clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Were the Nuggets the second best team this season?...

New, comments
Now I'm really depressed. Not only did I have to watch the Los Angeles Lakers win their 15th NBA title, but I didn't even get a competitive series out of it. And thus the long offseason officially begins, during which I'll catch a few Rockies games, follow the Denver media as it scrutinizes anything and everything Kyle Orton does and obsess over the Nuggets pending offseason moves, if any.

Second place doesn't mean much. Just ask Olympic silver medalists, Presidential candidate runner-ups and NBA Finalist participants. But after watching the Orlando Magic get trounced by the Los Angeles Lakers in two of five NBA Finals games after the Nuggets took those same Lakers to six games - and were very competitive in four-and-three-quarters of those games - it's clear to me that the Nuggets were the second best team in 2008-09.

Good for us, right?

I don't want to suggest that the Nuggets and their fans should settle for anything less than a championship. And I recognize that this is a bit of a silly argument. Nevertheless, I couldn't help but envision the Nuggets holding that Larry O'Brien Trophy last night had they just played a little better and a lot smarter against the Lakers in Games 1 and 3 of their Western Conference Finals series a few weeks ago.

Of the final four teams remaining in the NBA this year, I honestly (and am admittedly biased) thought that our Nuggets were the best of the four in that they possessed the characteristics of former champions: two hall of famers, top-to-bottom toughness and a deep bench with a lot of character. Of those four teams I believed that only the 2008-09 Nuggets could compete with last year's Celtics, or the 2006-07 Spurs, the 2003-04 Pistons, and so on.

I said "compete," not necessarily win.

But while watching Kobe Bryant hoist up the (now appropriately named) Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Trophy last night, I was reminded of something that Isiah Thomas of all people said when he was doing games on NBC years back. (On a side note, Isiah getting a job at NBC is further proof that the worst person of all time must also be the best job interview of all time.) Before the Lakers faced off against the Traiblazers in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals when the NBC crew of Bob Costas, Doug Collins and Isiah were debating who the deeper and thus better team was. Unquestionably, it was the Blazers. But Isiah (for probably the first and only time) astutely noted that the team with the best player almost always wins in the postseason. In 2000 the Lakers had two: Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. And in 2009 they had one in Bryant, who was without doubt the best player in this postseason. It's no accident that his Lakers won their 15th title as a franchise in addition to appearing in a remarkable 30th NBA Finals.

Could this Lakers team compete with former NBA champions? Because of Kobe Bryant's presence, I say yes. Would they have beaten last year's Celtics? Who knows and it's most unfortunate that we were cheated out of a Celtics/Lakers rematch due to Kevin Garnett's injury (which relegated the Celtics to the NBA's fifth best team this season).

But the bottom line is that the Lakers beat all the teams before them including our beloved Nuggets. And unless and until we overtake the Lakers next season, we'll have to settle for second best.