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Denver Nuggets 2015 roster: Focus on young players as Mike Malone tenure begins

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The Nuggets don't have to start winning on the court just yet, but their young players need to improve.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The best thing for the Denver Nuggets this season has nothing to do with wins on the court, although that's a solid indicator that things are going right. Denver is too far down in the Western Conference to realistically expect a playoff push, but they're also not lottery pick hunting, either. They got the lottery pick they wanted: Emmanuel Mudiay, in the draft last June and swapped him in Ty Lawson's former place. This season is about him and other young players coming together cohesively and showing that they're the future of this team.

It's not just Mudiay, although he's the big name. There's a few young shooting guards -- Will Barton, Nick Johnson and Gary Harris -- and the Nuggets would like one of them to stand out from the pack. There's also Jusuf Nurkic, last year's first-round pick as a massive European center. He showed flashes in his rookie season but couldn't put it together consistently. This year is a chance to change that.

With new coach Mike Malone in place, Denver has clearly reset the clock of expectations. This season is about development more than anything else.

LAST YEAR

RECORD: 30-52 (12th in Western Conference)
OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY: 101.6 (21st)
DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY: 105.5 (26th)

ROSTER

No.
PLAYER
POS
HEIGHT
WEIGHT
AGE
COLLEGE
00 Darrell Arthur PF 6'9 235 27 Kansas
0 Emmanuel Mudiay PG 6'5 200 19
1 Jameer Nelson PG 6'0 190 33 Saint Joseph's
3 Mike Miller SF 6'8 218 35 Florida
4 Randy Foye SG 6'4 213 32 Villanova
5 Will Barton SG 6'6 175 24 Memphis
7 J.J. Hickson PF 6'9 242 27 NC State
8 Danilo Gallinari SF 6'10 225 27
11 Erick Green PG 6'4 184 24 Virginia Tech
13 Nick Johnson SG 6'3 202 22 Arizona
14 Gary Harris SG 6'4 210 21 Michigan State
21 Wilson Chandler SF 6'8 225 28 DePaul
23 Jusuf Nurkic C 7'0 280 21
35 Kenneth Faried PF 6'8 228 25 Morehead State

Coach: Michael Malone
Assistant coaches: Ed Pinckney, Chris Fleming, Wes Unseld Jr., Micah Nori, Ryan Bowen

OFFSEASON CHANGES

IN: Emmanuel Mudiay, Mike Miller
OUT: Ty Lawson, JaVale McGee, Alonzo Gee

The point guard position was where the Nuggets made the largest swap, drafting Mudiay and shipping Lawson to the Rockets for next to nothing. Besides that and some minor moves around the back end of the roster, Denver's roster is essentially the same.

DEPTH CHART

POINT GUARD
SHOOTING GUARD
SMALL FORWARD
POWER FORWARD
CENTER
STARTER
Emmanuel Mudiay Randy Foye Danilo Gallinari Kenneth Faried Jusuf Nurkic
RESERVE
Jameer Nelson Will Barton Wilson Chandler Darrell Arthur J.J. Hickson
RESERVE
Erick Green Gary Harris Mike Miller
RESERVE
Nick Johnson

THE KEY QUESTION

What is the vibe around this team?

The vibe is more positive than it has been in years. Last season the team had a complete mutiny against Brian Shaw. Players like JaVale McGee, Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson poisoned what was otherwise a fairly solid locker room. Malone, who was able to establish a great relationship with DeMarcus Cousins and every other member of the Kings roster when he was in Sacramento, should be able to hold on to the locker room better than his predecessor.

Most important of all, Danilo Gallinari is healthy for the first time since April 2013. He's also in excellent shape coming off of Eurobasket and appears to be featured in the offense in a way that he has never been featured before. Through two preseason games, Gallo has played large stretches as a sort of point-forward, a role that he has excelled at in the past. If he can stay healthy, he has a chance to perform like one of the most dynamic and versatile players in the league.

-Adam Mares, Denver Stiffs (read the full team preview here).

PREDICTIONS

BEST CASE: Mike Malone is the right fit for a growing team, pushing the development of Nurkic and Mudiay in the right direction. Denver stays in the playoff race for much of the season, although they're inevitably pushed out in late March. Hopes are high for this team going forward.

WORST CASE: Mudiay has growing pains and struggles to be a starting point guard in the NBA, unable to consistently make shots or stay under control. Gallinari struggles, losing any trade value he has, and none of the young shooting guards make an impression. Denver is one of the worst teams in the West, but not bad enough to get a draft pick in the top three or four.