rebounder and could be pushed as a starter if Shaw is seeking a different look. Faried is undersized, but he more than makes up for it with his activity.
Danilo Gallinari -- The good news for the Nuggets is that Gallinari's ACL tear was revealed to be less severe than originally reported. It occurred on April 4, though, and it's unknown when the Italian will be able to return. When he does, Gallinari will be expected to carry the brunt of the scoring load after finishing last season by averaging 16.2 points.
JaVale McGee -- Last year's starting center, Kosta Koufos -- a favorite of former head coach George Karl -- is gone. The absence of Koufos leaves the door open for McGee to fill a more significant role this season. McGee averaged 9.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and two blocks in only 18 minutes per game in 2012-13 so the opportunity is certainly going to test his focus. He'll have to stay out of foul trouble and prove he's more than an athletic freak. The Nuggets have invested a lot of time and money in McGee so now they'll give him the chance to show if their confidence pays off..
Randy Foye -- Foye could be another newbie to the Denver starting lineup. With seven years of NBA experience, he's the more experienced option to start at shooting guard. After averaging 10.8 points per game and shooting 41 percent from three-point range last season in Utah, Foye is likely the best offensive option at shooting guard. He's also enough of a combo guard to help push the pace alongside Lawson.
Andre Miller -- As usual, Miller will act as a significant change-of-pace point guard option behind Lawson. The veteran was a rock last season, playing in all 82 regular season games and averaging 9.6 points and 5.9 assists per game. He and Lawson could continue seeing minutes on the court together if Shaw likes the two point-guard lineup. He also could be trade bait now that he's separated from Karl, his biggest backer.
Wilson Chandler -- Chandler will likely start the season as the starting small forward while Gallinari works his way back from an ACL tear. Chandler isn't a huge dropoff from Gallinari in scoring talent and shot 41 percent from behind the three-point arc in 2012-13.
Evan Fournier -- Fournier will turn 21 just before the season begins and could legitimately push Foye for the starting shooting guard spot. At 6'6, he's more of a true shooting guard than Foye, just as good as as three-point shooter and also a more efficient scorer -- he shot 49 percent overall last year to Foye's 40 percent. Lack of experience and a lack of a defensive foundation could keep him out of the starting lineup, however.
Timofey Mozgov -- Though he was buried in the depths of a three-center roster last year, the Nuggets gave Mozgov a three-year contract this offseason after shipping Koufos to Memphis. That's a sign he is viewed as the backup to McGee as a similarly-gifted rim-protector.
J.J. Hickson -- Hickson could push Faried to become the starting power forward and could also play the backup center spot behind McGee. That will depend on how new acquisition Darrell Arthur fits into the fold. Hickson's time at center will depend on whether Shaw decides to unleash Timofey Mozgov.
Nate Robinson -- A seemingly repetitive piece behind Lawson as a speedy, energetic point guard, Robinson will be asked to score in bunches. He could play alongside Miller as a shooting guard or play on the ball like he did in Chicago.
Deep on the bench
Darrell Arthur -- Along with Hickson, the Nuggets acquired Arthur as a more versatile option at power forward than Faried. Arthur can step out to hit midrange shots and, with Hickson, could be used to stagger a very athletic but offensively-limited frontcourt of McGee and Faried.
Jordan Hamilton -- The swingman comes in quite a similar mold to Gallinari and Chandler and will only see playing time if Shaw stretches his rotation for development purposes. Hamilton could see a good deal of minutes early on due to Gallinari's injury, however.
Quincy Miller -- The 20-year-old small forward is entering his second NBA season, but still has a lot of room to grow after playing sparingly last year.
Anthony Randolph -- Randolph brings a unique, perimeter-oriented skill set to the power forward slot, but there appears to be too much in front of him on the depth chart to snag a spot in the rotation.
Brian Shaw -- After learning the triangle offense in Los Angeles under the Zen Master, Phil Jackson, and then finding himself on a younger, defensive-oriented staff in Indiana, Shaw takes over a talented roster. His biggest challenge could be determining how to shuffle his rotation where development is as important as winning. There's reason to do both.