Ever since you-know-who was traded out of the Mile High City, there seems to be this kindred spirit for the Denver Nuggets from NBA aficionados.
It could be the expectation Denver was supposed to falter after sending their franchise player to New York. It could be the expectation that a team can’t have a winning season without a superstar. It could also be the expectation a team like the Denver Nuggets can never know the taste of victor spoils without a star player.
One of those three statements are true, there is this consensus among rational fans, as well as, people in the know that it would be very difficult for the Denver Nuggets — as presently constructed — to get past the second round. I completely agree with that sediment and I also believe the ceiling for this team, taking into account their current productivity, George Karl, and talent, would be a Western Conference Finals appearance.
Of course, that’s taking into account if the starters — Gallinari, Faried, Iguodala, Lawson, and Koufos — performed consistently, efficiently, and at a high “urgency” rate during the course of the remaining 74 games. Along with that thought, would be perfect rotations made by George Karl, and effective offensive and defensive play from the bench. It goes without saying, at THIS moment, that would seem unlikely, but it’s still a ceiling nonetheless.
The Nuggets are embracing a non-conventional way in this era of the NBA; a way that opposes many of the contenders in the league, especially the Miami Heat.
The Miami Heat are the best team in the league. Period.
It doesn’t matter if a non-committal Heat team lost by double-digits to the New York Knicks, nor the fact they were torn up by the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies.
Those games will mean less as the season goes on, just as Denver’s early — they freaking lost to the freaking Orlando Magic — loses will mean less, too.
The Miami Heat is superstar basketball. Anyway you want to slice, dice, chop or mince it, that’s what it is. Am I looking down on that? Heck, no, but it is what it is. Most NBA teams can’t attract a franchise player, let alone the best player on the planet. The Miami Heat have three top 20 players on their team and that’s the essence of their squad.
More often than not, superstars win championships. Yes, there are times that hasn’t happened and I’m sure someone will bring up the Detroit Pistons and even the Dallas Mavericks as teams that have accomplished that as of late, but the NBA is currently built around this thought that unless you have — perhaps — at least one top 10 player on a team, that team will have a second round appearance at best.
As much as fans and critics want to argue “that’s not fair” that’s the way it is. Three things matter in NBA Finals: 1.) having a half-court game (Sorry, GK), 2.) having exceptional defense and solid rotations, and 3.) having a star or superstar able to “take over” and finish games.
These things matter, but Denver basketball is about a different route not because they choose to, but what other option do they have? The Denver Nuggets don’t have the tools — nor the branding opportunities — to entice three top 20 players, let alone just trying to keep one franchise player in the three-OH-three.
With that being said, Denver has no other option than to be a non-conventional ball club, and that’s okay.
That’s part of their appeal. They’re tenacious, scrappy, they’ve drafted well, and having a team with players that are — in George Karl’s words — top 7-10 at every position, as well as, having a top bench.
Denver doesn’t have a superstar team — and may never see another franchise player or star in the next few years — but what they do have is a type of offense and athleticism that can splinter slower teams in the league. They also have a powerful point guard tandem in Lawson and Andre Miller; they also have one of the most passionate, enthusiastic, skilled forwards in the game. They have a defensive-minded player in Iguodala and a massive, freakish athlete in McGee.
The Denver Nuggets are the antithesis of the Miami Heat; they don’t have the glitz and glamour that attracts the big names like Miami does, but at the same time, Denver does attract those purists that just like to watch basketball.
Free-flowing basketball that embraces ball movement and touches over iso-plays.
Will Denver ever see an NBA Finals?
Maybe not, but in the meantime, I will be lounging back behind the Miami Heat’s bench, sipping on my gin and juice (laaiiidddd baccckkkkk) and enjoy one night of basketball where the Denver Nuggets may reign king.