It’s heartbreaking now to see this Nuggets team lose when it had so much potential. It’s easy to say that we should have never lost to an undermanned Jazz team, that these Nuggets will never win a championship and that the likes of Nene or JR Smith can no longer be tolerated and that this Denver team is too selfish and undisciplined. There were high hopes this season, hopes of championships, of finally beating the Lakers. Sadly it was not meant to be.
Take a few things away from this season though; in fact take really just three things away. Take away Coach Karl getting cancer, take away K-mart going down with the knee injury and take away Bird’s poor health this season. You subtract those three things and a pretty strong argument can be made that the Nuggets were poised to win their first championship. Throw in a mid season trade for big man and Denver could have very well held the O’Brien this year. The point is its easy right now to say that Denver should blow up their roster and start anew but realistically this team is not that far off from being best in the league.
The Nuggets aren’t really the teams of a few years past. No longer are they inexperienced and young. This team is well on its way to becoming a savvy veteran squad. Chauncey, K-mart, Nene, Melo, these are all guys who have spent a good chunk of time in the league, and in the playoffs and they are all still very talented. Throw in JR, who will never develop into a great player but is still a pretty damn good sixth man. Throw in Afflalo who is the perfect player for the role he fills. Throw in Lawson who gives us the x-factor. Then consider Petro who has shown he is capable of coming in for 15-20 minutes a game and being the 4th big Denver so desperately needs. This team is so close to winning it.
Next season the Nuggets will have their coach back, they’ll have Bird and K-mart in good health. Lawson, Afflalo and Petro will continue to develop. The front office is sure to pull one or two savvy moves (coupled with one boneheaded one…hrmmarmmmMalik Allenahababa) to bring in a little help. Who knows what could happen, maybe Coby Karl turns out to be great under his dad’s tutelage, and maybe the Nuggets find a minimum salary guy who can make big contributions inside and on the boards. It’s like Mark Warkentein said, it’s about chess moves. Your opponent just took your queen, it’s a tough blow, it’s a hurtful blow, but what are you going to do? Chuck the board into the wall and start over with new pieces, or rethink and tweak your strategy in order to find a way to make a checkmate some other way?
The Nuggets will likely get some cap flexibility in 2011. So even if they fall short again next year it’s still not a reason to panic because once K-mart (JR also) comes off the books the Nuggets will have just little more purchasing power which could possibly put them over the top. Realistically you can argue this team is only one piece away from being the best in the league, so why throw all of that away to try and hope to hit the jackpot in some trade, which is unlikely because guys like JR and Nene are almost sure to not bring back the same value as what you get from them. JR especially, love him or hate him it’s hard to argue that the Nuggets will get some deal that blows them away for the inconsistent 2 guard.
All in all the point to take from this is that it’s too early to give up hope on this incarnation of the Nuggets. If you take away some of the bad luck they had this year it could have been a title year. How about we just get our coach back and our players healthy and see what they can do before we start kicking them out the door.