Continuing with our match-ups, we now take a look at the Northwest division, a division that has some prolific offenses.
First you have the defending Western Conference Champions, the Oklahoma City Thunders (ranked 3rd last season in points per game), who have three of the youngest and most dynamic scorers in the league. The Denver Nuggets (ranked 1st last season in points per game) who made noise last season in the playoffs against the Lakers with their high octane offense. The Utah Jazz (ranked 4th last season in points per game) despite lacking an All-Star, can still put points on the board because of their potent front-line.
But the most intriguing team here is Carmelo Anthony’s former team the Nuggets. Not only would the games be thrillers because of the two contrasting styles but the history between the teams in the last couple of years gives more meaning to this matchup.
Can Melo justify taking his talents to the Big Apple? Here I analyze a clash between these two up and coming contenders.
Raymond Felton/Jason Kidd/Pablo Prigioni vs. Ty lawson/Andre Miller/ Julyan Stone
I hope Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, and Pablo Prigioni make sure they bring their track shoes when guarding Denver’s road runner, Ty Lawson. The former Tar Heel is fast, compact, and ready to run you ragged. He’s also quietly a top ten point guard in this league. And to complement Lawson for minutes is Andre Miller, who even at 36 can run any offense to his own pace making very little mistakes.
The Knicks simply don’t have an answer for Lawson because of his blurring speed but they can try to make him work on the defensive end to try to slow him down.
Ronnie Brewer/Jr. Smith/ Iman Shumpert vs. Andre Iguodala/ Corey Brewer/ Evan Fournier
Iggy was one of the big names on the move this offseason and for good reason. The All-Star wing player is versatile on offense while still being able to guard the opposing team’s best wing scorer. Ronnie and J.R. will have have to keep discipline when covering this athletic player that has become a much improved three-point threat.
Corey Brewer is another defensive minded wing player but he provides little to no offense. Evan Fournier has good size for a scoring guard and instincts but has to build his strength to be consistently effective in this league.
The Knicks are again at a disadvantage here because of the lack of star power they have at this position.
Carmelo Anthony/ Steve Novak/ James White/ Chris Copeland vs. WIlson Chandler/ Jordan Hamilton/ Quincy Miller
I like what the Nuggets have here at small forward.
I love Wilson Chandler’s game. Before the former Knicks was traded to Denver for Melo, I would always describe as a “poor man’s Carmelo Anthony.” His game is very similar to Anthony’s offensively but is less prolific and explosive. But both players can score virtually anywhere on the court when the offense is ran through either one of them.
Jordan Hamilton had a rough rookie season for the Nuggets last year trying to find a niche on this team. But after a stellar summer league showing this summer, he might be coming into his own next season. The Nuggets drafted Quincy Miller this year and even though I believe he should have stayed a year he can be sleeper pick and provide energy minutes for Denver next season.
But the Knicks have too much firepower here in the form of Carmelo Anthony. Anthony will be more than motivated to stick it to his former team and prove to them he made the right decision. Look for Melo to go for 40 a couple times in these games. Novak will also do what he does best: knock down open three pointers.
Amar’e Stoudemire/ Kurt Thomas vs. Danilo Gallinari/Kenneth Faried/ Anthony Randolph
The Nuggets are very athletic here between the “Manimal” Faried and Randolph. Faried is just a hard worker at whatever he’s doing. Whether rebounding–something he’s exceptional at–diving for loose balls, or running out on the break, Faried is an phenomenal hustle player. Randolph has all the skills in the world to be something truly special in this league but hasn’t been able to produce consistently for his teams.
But the star in this rotation is Gallinari, who has put the league on notice that he can score in a variety of ways. Whether it’s shooting, driving to the basket, or finishing in the transition this Italian can score buckets.
Amar’e Stoudemire with his improved post game will definitely leave his mark on this matchup but Stoudemire will struggle to guard Gallinari. And Thomas will be too slow to cover Faried or Randolph who will be constantly moving on offense.
Tyson Chandler/Marcus Camby vs./ Kosta Koufos/ Timofey Mozgov
The Nuggets did an amazing job the last couple of years in acquiring centers that fit their offense. The common denominator between all of them is their great size, quickness, and athleticism for men their size.
Javale McGee has all the physical gifts–including superhuman athleticism–but not the skills yet. But after spending time with Hakeem Olajuwon just like Stoudemire to work on his post moves he might be an All-Star in the making. Mozgov has skills to be a starter on a fair amount teams in this league because of his size and strength. And Kosta Koufos can can provide very good minutes because his great touch around the basket.
The Knicks have the edge here because of the Chandler and Camby two-headed defensive monster. McGee may have learn new post moves this summer but given his track record it will take him a couple of seasons to use them effectively.
Mike Woodson vs. George Karl
George Karl has the edge here because he knows both Carmelo and Felton very well having coached both of them. But this matchup will be won with proper execution.
Woodson will like to slow this game down and pound the ball down low and get to free-throw line to allow the defense to reset and cut down on fast breaks.
While Karl will like to run and gun, push the pace, and get into high scoring duel with the Knicks. Karl will know how to bother both Felton and Carmelo on defense to give them the age here and I don’t see how the Knicks can slow down this speedy team.
This will be the first matchup that I predict the Knicks will lose–I’d say in 6 games. The Nuggets are a very dangerous team and the Knicks don’t have fast enough guards to stop Lawson and he’s the spark plug for their dangerous offense.