There's nothing worse than being stuck in neutral, particularly in the NBA. Not good enough to go far in the playoffs, not bad enough to get a high draft pick in the wretched Draft Lottery. Just, stuck.
If Andre Iguodala takes his talents to anywhere but Denver, the Nuggets are in serious danger of falling into the "mediocre" territory. They certainly won't be bad enough to "tank" as some have suggested ... but with a key component gone from their 2012-13 roster and with Danilo Gallinari not expected back until December the Nuggets will be kind of in the middle. Just, meh.
In Chris Dempsey's article in Sunday's Denver Post about he paints an interesting scene in case Iguodala leaves:
Without Iguodala, the Nuggets face the prospect of a sizable roster restructuring. They could throw big money at another coveted unrestricted free agent (Atlanta's Josh Smith, Utah's Al Jefferson) or they could opt to hold onto the majority of their funds, make one or two smaller moves and go into next season with significant cap room and a pledge to play younger players, and see what happens.
1. A competitive team that claws its way into the playoffs and gets to the business of getting out of the first round.
Or, 2. A step back large enough to fall out of the playoff race and into the lottery, which, given the talent in next year's draft, wouldn't be the worst fate.
This is a very rosy picture Dempsey writes describing a mediocre team. I'm not sure he meant to present it in that way, but if Iguodala leaves there is a likely chance the Nuggets will be just mediocre. Scratching and clawing for the 8th seed wouldn't likely result in the coveted "advancing past the first round" notion that everybody clings to. The Nuggets would turn into the Milwaukee Bucks with some cap space. Yeah...exciting proposition.
Even if the Nuggets miss the playoffs and sneak into the Lottery it's not good enough. Quite frankly if you are going to miss the playoffs you have to suck and suck to the point where you guarantee yourself at least a top three selection. They say the 2014 draft is loaded, well, if you suck badly enough you will get the coveted "difference making" player on your roster. Merely "just missing" the playoffs will do the Nuggets virtually no good.
On the flip side of the coin if Iguodala re-signs it's not peaches and cream. The Nuggets still need to get better even from there, and a simple change in offensive philosophy will not suffice. We got an inkling of the Nuggets thinking when they acquired Erick Green with the 46th pick in the draft and when they traded Kosta Koufos for Darrell Arthur. I have a feeling that a re-shaping of the roster is not yet complete, but even then we don't know.
All I will ever ask of this team is to point in a direction, whether it be up or down. No more "we have to wait for so and so to develop" no more lateral moves. Either the Nuggets need to cash in some of their depth to get much, much better or much, much worse. It does them no good to remain in the middle. If Iguodala re-signs then hopefully the Nuggets understand that trades need to be made to improve the roster. If Iguodala signs with another team I would hope that the Nuggets understand they can't just sit back and be average.
Once the Nuggets get themselves off this track that points them dead straight ahead, then they will be that much better off. While this is not a popular position among the Stiffs, I believe it is the most pragmatic one. I hate the notion of being purposefully bad, but there's some sense to it. Additionally, the Nuggets may have to give up some fan favorite assets to acquire the players they need to move forward.
In essence, it's time to push their chips to the center of the table and call. I hope the Nuggets understand that committing to a direction is far better than playing it safe.
Twitter: @jmorton78 https://twitter.com/#!/jmorton78
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