The Middle. Halfway. Warm. Tepid. Mason Dixon. Almost.
Thesaurus.com was not of much help in giving me an exciting word to describe the position in which the Denver Nuggets find themselves nearing the halfway point of the season. The year has been tumultuous on and off the court, and promises to stay that way with possible roster moves yet to come. The Nuggets current position is viewed through a few different lenses, depending on which fan you're talking to. But sneaking up on the halfway point, let's run the gamut a bit.
Three games to the middle. Three positions about those three games and our current state. Three paragraphs each on those three positions. I may have been trying to study the Triangle offense and fallen asleep. Fortunately, I also may or may not have borderline multiple personalities and have talked myself into each of these positions about the state of the Nuggets in the last two weeks. Or two hours. Whatever. I hope I touch on where you're at somewhere in here. Phrasing.
Look, it's a five-game winning streak. There's been a couple of "wait, really?" victories in the midst of that, including Memphis and Sacramento. The Nuggets just beat a solid Dallas squad, albeit missing a few important guys in Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler, and Rajon Rondo. Ty Lawson is on fire of late, the starters are all coming into themselves, and one of their biggest recent concerns - solid backup point guard play - has hopefully been addressed in the addition of Jameer Nelson.
Jusuf Nurkic has been a huge surprise, both literally and figuratively. Brian Shaw seems to have yet again overcome communications issues with his players, and Kenneth Faried has been flashing the Manimal a lot of late. The cavalry may be returning soon in Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee, and Randy Foye from the injury list. Even with two tough games in the next three (at Dallas on Friday and at Golden State on Monday, with a home game against Minnesota in between the two), Denver has shown itself to be competitive against some of the league's best of late, and with Golden State, it's still personal for many.
The front office has made some very solid moves along the way, and may have the pieces in place to do something bigger soon. The future could be bright in a couple of nice moves. Interesting and fruitful times. Happy little clouds.
We've been above .500 twice this season. At 1-0 and 9-8, both of which were followed by meltdowns. The only thing that gets you above .500 at the halfway mark is winning out these next three games. Yeah, right. That three-game stretch Mr. Happy Pants describes above: a road nightmare against a Dallas squad returning arguably their three best players to the floor and hoping for revenge. A late night trip home for a back-to-back game against the T-Wolves that looks as trap-py as that recent Lakers debacle, and then on to Golden State, who have been ripping the hearts out of the Nuggets faithful far too often these past few seasons, and are quite probably playing the best ball in the NBA behind the emergent Stephen Curry. This isn't tough, it's brutal.
Our players have been playing better of late, but seem to rise and fall in tandem, and have already shown a plethora of letdown games this season. It will take time for the injured players to come back into game shape, and even that small bit of shakiness has proven problematic for this team. Brian Shaw has not adapted quickly at times, and has had several moments along the way that were... difficult to see the logic in.
The front office has a few head-scratchers in the midst of all those "nice" moves. To make any "nicer" moves, there would need to be a star on the market in a situation which made sense to come to the Nuggets. Those situations seem few and far between in the current market, and Denver has struggled to keep the few stars they've had over the years. Boy, let's stop, I feel crabby.
The Denver Nuggets are exactly what their record says they are. About even. Average, even. Even with the streaks Chicken Little describes above, the low point is only seven games below .500 at its worst, and the Nuggets have stayed primarily in the tepid zone - even through some tough injuries and locker room discord. This upcoming set of three games will, at best, put us back above .500 by a game. At worst, it sinks us back to the same 5 games below we've been for a lot of the season. And our current record suggetss we may split the last three somehow. Stuck in the Meh-ddle.
The squad has some good talent, but very few players who are good at all phases of the game, and many of whom have been streaky throughout the season. Chemistry fluctuates with wins and losses, and the constant evolution of the squad via injury and now trade has yet to fully gel to see what's what in a season and a half, especially with suspected moves yet to come. You may as well throw a dart at a board right now to predict where it will land. Including if the coach gets to stay if the peaks and valleys stay so frequent.
About those moves... The front office has probably been more good than bad on the trades and drafts front, and no one gets it right every time. That said, even via trade chip(s), getting top tier talent may prove a challenge in the current market. We will see what the shrewd folks in the F.O. do.
This is it, Nuggets Nation. A state of the state as we come upon the halfway point. We're up, we're down, we're still somewhere in between. The Nuggets have had more personalities themselves this year than a Sybil reboot, and in the midst of their best opportunity to fold up and call it a year, they peel off five wins in a row.
Your point of view says if that's the cusp of something big or purgatory. Me? I feel stuck in the middle.