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Are Retreads the Answer?

October 31st, 2008 by aswitzer

The 2008-2009 season is upon us.

Like it or not, Nuggets regulars Marcus Camby and Eduardo Najera are gone. Offseason financial casualties for a franchise that just made the playoffs for the fifth season in a row, but lost yet again in the first round. The Nuggets also gave up on a few shorter-term projects – Yakhouba Diawara, Von Wafer, and Bobby Jones.

Re-enter two Nuggets players from the past – Chris “Birdman” Andersen and Juwan Howard. Along with the failed Nuggets comeback attempt by Ruben Patterson, (waived the last week of preseason) that’s quite a few retreads on the 2008-2009 roster.

Andersen appears to still have quite a bit left in the tank, after two years away from the NBA due to a drug suspension. He brings energy and shot-blocking, but is a big drop-off talent-wise when compared to Camby. Juwan Howard is a consummate professional and brings aged but steady inside skills along with a solid locker-room presence – although again, when compared with Najera, another talent drop-off.

Actual new newcomers – Dahntay Jones and Renaldo Balkman bring a common and needed theme – defense. Judgement on rookie draft pickup Sonny Weems will have to wait until later in the season, as he ended up missing most of the preseason. The main words I’ve heard used to describe him so far are “athletic” and “upside”.

The Nuggets will start Allen Iverson, Anthony Carter, Nene, Carmelo Anthony, and Kenyon Martin. All have at least 5 seasons in the NBA, with Iverson leading the experience way as he enters his 13th NBA season. Despite the seasoned starting five, there are a lot of questions. Does Iverson still have enough gas left in his tank to lead the way? Can Carter keep the other starters happy by distributing the ball? Can Nene have a healthy and full productive season? Can Carmelo Anthony take his game to a higher level and finally embrace the defensive end to go along with his many offensive talents? Lastly, Kenyon Martin has finally shown up as a healthy Nugget, but can he keep his powerful intensity and energy positive on the court and in the locker room?

The top two players off the bench are unquestionably J.R. Smith and Linas Kleiza. Can both continue their upward trends from last year and provide steady and strong contributions when called upon. J.R. has definitely shown the unique ability to take over games offensively, especially when teams are keying on stopping Anthony and Iverson, but can he provide a more steady level of defense so he can stay on the court more?

That’s a lot of questions for 2008-2009, but I for one look forward to the answers. As an optimistic fan who has the ability to past season’s disappointments behind him, I hope these Nuggets can do the same and rise to new heights. Go Nuggets!

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