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Denver Nuggets 'Fringe Contenders' Once Lockout Ends

If you haven't been reading Tom Ziller's daily NBA column, "The Hook," then you're missing out on some top-notch basketball discussions. In Thursday's column, Ziller looks at teams that are fringe contenders--those that need to make big decisions as soon as the NBA lockout ends.

The Denver Nuggets are one of Ziller's selections, but he believes that's being kind:

"Fringe contenders" might be kind to the Nuggets: they were dismissed in five games in the first round of the NBA playoffs last season by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Further, they have lost Kenyon Martin, Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith to China.

It's true. The current squad is missing a number of big players, and throw in that Nene is ready to test the free agent market as an unrestricted free agent, the Nuggets are going to scrape their way through the season. However, Ziller does like Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson, as well as rookie Jordan Hamilton.

Still, the key is Nene:

Nene essentially dictates whether the Nuggets can make another run at it or need to pull back and let the roster grow. Nene is everything to the Nuggets right now.

If Nene jets, think about the starting lineup: Timofey Mozgov, Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari, Arron Afflalo, Ty Lawson. Hope and pray, right?