By Nuggets franchise standards, the 1985-86 season was a success. The Nuggets won 47 games (third best in the Western Conference, although it should be noted that three Western playoff participants were sub-.500 that season), a playoff series and took the Western Conference champion Houston Rockets to six games in the second round, culminating with a heartbreaking 126-122 double overtime Rockets victory at McNichols Arena. But looking at 1985-86 from a broader view, it was a bit of let down as the Nuggets had come off an NBA franchise-best 52 win season and a Western Conference Finals appearance against the Lakers the year before.
Never one to be a glass-is-half-full kind of guy, I'm concerned that 2009-10 is already feeling like that 1985-86 campaign. Consider the comparisons...
...after surprising the NBA with a 52-win season in 1984-85, the Nuggets surprised no one in 1985-86. Just as they'll surprise no one this year.
...the Nuggets division rival in 1985-86, a young Houston team led by talented twin towers Hakeen Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson, was coming off its first playoff appearance in several years and was able to overtake the Nuggets by season's end. Despite this blog's readers consistently - and I think, foolishly - writing off the Nuggets current division rival; a young Portland Trail Blazers team featuring its own pair of talented twin towers in LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden (certainly not to be confused with the greatness of Olajuwon and Sampson, when healthy), I wouldn't be shocked if the Blazers overtook the Nuggets in April.
...rather than build off their success in 1984-85 by adding an impact player to help knock off the Lakers, the Nuggets returned virtually the same roster from the season before, sans Dan Issel who retired. The 2009-10 Nuggets are also returning virtually the same roster, essentially swapping Dahntay Jones for Arron Afflalo (which will be an upgrade) while losing Linas Kleiza.
...like their 1985-86 predecessors, the 2009-10 Nuggets are led by an All-Star caliber small forward and point guard combined with gritty upfront players and solid depth. Unfortunately, also like their predecessors they don't have an All-Star caliber center (and no, Nene's 14.6 ppg and 7.8 rpg are not All-Star numbers, regardless of what you've been reading) and their primary competition, in this season's case the Lakers, Blazers and Spurs, are some of the taller teams in the NBA. Lest we forget that the 2008-09 Nuggets didn't have any problems in the postseason until they went up against a team with length.
...looking to distance themselves even further from their Western Conference competition, the Lakers added a mercurial, tough veteran in Maurice Lucas for the 1985-86 campaign - similar to them adding the mercurial, tough Ron Artest this summer. Of course, Lucas never punched a fan in the stands.
Throw in an exhausting trip to China, a Western Conference high 22 back-to-back games, and a much improved San Antonio Spurs, and I'm getting that feeling that 2009-10 is going to end up a lot more like 1985-86 than 2008-09.
Let's hope I'm proven wrong...