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Nuggets season-end scenarios ...

Even though the Denver Nuggets will miss the playoffs for the third straight season, there are plenty of other teams for Nuggets fans to pay attention to before the 2015-16 season ends.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Whatever post-All-Star break hope the Denver Nuggets might have had for making the playoffs all but evaporated on Sunday afternoon with a 121-101 Pepsi Center drubbing by the back-to-back playing Boston Celtics. Not only do teams on pace to win 32 games not make the post-season, but being six games back from the eighth and final playoff seed with just 26 games remaining means the Nuggets season will almost certainly end on April 13th in Portland.

But Nuggets fans shouldn't let the disappointment over missing a third consecutive playoff round overshadow the opportunity to root for several other teams before the 2015-16 NBA season comes to an end. Because the Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers, New York Knicks and (to a much lesser extent) Memphis Grizzlies are four teams that present interesting scenarios for Nuggets fans to root for, and for very different reasons.

Nuggets fans should root for the Rockets to ...

... MAKE the playoffs (but barely)! Thanks to the 2015 off-season trade for the oft-troubled Ty Lawson, the Nuggets took back a 2016 first round pick from the 2015 Western Conference Championship runner-up Rockets. At the time of the trade, Nuggets fans weren't too thrilled as the pick was assumed to land somewhere between 24-30 in the 2016 NBA Draft ... but at least the pick was guaranteed as it was good for 2016 only (if the Rockets don't convey the pick to the Nuggets in 2016, they instead must convey a 2017 second-round pick). What a difference a little Lawson does for a franchise, huh? 56 games into the Ty Lawson Era in Houston, the Rockets are a dreadful 28-28 and are in a dogfight with Dallas, Portland and Utah for the playoffs' final three seeds. Meaning, it's possible that the Rockets could miss the playoffs altogether and not convey that first round pick to Denver. Best case scenario for Nuggets fans is for the Rockets (and Blazers, more on them shortly) to barely make the playoffs so the Nuggets get a mid-first round pick.

Nuggets fans should root for the Blazers to ...

... MAKE the playoffs (but barely)! When the Nuggets sent starting two-guard Arron Afflalo to the Blazers before last year's trade deadline they took back Will Barton and a lottery protected first round pick from Portland. The pick is lottery protected in 2016 and 2017, so unlike the Houston pick owed to Denver, if the Blazers don't make the playoffs this year they could still convey the pick to Denver in 2017. After 2017, however, the pick converts into a second round selection in 2018 or 2019. Having too many first round picks can be a problem, so IF Nuggets fans knew that the Blazers would miss the playoffs in 2016 but make them in 2017, we might prefer to get that pick a year from now. But just like our rooting interest in the Rockets, Nuggets fans should be rooting for the Blazers to (barely) make the playoffs and get that pick now.

Nuggets fans should root for the Knicks to ...

... lose as many games as possible! For the second time in three seasons, Nuggets fans should be rooting for the Knicks to stink. So desperate to get their hands on Carmelo Anthony in 2011, in addition to trading Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov and Raymond Felton to Denver the Knicks threw in a 2014 first round pick AND a 2016 first round pick swap. Translation: the Nuggets get the more favorable of their or the Knicks' lottery pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Moreover, like 2014 this gives the Nuggets two chances at cracking the NBA Lottery's highly coveted top-three picks. In an interesting twist to all of this, when the man who made this deal for the Nuggets - former Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri - left Denver for the Toronto Raptors in 2013, he soon thereafter traded Andrea Bargnani to the Knicks for their 2016 first round pick ... meaning, Ujiri's Raptors will get the less favorable of the Nuggets / Knicks lottery pick this June.

Nuggets fans should root for the Grizzlies to ...

... miss the playoffs! It's highly unlikely but technically possible for the Nuggets to end up with FOUR first round selections in the 2016 NBA Draft. When the Nuggets traded Mozgov to the Cleveland Cavaliers last season, they took back two first round draft picks, including a pick that the Grizzlies owed to the Cavaliers from an obscure 2013 transaction that included Marreese Speights and Jon Leuer, among others. This pick is as overly protected as a pick gets, with the selection protected 1-5 and 15-30 in 2016, which means that Memphis would have to barely miss the playoffs and convey their pick if it landed in the 6-14 range. Given that Memphis appears to be firmly ensconced in the Western Conference's five-spot, it's more likely that this pick will be conveyed to the Nuggets in 2017 when it is only protected 1-5. The pick is also protected 1-5 in 2018 and then it goes unprotected in 2019.

With the Grizzlies likely to make the 2016 NBA Playoffs and the Rockets and Blazers fighting for two of the Western Conference's final three playoff seeds, the Nuggets will end up with at least two first round picks (their own lottery selection plus the Rockets or Blazers selection) and possibly three. Of course, this good draft pick fortune might be happening at an inopportune time as the 2016 NBA Draft isn't supposed to be as deep as its predecessor which produced the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns, D'Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor, Kristaps Porzingis, Mario Hezonja, Willie Cauley-Stein, Justise Winslow, Stanley Johnson, Frank Kaminsky, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles and the Nuggets very own Emmanuel Mudiay. But forecasting draft depth is anything but an exact science and current Nuggets GM Tim Connelly has certainly proven to be able to find talent regardless of where he drafts.

Thanks to Connelly's work in amassing first round draft picks, the remainder of the 2015-16 season is going to be really interesting for Nuggets fans. So while we root for the Nuggets themselves - despite the mounting losses - to continue developing young talent like Mudiay, Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, Jusuf Nurkic and Joffrey Lauvergne, we have four other teams to pay attention to whose collective fate could shape the Nuggets roster in positive ways for many future seasons to come.