Denver’s franchise All-Star Carmelo Anthony was traded away nearly two years ago, and while many dubbed Denver the “Cavs of the West” the day he was traded away, Denver and more importantly Denver’s GM Masai Ujiri, has risen beneath the ashes of lottery — as in never missing the playoffs since the Melo Drama — and still has seen the playoffs.
However, Denver has always been a team of mediocrity.
Yes, there was the Western Conference Finals appearance in 2009 with Carmelo Anthony leading the squad, but other than that it’s been a one round and done squad.
Denver is one of the youngest team in the league, and there’s a notion that Denver has an abundance of irrelevant, meh-ish talent. While Denver is the face of average, that notion is further from the truth.
George Karl — love him or hate him — is one of the premier coaches in the league. The same fans that bash him regularly would love nothing more than to trade their own “meh-ish” coach for his services. Coach Karl has always been one not to be of the “superstar” thought, but believes in the team concept and Denver has that.
Ty Lawson may not be Russell Westbrook, but he has a quickness that blows past teams again and again, never mind when he is aggressive. Ty has improved every season –Denver tends to develop talent, you know — going from 8.3 points, 3.1 assists, 1.9 rebounds his rookie season to 16.4 points, 6.6 assists, 3.7 rebounds this past season.
Kenneth Faried is the steal of the 2011 draft, ranked 11th in the league in dunks last season, is explosive, athletic, and tenacious. Danilo Gallinari had a tough season last year, missing a third of the condensed season due to injuries, but looks to have a better season this year.
JaVale McGee who had a brilliant turnout in the Los Angeles-Denver round one series, is back with Denver and spending a few weeks with Hakeem Olajuwon. Denver’s bench is 10-deep with such important players as Andre Miller who brings a veteran face to Denver with his full court passes — with precision I might add — along with being Denver’s best facilitator. Wilson Chandler, Jordan Hamilton, Corey Brewer, Anthony Randolph, Mozzy, and Kosta coming off the bench will spark Denver as well.
Enter: Andre Iguodala.
Can he really make an impressive difference?
Andre Iguodala automatically will make Denver’s perimeter defense better — I mentioned on Monday that Mcgee, Manimal, and Mozzy have to be on board as well — as they were 29th in points allowed, and 19th in defense last season. It’s not his defense, it’s the fact he’s the perfect fit for Denver, in their speed — they had the league’s second fastest pace last season — and their full court system.
He’ll take the defensive pressure off Gallinari, who will spend less time chasing smaller players around the perimeter and more time giving opposing power forwards migraines. And he’ll be the defensive leader any team with McGee desperately needs.
Not to mention that AI9 will bring another veteran face to Denver as Hamilton, Will, Ty, Gallo, Manimal, and JaGee are all 25 years old or younger. Three-point shooting has long been an issue for Denver when Chauncey left Denver in the trade, but Iggy’s improved three-point shooting last season (39.4%) will aid Denver when their lane is clogged to pass to outside the arc. Hopefully, AI9 will be able to do what Afflalo couldn’t last season in that realm.
Also, what Iguodala can do on the transition, as Denver is a team that makes their bread and butter off of fast-breaks, this is another area that he will thrive in. Pair AI9 — yes, he will be starting at the two — with Ty Lawson, JaVale McGee, Manimal, and Gallo…that’s some insane athletic speed that will work in Denver’s favor. While, we can’t pinpoint how the team is mesh, it’s only common sense to feel AI9 will improve this team.
Basically, AI9 is a beautiful fit in a high-octane and explosive team.
The frontcourt will often be Iguodala-Gallinari-McGee, with Faried and Brewer in that mix, too. Complement those swift, explosive finishers with an ace distributor like Miller and a blur like Lawson, and you have an offensive machine.
The Nuggets are deep with speed. There won’t be many lineups that don’t have a decided collective advantage in end-to-end quickness against just about every team.
How much improvement, though?
I’m not Miss Cleo, folks, I have no idea. However, recent George Karl quotes tell me he’s elated to have such a defensive presence with Denver.
Does this make Denver a contender?
Mediocrity doesn’t contend…
However, I have long explained to Denver Nuggets fans you shouldn’t expect a lot out of Denver. It’s a mid-market team that doesn’t appeal to big name free agents, I have always called Denver mediocre.
With that being said, while Denver may not be a contender, it sure as hell has improved. The real reason Denver can not (and may never contend) is the Western Conference is a tough, tough conference. Sure Denver improved, but so did Los Angeles and then there’s Oklahoma City; the two beasts of the west.
Buuuutttttt (there’s always but, isn’t there?)……
You may just see Denver get homecourt advantage first round.
Then from there, the sky is the limit.
Well as far as AI9 and the Denver Nuggets are consistent.