Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Despite the Nuggets' recent success and their difficult road schedule, many Nuggets fans are advocating for a trade involving one or more of the team's best players. Why?
Jokingly? I can't really tell anymore.
While I certainly think it's entertaining for us as fans to toss out trade ideas that we think will help the team, I don't think that people who are (seriously) advocating trading these major pieces of the team have given the roster a truly fair shake. The Nuggets have played just over one third of a full 82 game season with a roster that underwent significant changes both during last season in a lockout-shortened year (with the Nene-JaVale McGee trade) and this past offseason (with the acquisition of Andre Iguodala for Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington).
Both McGee and Iguodala have become important pieces of the Nuggets' rotation, and in the sparse few games at home they've played to date, the Nuggets have shown that they're capable of hanging with any team. The fledgling chemistry between this team's players is still incubating, and I honestly don't believe the Nuggets have even played anywhere close to their best basketball yet.
So why are people so quick to want to blow it up?
Rarely are trades made during the middle of a season that suddenly transform a team into a title contender. More often than not, they are "sidegrades", deeper rotation upgrades, or done to acquire expiring contracts to create cap space in the coming offseason. Not only that, but the many of the truly available players - the league is on to Masai, remember - don't seem like they'd be significant improvements over what we've already got. So with this Nuggets squad still unproven in the playoffs with their current main rotation players, and in a good cap space situation going forward already, what is the sense in blowing up a team just beginning to show its potential?
The road losses have been frustrating, but as any fan of the George Karl-led Nuggets' teams knows, the Nuggets have always been (at their best) around or slightly below a .500 team away from the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets are just four games below .500 so far. While I don't believe that Karl's philosophy of winning half of one's road games is a great goal it's also one I expect at this point in his tenure. The Nuggets have appeared in the postseason nine straight years (tied for a team record) and are still in the hunt for home court advantage this year.
The fact is, with a George Karl coached team, the Nuggets are always going to have periods in the regular season where they are simply duds on the road - but don't forget that the Nuggets have also lost five of those 11 road losses this year by four points or less. Karl has always maintained one of the best home winning records in the NBA (a 78% home win percent since 2007-8). Whether that's due more to the Nuggets' true home court advantage in Denver's altitude or George Karl's coaching is the subject of a whole different post. Yet here the Nuggets stand with the best home record in the Western conference. I have a feeling that will remain true throughout this season.
There are still 56 games to be played and the Nuggets are only 5 games back from taking a top four seed. Frankly, what do Nuggets fans want? For them to be the top seed in the West through the most difficult road schedule in the league already, with the third youngest roster in the NBA? Rather than point to the Nuggets' mostly close losses on the road as a bad sign of a team needing change, I look at it as a good sign of a team maturing quickly and that, with a few different bounces or a few extra possessions, demonstrating that they are quite capable of taking the games on the road that would matter in a seven game series.
Even as an extraordinarily young team with an extraordinarily difficult schedule. We will know a lot more about the character of this team after the long run of home games in January.
Patience, Nuggets fans. Patience.
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- Rougarou - I had to look this up and it's actually a hilarious French version of a werewolf that apparently is also a vampire and did I mention eats Catholics that don't follow the rules of Lent?