Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Future of the Nuggets

After surprising San Antonio in game 1, the Denver Nuggets fell back to earth in game 2, and watched as the Spurs wrested control of the series. The Nugz battled evenly on most front but--surprise--were held to 38% shooting. I wonder why?

Denver acquired Allen Iverson thinking that pairing him with a rising Carmelo Anthony would make them one of the league's most dangerous teams. On paper, this would seem to be true: 2 of the league's top 5 scorers; 2 guys who can get their shot at any time; 2 all-world competitors.

What did Denver forget? How about that neither of these guys plays defense. What about shot selection? Iverson is a career 40% shooter while Melo shoots a ho-hum 45%. What about character? Both of these guys have each had one year of team success in their careers: Melo's came when he was still living the life at 'Cuse, and Iverson's Sixers took the East in one of its worst years in history.

I cringe when people say that either of these guys is a winner. Yes the have won, but winner implies consistent winning. Even on a team with dominant defensive center Marcus Camby, and a host of big and athletic bodies to throw around, Denver doesn't get it done. Will they in the future?

I remain skeptical. An AI/JR Smith backcourt scares me, and not in a scary-good way. Melo has all the tools to be one of the best in the game, but where's the leadership, the desire, and the defensive close-outs that get your team past the 1st round of the playoffs? And what is George Karl thinking telling him to jack it up as much as he does? Is he trying to catch lightning in a bottle? Against this year's West, that's laughable.

If the Nugs are going to ever win with this bunch, they are going to have to convince AI to become a pass-first point guard, which he has struggled with in the past. The team proffesses a love of the running game, but lacks the engine a la Steve Nash or Chris Paul. Did the AI trade really make them any better? Maybe more of a threat, yes, but a really better team--no. They didn't address any of their weaknesses.

The Nuggets would have been better off missing the playoffs and getting Mike Conley in the draft. He's almost as quick as AI, and is a true PG.

The Nuggets' problems run deeper: a bloated payroll, injury-prone talent, and a coach who for all he's done, has never won the big one, and has left a mess in the wake of every team he's coached.


Wise LeBron said...

That being said what about the emergence of Nene in this series. A year after blowing his knee out in the first game of the season (and inexplicably being rewarded with a 10 mil a year contract) he has come out strong against one of the best defensive teams in the league. Averaging 15 and 10 in the first two games he has been strong on the offensive glass looking rather spry next to Camby in the middle. The Nugs have got to love the fact that they can lose a near max PF in K-Mart for half the season and find an even better (and younger) performer on their own bench. Considering they have Nene and the servicable Reggie Evans at the four spot it would make sense to try and dump Martin's contract sometime this summer. Question is, who's the poor sap willing to take a guy with not one, but TWO microfacture knees?

Nick Churchill said...

I agree, Nene's play has been a pleasant surprise. I mean we knew he could do some things. KMART is untradeable--Maybe Kevin McHale of Isiah Thomas would do it. The bigs are quality, but it doesn't really matter when their team is controlled by two guys who score fairly inefficiently, dominate the ball, and refuse to play a lick of defense. Imagine a real PG running the show: this team would be ridiculous. Then again their are only 5+ real PGs in the league, and they're all locked up. Denver improving significantly with this squad is a pipe dream.

Evan Argall said...

What the Nuggets really need is a true 2-guard. Someone who can hit a perimeter shot without dominating the bal and, most importantly, defend. Now this may be out of left field, but KU's Brandon Rush may fit the bill if he falls to Denver in the 1st round. I think Rush will be one of those wings that can fill whatever role is needed of him- exactly the kind of guy the Nuggets need.