Wednesday , Oct , 19 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Denver Nuggets 2005-06 Season Preview

=== Denver Nuggets 2005-06 Season Preview ===

By Warren Blatt, NBA Editor

2004-05 FINISH: 49-33

OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Linas Kleiza (F) – Trade with Portland; Earl Watson (G) –
Free Agent.

OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: Nikoloz Tskitishvili (F) – Signed with Minnesota.

2005 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (20) Julius Hodge (G, North Carolina State); 1. (22)
Jarrett Jack (G, Georgia Tech) – Traded to Portland; 2. (52) Axel Hervelle (F,
Belgium).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Andre Miller, SG , SF Carmelo
Anthony, PF Kenyon Martin, C Marcus Camby

COACH: George Karl

(Sports Network) – Denver’s 2004-05 campaign was saved when general manager
Kiki Vandeweghe hired current head coach George Karl on January 27th.

The Nuggets were just 17-25 and sinking fast when their new general came to
the rescue. Under the leadership of Karl, who replaced interim head coach
Michael Cooper, the Nuggets compiled an impressive 32-8 record and marched
into the playoffs as the seventh seed in the Western Conference.

However, Denver ran into a buzzsaw in the opening round of the postseason.
After defeating San Antonio in the first game of round one, the Nuggets lost
four consecutive games and were eliminated by the eventual champion Spurs. It
was the second straight year that they have lost in the first round.

Second-year pro Carmelo Anthony had a solid sophomore campaign for the Nuggets
in 2004-05, as he led the team in scoring (20.8 ppg) and also pulled down a
respectable 5.7 rebounds per game. He has adapted well to Karl’s coaching
style and sparkled under the changes that were implemented by the new coach.

Forward Kenyon Martin, who was acquired in a sign-and-trade deal with the Nets
during the 2004 summer, fit in well with his new teammates. He was second on
the team in scoring (15.6 ppg) and rebounding (7.3 rpg). The 27-year-old
Martin brought his intensity on defense and it had a major impact on Denver’s
success.

When Karl was able to get Anthony and Martin to buy into his system everything
else fell into place. Center Marcus Camby, forward Nene and guards Earl
Boykins and Andre Miller followed and the wins started to pile up for Denver.
The Nuggets put together impressive winning streaks and lost back-to-back
games only once under Karl.

Denver re-signed guard DerMarr Johnson in the offseason, and inked free agent
point guard Earl Watson, who spent last season with Memphis to a contract.
Johnson averaged 7.1 points in 71 games in 2004-05 for the Nuggets, while
Watson gives Denver another quick guard who can distribute the ball.

The Nuggets also added North Carolina State guard Julius Hodge with the 20th
overall pick. Hodge is a hard-nosed player who will help defensively. The club
also drafted Jarrett Jack at No. 22, but later dealt his rights to Portland
for the rights to forward Linas Kleiza.

BACKCOURT

Miller is the key to Denver’s backcourt. The 6-2 Utah product played in all 82
regular-season contests in 2004-05 and averaged 13.6 points and a team-best
6.9 assists. He will share the point guard duties with Boykins and Watson,
while also getting plenty of playing time alongside the two.

The 6-9 Johnson rounds out the four-man guard rotation. He gives Karl the size
that the others lack. Johnson is athletic and does a solid job of helping
Denver get out in transition. The 25-year-old Johnson is a nice complement to
Boykins, Miller and Watson.

Watson, 26, is entering his fifth season in the league. Besides Memphis, he
has also spent time with the Seattle SuperSonics. The 6-1 Watson and the 5-5
Boykins will push the ball and help the Nuggets excel in a fast-paced style.

Boykins is coming off the best season of his seven-year career. He averaged
season-highs in points (12.4 ppg) and assists (4.5 apg) while playing a
career-high 26.4 minutes per game in all 82 of Denver’s regular-season
contests. The 29-year-old veteran flourished under Karl and should be able to
continue his success in the upcoming year.

FRONTCOURT

Anthony, Camby, Martin and Nene give the Nuggets a formidable frontcourt.
Anthony and Martin are the energy of the Nuggets and are asked to carry a big
load offensively, while Camby, who averaged 10.3 points and 10 rebounds in 66
games last season, is a great shot-blocker and can use his athleticism to
score some points and pull down boards.

Nene comes off the bench to provide muscle down low. He picks up garbage
points and does a lot of the dirty work. In 55 games last season, Nene
contributed 9.6 points and 5.5 boards per contest.

Eduardo Najera, who was acquired from Dallas at last season’s trade deadline,
averaged 6.9 points in 26 games for the Nuggets. He is a solid defender and
gives the Nuggets some more depth up front.

OUTLOOK

The Nuggets have a nice mix of talent on their roster. Anthony, Camby and
Martin are the strength of the squad, while Miller is a solid point guard who
is capable of providing a big offensive spark. Karl will need to once
again find the magic that helped propel Denver into the postseason after a
rough start in 2004-05. The Nuggets will win 50-plus games and capture the
Northwest Division crown.

DEN