So through seven games of the 2010/2011 NBA season our Denver Nuggets are 4-3. Not too bad, not too good, but considering our schedule and injuries you'd have to be optimistic, right? Normally the answer would be yes, but when you have a disgruntled superstar on your roster things are a little different. What I want to do is look ahead and see what type of record the Nuggets might possibly have by Dec. 15 when free agents who signed this past summer will become available in trades, and see how that might play a role in reviving trade talks concerning Carmelo Anthony. It's always hard to predict exactly what type of record your team might have, but we know a lot about this Nuggets team under George Karl and I'm going to use some of that to make a rough estimation of where we'll be come mid-December.
As you can see, we have 17 games between now and Dec. 15, including tonight against the Indiana Pacers in "India" as Blake Olson so accurately informed us last night. Of those 17, eight are on the road while nine are at home, but conversely nine of those are against teams currently .500 or above, while only eight are against teams below .500. Of the nine games played at home, in which the Nuggets usually have a great shot at winning, only four are against teams currently .500 and above, while of the eight road games the Nuggets play half are against teams currently .500 and above.
All in all, our schedule ahead appears to be extremely balanced in terms of competition. Our destiny really does lie in our own hands, but considering what we've learned already this season, and what we know from the past I kind of want to fill in the blanks.
First, lets refresh our memories about who this team is this season and what habits may have carried over from last...
Things I've noticed this season:
- The Nuggets show a lot of heart. I've mentioned this a lot now, but it's clear that this Nuggets team (at least thus far) has shown much more heart than they ever did last season. Every time we've been down, we've always fought back, even on the road, to give ourselves a chance at winning the game. We've shown great resiliency and determination through thick and thin.
- Depth. This Nuggets team is much deeper than they've ever been during the "Melo era." Al Harrington adds a new dimension to this team and with the improvement of Afflalo, we're a force to be reckoned with.
Things that have carried over:
- Karl's bad in-game adjustments and lineups. As good as this team is, we can't ignore the fact that Karl still continues to ignore momentum, call timeouts too late, insert odd lineups and play favorites.
- Injuries to our front-court. With Bird and K-Mart already out to start the season we have had to rely heavily on free-agent acquisitions (as well as journeymen), Shelden Williams and Melvin Ely. As great as they've played thus far, they're still way in over their heads when going up against some of the better bigs in the game. On top of this, Nene must already be having dreams of selling his religion to unsuspecting victims, as his health hasn't exactly been ideal to start of the season either.
Now, lets get in to predicting the Nuggets record come Dec. 15. As I mentioned above, of the nine home games we have only four are against teams currently .500 or above. Sounds great, but consider that of the teams .500 and above two of them will be against the Lakers and Magic, while one will be against a team that has already beat us this season: the Bulls. That's not even to mention the fast-breaking Phoenix Suns or slow out-of-the-gate Milwaukee Bucks: both of whom were playoff teams last year and figure to finish above .500 this year. So, of the home games, all things considered, I'd say 6-3 is a very realistic prediction. A part of me wants to say we'd go 7-2, but it's hard to think that we're going to beat both the Lakers andMagic (so there's one loss), then lose only 1 of the next 6 to teams that consist of the Bulls, Suns, Bucks, Grizzlies, Bulls and Knicks. So 6-3 it is.
Now lets examine our favorite place to play: the road! It's no secret to real die-hards that the Nuggets are a "turrible" team on the road historically under George Karl. As Karl stated a few years back (or maybe it was last year - and I'm paraphrasing here) "Going .500 on the road is acceptable." Hate to break it to you George, but going .500 on the road isn't acceptable, not for a team with championship aspirations at least. Regardless, the road is usually the downfall of our beloved Nuggets, and I don't see why it will be any different this year until we are fully healthy. The good thing about our upcoming road games is that only half are against teams .500 and above, and of those teams, none except the Celtics and Blazers seem to be sure-fire losses. If you factor in that the Warriors aren't as good as their record indicates, and that two of those teams we'll be facing look horrifically bad (Raptors and Bobcats), I don't think it's too crazy to suggest we go 5-3 during that stretch. This of course is a bit of a stretch considering our history, but I mentioned our depth and heart at the beginning of this post for a reason.
So, lets recap. 6-3 at home, 5-3 on the road. That amounts to an overall record of 11-6. Not too shabby, and when you add that to our 4-3 record as stands we should be looking somewhere in the area of 15-9 by Dec. 15. Now, being that I'm still a Nuggets homer at heart, and that 15-9 just doesn't seem to reflect the amount of talent we have, I'm going to channel my inner Jeffery Morton and say instead that the Nuggets will be 16-8 by Dec. 15, instead of 15-9 as I originally suggested. What can I say, that "Weekly Optimism" is starting to rub off on me. If only we could get some Survivor for the theme music then I'd really be ready to march in the Optimism Militia.
Bottom line, and overall theme of this post, amounts to one big question: Is 16-8 good enough to douse the Carmelo Anthony trade talks with Uriji urine for another two months until the Feb. trade deadlline approaches? 16-8is certainly a great record to have through 24 games, but will it be strong enough for Uriji to dismiss any calls regarding Anthony that may include players not yet discussed? What if we, as I originally predicted end up with a 15-9 record, or even worse? At that point in time do we finally admit that a trade is in our best interest?
These are tough questions to answer, but one thing is clear: our record will determine a lot, if not everything, in the coming weeks concerning what to do with Carmelo Anthony. It's my personal belief that unless on pace for at least a record-setting 55-win season, Anthony will be traded shortly after Dec. 15. I know everybody wants to get on with the season and just play basketball, but it's practically impossible when every loss we rack up reminds us of the elephant in the room that is Carmelo Anthony, and every win gives us that much more encouragement our chances of resigning Melo and playing the year out with him. It's painful, but one thing is clear: the more of one we do (winning or losing), the better off we are. I prefer winning, but losing will likely come with a great sigh of relief as well: for it will all finally be over.
So while we all try to enjoy this season as much as possible, keep in mind that at least there will be something positive to look forward to no matter how good, or bad, the Nuggets are playing.