Leading up to the start of the 2014 NBA season, Swarm and Sting will be pitting the Hornets head to head with every team in the Association every Tuesday and Thursday. In this edition, we match the Hornets up with the Denver Nuggets.
2013-14 Series: Charlotte swept the series, 2-0.
Projected Starting Match-Ups:
This is a tough match-up for the Hornets’ Kemba Walker, as it pits him against arguably the MVP of the Denver Nuggets in Ty Lawson. Lawson is a do-it-all point guard, one who can run the floor, score, play exceptional defense, and distribute to his teammates. Lawson has had his issues with injuries in the past, but when he is 100%, I believe he is in the upper tier of point guards in the NBA. Kemba may make that leap this season, but for now, I’ll take Lawson.
ADVANTAGE: Ty Lawson
Arron Afflalo returns to Denver thanks to a pre-draft deal the Nuggets made with the Orlando Magic. Afflalo had a career season last year, setting career high averages in points per game and assists per game, and since his rookie season, his scoring has increased each year that he has been in the NBA. He is dealt a tough hand against Charlotte, however, as Lance Stephenson is an elite defender, and can potentially shut Afflalo down for the Hornets. Afflalo is a great scorer, but his all-around game is lacking, especially against a multi-utility player like Stephenson.
ADVANTAGE: Lance Stephenson
Danilo Gallinari missed the entirety of the 2013-2014 season with a torn ACL, and it’s uncertain whether or not he will ever return to the level he played the last time we saw him (16.2 PPG). Torn ACL’s are tricky to deal with in the NBA, especially given Derrick Rose’s struggle to fully recover after his devastating injury in the 2012 playoffs. Since MKG is long, and much like Stephenson is a superior defender, I’ll give him the edge, if for no other reason than health.
ADVANTAGE: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Kenneth Faried is one of the more exciting young players in the NBA, but this year will be a major statement year for him. The “Manimal” needs to contribute big time if Denver wants to return to the playoffs, especially in a loaded Western Conference. Cody Zeller is also in a spot where he needs to prove himself, simply as an adequate starting power forward. Kenneth Faried possesses more raw talent, is a better athlete, and has superstar potential, and I have to take him here.
ADVANTAGE: Kenneth Faried
JaVale McGee is another Nugget who missed time with an injury, just playing five games for Denver last season. When healthy, JaVale McGee is a long, tall, shot-blocking machine, and a nightmare for many centers in the NBA. With his health instabilities and Al Jefferson’s post savvy, however, “Big Al” should be able to obtain an advantage for the Hornets in this match-up.
ADVANTAGE: Al Jefferson
Key Reserves (Denver): Nate Robinson, JJ Hickson, Randy Foye, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, Quincy Miller
Key Reserves (Charlotte): Gerald Henderson, Brian Roberts, Noah Vonleh, Marvin Williams, Jeff Taylor, PJ Hairston, Bismack Biyambo.
ADVANTAGE: Denver. The Nuggets have one of my favorite second units in the NBA, which is really surprising given their lack of success last season. The Hornets have a lot of depth, but the Nuggets have spread their’s out to where there are no real weak spots, and they can go five-in-five-out, hockey style, if absolutely necessary. That is huge for keeping talent fresh, on both units, and that creates a huge advantage for Denver.
Rookies (Denver): Jusuf Nurkic, Nikola Jokic
Rookies (Charlotte): Noah Vonleh, PJ Hairston
ADVANTAGE: Charlotte. Jusuf Nurkic was touted as one of the best centers in the NBA Draft this year, and Denver surprised the basketball world by buying out his Euro contract, but it remains to be seen whether his game will translate to the American professional game. Meanwhile, Noah Vonleh could potentially start for Charlotte, and PJ Hairston should be a deadly shooter off the bench for the Hornets.
FINAL VERDICT: Charlotte has a better starting line up than the Hornets, match-up wise, but Denver’s bench may present some problems for the Hornets. Both teams have improved their rosters from last season, and I think Denver will play Charlotte a little more closely this season.
PREDICTION: Charlotte and Denver split the series, 1-1.