So rather than complain for the hundredth time about Karl's inane decision to start Anthony Carter over J.R. Smith, or Kenyon Martin's need to develop a mid-range jump shot, or Carmelo Anthony's inability to back up his words with actions, I'm going to kick off the new season as a solutions-oriented fan. We all know why the "experts" think the upcoming Nuggets season is going to be a total disaster, but none of them know why the Nuggets season could be a resounding success.
George Karl and the Nuggets should look no further than the 2006-07 Golden State Warriors, who only won 42 regular season games before shocking the world with a first round upset over the 67-win Dallas Mavericks. The key to the Warriors success that season was throwing out how traditional basketball is typically played in favor of augmenting the talents of the players on the team. Instead of forcing a bunch of selfish, shoot-first, no-commitment-to-defense players into playing defensive-minded, Spurs-type basketball, head coach Don Nelson knew he had nothing to lose and let them be the selfish, shoot-first, no-commitment-to-defense type players they were born to be.
And why Karl - already playing with the house's money with $6 million guaranteed to him - is all of sudden preaching defense to an offensively talented yet undersized team, is beyond me.
Check out these comparisons...
Baron Davis / Allen Iverson
Like Davis was for Golden State that season, Iverson should be the same type of facilitating veteran leader, clutch scorer and heart and soul for the Nuggets. We could see Iverson drop his scoring average by about four points and add in an extra assist or two, with the assumption that AI - like BD - will take all the clutch shots when needed. Don't forget all those big three's that AI hit in numerous fourth quarters last season!
Jason Richardson / J.R. Smith
You can't compete in the Western Conference without starting a tall shooting guard who can stretch the floor by hitting three's and isn't afraid to take the ball straight to the rack for a thunderous dunk. In fact, Smith might be better than J-Rich, but we'll never know until Karl wisens up and gives Smith real playing time for once.
Stephen Jackson / Kenyon Martin
Jackson and K-Mart don't match up skill-wise. Jackson is a streaky but clutch outside shooter and K-Mart can only dunk. But where the two players do match up is with their defensive toughness, willingness to guard the opposing team's best offensive player and the "psycho factor," meaning they'll always have their teammates' backs no matter what, even if it means a few suspensions are coming their way.
Al Harrington / Carmelo Anthony
In 2007-08, AI and Melo combined averaged two less points (52) than Davis, Richardson and Harrington averaged (54) in 2006-07. Throw in Smith, and a Nuggets threesome of AI, Melo and Smith could easily put up 65 points, making them a threat to beat anybody on any given night. And like Harrington, Melo has to be respected from anywhere on the floor, even more so.
Andris Biedrins / Nene
Believe it or not, Biedrins and Nene have a lot in common. They're both listed at 6'11", each weigh more than 240 pounds and thanks to Biedrins' new contract, are now both overpaid. But if the Warriors could upset a 67-win team with someone of Biedrins' limited offensive ability, then certainly a Nene-anchored team is capable of the same thing.
Advantage: Nene (if healthy)
Monta Ellis and Matt Barnes / Anthony Carter and Linas Kleiza
With Ellis and Barnes combining for over 26 ppg, the Warriors had a lot of firepower off the bench in 2006-07. Carter (if he came off the bench as he should) and Kleiza wouldn't combine for numbers like that, but would make up for it in other areas like assists, rebounds and steals.
Advantage: Ellis and Barnes
Don Nelson / George Karl
Nellie is the NBA's second all-time winningest coach, but has never guided a team to the NBA Finals. Karl is twelfth on the all-time list, has guided one team to an NBA Finals, but as also presided over three of the biggest implosions in the history of basketball. But like Nellie, Karl has made so many millions of dollars that he shouldn't be afraid to mix it up from the bench. If Karl wants his 2008-09 Nuggets to play hard for him as Nellie's 2006-07 Warriors did for him, Karl should be turning these guys loose rather than play the "we'll do it my way" card three years too late.
Memo to George Karl: if you're serious about winning a playoff series for the first time as the Nuggets coach, watch the last 25 or so regular season and playoff games played by the 2006-07 Golden State Warriors and emulate their style of play. It's the only shot you've got!
[UPDATED] When originally writing this, I forgot to mention that upon arrival of Jackson and Harrington (in a trade for Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy), the Warriors went on to win 57% of their games. Over an 82-game season, that would have been 47 wins - one short of their total last season and one more than my prediction for the Nuggets 2008-09 win total. Therefore, while my Warriors comparison might sound a bit nuts, I believe most Nuggets fans would consider a 46 to 48 win season a success considering how undersized the Nuggets will be in the Western Conference.