Denver isn't in as bad a situation as everyone thinks. I've been an avid follower of the Nuggets since the Paul Westhead days as a Junior High School student in Arvada. There were some very lean years as Denver made some terrible front-office moves (Allan Bristow, re-hiring Dan Issel). They let key players walk away for nothing (Dikembe Mutombo). Not to mention spending too much on average players (Tariq Abdul-Wahad) and wasting entire seasons to draft awful players in the first round (Skita). But over the last 7 years, the Nuggets have been as consistent a franchise as they have been in over 20 years, and have found ways to get better over time.
Every summer when free agency kicks in, teams stock-pile draft picks, trade expiring contracts and sign big name free agents in hopes they can make a huge jump in the standings the following season. This summer, Miami made a huge splash with getting Bosh, Wade and James on their team. Over zealous fans get all worked up and concerned their favorite team has a new hurdle to overcome for a championship. The first reaction is to do the same (so grateful fans aren't paid to run NBA franchises). They're filling forums, blogs and radio airwaves pleading to "make a huge trade, sign a free agent or add depth to the front court or else we're winning 40 games next year and Carmelo won't re-sign with Denver!" With the relatively small additions of Al Harrington and Shelden Williams, Denver will still be in the thick of things for the Western Conference despite everyone's doom and gloom outlook on next season. Here's why:
Stockpiling big name free agents onto a single team doesn't necessarily guarantee success. In 2006, Denver trades Andre Miller, Joe Smith and draft picks for superstar Allen Iverson. What did that get Denver? a 47 win season and another first round playoff exit at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs. The front office and fans said, 'give Carmelo and Iverson a full year together and we'll see what happens.' What did happen? A first round sweeping by the Lakers, thus marking the end of the 'Iverson Era' in Denver.
Last year, Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess sign with the San Antonio Spurs and immediately everyone starts the talk that San Antonio will compete with the Lakers for Western Conference supremacy. What happened? San Antonio barely wins 50 games, Jefferson has career lows in every statistical category, and the Spurs get their teeth knocked out in the second round by the running and gunning Phoenix Suns.
Which brings me to the next example; last year's Dallas Mavericks. They re-sign Jason Kidd, sign Shawn Marion, and threw money at Marcin Gortat that Orlando eventually matched. And that was just in the off-season. They then trade for Brendan Haywood and Caron Butler and once again, the Mavericks were BACK! At least until the first round of the playoffs where they were annihilated by the under-achieving Spurs in 6 games.
I think you're getting my point. Denver is still a 50-57 win team assuming they stay injury free (who's to say Wade and Bosh aren't going to get injured again in Miami?). Al Harrington will spread the floor for Carmelo and allow Chauncey Billups to be a point guard again. He has even committed to be a great on-ball defender which he was back in Indiana 8 years ago when they were competing for championships. Heck, I wouldn't play good defense if I played in Golden State and New York the last few years either. People are repeating what they're hear about his defense from so-called media "experts" as if they the fan spends hours watching game film, and then preach it as fact. Tim Tebow's throwing motion could fall in the same category (which has clearly changed if you see the film footage by the way, but I digress). Arron Afflalo has been working his butt off this summer to improve his game. He will be a better scorer and more aggressive defender next year (hard to believe, I know). Ty Lawson had a phenomenal Summer League and should give all you Anthony Carter haters a reason to be at ease with his play. Carmelo will re-sign with Denver when he gets back from his honeymoon and we can all stop worrying about it. Would I sign a contract extension while visiting exotic destinations with my new wife on our honeymoon? There is no way in the world I would take my job with me on that trip, unless I wanted to sleep on the couch!
Do I think Denver can beat the Lakers? They did 3 out of 4 times last season (I know one game was without Kobe, but Denver didn't have Carmelo for one of those as well). I think they think they can. Like the Lakers, the Nuggets are one of the few teams with a nucleus of players that have been together the last several years and have experience with deep playoff runs, which matters more than big name free agents on your roster when the playoffs start.
In conclusion, Denver isn't going to blow us away with some free agent signing or trade because they don't really need to. It doesn't always work. For every 2008 Boston Celtics team, there's 3 other teams who tried and failed miserably. I would rather stand pat and see what the season holds in store. Maybe I'm drinking the Kool-Aid here a bit, but I'm not ready to panic.