Will Denver always be less desirous than the likes of Los Angeles when it comes to destinations for NBA free agents?
With the Nets forming the NBA's next super team, the Lakers landing Steve Nash, the Heat signing Ray Allen and Dwight Howard destined for a large market franchise, the local media here in Denver has gotten very pessimistic about the Nuggets chances of ever winning an NBA Championship.
The Denver Nuggets should be in the Dwight Howard trade conversation.
Having assembled an assortment of young, reasonably priced talent without giving away future first round picks, Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri has the assets to deal with the Orlando Magic for their star center. The problem, of course, is that Howard has no interest whatsoever in playing in Denver. He only wants to play for one of the Your-City's-So-Awesome franchises (as explained by the Post's Benjamin Hochman this past weekend in yet another column on why winning it all will always be so difficult in Denver). That would be the Lakers, Clippers, Heat, Knicks, Nets and Mavericks ... with the Suns, Celtics, Rockets and Magic (yes, Howard's Magic) not being too far behind.
And thus, the Nuggets will be relegated to another season of star-free basketball that will win enough regular season games to make the playoffs, and maybe even win a playoff series. To the Post's Mark Kiszla and Mile High Sports' Josh Pennock, that's not good enough. And Kiszla takes it a step further arguing that the Nuggets will likely never win an NBA Championship under the current structure of the NBA that favors superstars and the markets that attract them ... something, unfortunately, I too have previously written about.
As noted in Hochman's article, there's really only two ways to win a championship in the modern NBA: Be located in an "awesome" market and steal someone else's superstar (like the Heat did with LeBron James or the Lakers did with Shaquille O'Neal well over a decade ago), or "Stink-and-Pray" (a strategy I referred to as "suck and hope for luck" in my June 18th column, which is how the Spurs and Thunder have competed for NBA titles).
Both Kiszla (previously before the playoffs even began) and Pennock have argued for the "Stink-and-Pray" strategy: i.e. Ujiri should gut the roster and hope that a) the Nuggets land the first pick in the draft and b) the Nuggets land the first -or second - pick in the draft in a year that a transformational player is available ... something that has happened in about half of the last 20 drafts (2009 - Blake Griffin, 2008 - Derrick Rose, 2007 - Kevin Durant, 2004 - Dwight Howard, 2003 - LeBron James, 2002 - Yao Ming, 1997 - Tim Duncan, 1996 - Allen Iverson, 1993 - Chris Webber).
Given the crapshoot that the "Stink-and-Pray" strategy is, only the small market San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder have used it successfully to ascend to the NBA Finals in the past 13 years. Just ask fans of the Sacramento Kings, Washington Wizards, Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors and so forth how well that strategy really works. Moreover, we tried that very strategy here in Denver in the early 90s, mid 90s, late 90s and early 00s. It never worked and I don't want to see it deployed now.
As we've written about and discussed many times before here at Denver Stiffs, the only model the Nuggets can hope to emulate would be that of the Detroit Pistons from the early-to-mid 00s. By assembling a roster of quality young players with several All-Stars, Pistons general manager Joe Dumars was able to guide his franchise to seven straight 50-win seasons that included six trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, two trips to the NBA Finals and one championship in 2004. Not bad for a team devoid of a superstar on the roster.
Could this current, superstar-less Nuggets roster develop into a bona fide contender like those Pistons? It's unlikely, but more possible in my estimation than gutting the roster and hoping the next LeBron James walks through the Pepsi Center doors via the 2013 NBA Draft.
I agree with Kiszla that the NBA's very structure all but ensures that the Nuggets will never compete for an NBA Championship. The key two words being "all but." But I don't agree with Pennock that they should give up on what is being built here. I say give the 2011-12 roster another year to see whether or not we have the Western Conference version of those scrappy Pistons on our hands.
On to the links ...
Mark Kiszla: NBA's joke of parity is on the Nuggets - The Denver Post
Kiszla explains why the NBA's structure makes it virtually impossible for a small market team to win the NBA Championship.
Few roads lead to NBA dynasty today - The Denver Post
Benjamin Hochman outlines just how difficult it is for a non-large market team to ascend to the NBA Finals.
Lawson deal "definitely going to get done" soon - The Denver Post
Ty Lawson himself is optimistic about playing for the Nuggets long term.