With many questions about the team roster heading into the 2013-14 season looming over the Denver Nuggets, the hiring of Brian Shaw will prove dividends.
After the most successful regular season in Denver Nuggets history, most would argue that this team has taken a step backwards after yet another first-round exit. Highlighted by the firing of George Karl, followed by the exits of General Manager Masai Ujiri and Gold-medal winner Andre Iguodala, those that would argue that the arrow is pointing down for this upcoming season have valid points.
But I would argue that this could be the right year to turn a new leaf. With all of the years that the Nuggets could have cleaned house after a first-round exit, this was the year to do it with Brian Shaw ready to be a head coach in this league. Being an assistant coach since 2005 with both the Lakers and Pacers, Shaw could very well be the best head coaching prospect in the last decade. His record as an assistant coach is 414-225, and he won two rings with the Lakers, already having three as a player with LA.
But the real likability behind Brian Shaw as the next head coach for the Denver Nuggets is the respect he gets around the league. So much so, that Phil Jackson, currently serving as a consultant with the Detroit Pistons, tried to get Shaw to Detroit to be their head coach. But it doesn’t just stop there with the league-wide desire for his services. Frank Vogel, head coach of the Indiana Pacers spoke very highly of Brian Shaw. Back on June 5th, Vogel said that Shaw “is going to be one the great coaches this league has seen.” He added in another interview that “There are no weaknesses to him at all, and he’s got some of that Phil Jackson swagger to him, which really helped us this year. I think he’s going to be one of the best coaches in the league for years to come.” When a coaching prospect is compared to the Zen Master himself, it’s good news for the team that the new guy is coaching for.
Now there’s no guarantee that Brian Shaw will ultimately have great success in his first season as head coach of the Nuggets. Granted that Shaw will get to coach a very young and talented Nuggets roster, many would argue that there will be turmoil until the return of Danilo Galinari, who is recovering from knee surgery. But even without Gallo, Shaw will still have a darn good roster headlined by Javale McGee, Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler, and a worthy bench. Shaw isn’t expected to bring the triangle offense to Denver which is smart considering triangle play is at it’s best with above-average perimeter shooters, something that has come at a premium in Denver in the last several years. But I fully expect Brian Shaw to bring a very flexible offense into Denver, and coming with someone as respectable as Shaw, the defensive effort will come along with it, something that George Karl didn’t have much patience with his young players in his Nuggets tenure.
But for all intensive purposes, let’s say that the Nuggets completely struggle under Brian Shaw’s first year as head coach. Worst case scenario, Denver finishes below .500 and somehow sneaks into the 2014 NBA Draft Lottery that headlines Kansas Shooting Guard Andrew Wiggins and Duke Small Forward Jabari Parker. Just like this was a good year to pick up a talented head coaching prospect such as Brian Shaw, next year will be a good year to be bad and have a chance at picking up either one of those extremely talented, sure-fire future NBA All-Stars.
So either way, this can be a win-win season for the Nuggets. But looking at both sides of the coin, I expect Brian Shaw to have a successful season as a first-year head coach and lead the Nuggets to the playoffs for the 11th straight season.