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Denver Nuggets: Lucky Number 15

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What’s in a number? What’s in a jersey? Who’s in a jersey? Are we actually doing this?

NBA: New York Knicks at Denver Nuggets
Hey... that’s my jersey...
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The superstar sophomore spent his season changing the shape of his team, averaging 20.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists as he pretty well took over leadership of the Denver Nuggets in his sweet blue number 15 jersey. Sound familiar? It is. Right now? Close, but the stats are a little off. This was a dozen seasons ago, and the sophomore was Carmelo Anthony.

Your Denver Nuggets get today off to collect their thoughts after an uninspired first half against the Atlanta Hawks last night cost them the game. The boys in blue are headed to New York City to take on former-Nuggets-star-number-fifteen Anthony. Denver arrives with current-Nuggets-star-on-the-rise-number-fifteen Nikola Jokic, and his oft-injured and sometimes-streaky supporting cast. The game will almost celebrate an anniversary.

In two weeks, it will be six years since the Nuggets pulled the trigger on the deal that sent Melo-and-more to the New York Knicks for a bevy of players that sent the team down a wildly different path. Though I don’t pretend to be able to draw the full complement of deals that tied the ‘Melo trade to Joker arriving on our doorstep, I know super Stiffs alum Nate Timmons has a full-color diagram of it - either on his bedroom wall, or tattooed somewhere secret.

Denver had hoped for the emergence of one of the players who came over in the Melodrama to fill their need for a superstar. George Karl’s last Nuggets squad subsisted quite nicely without one via a lot of depth, and a sense of shared responsibility, but it’s been a lean set of seasons ever since.

That’s probably a big part of why so much attention has recently been focused on Jokic’s emergence in Denver, the long dry spell between stars in the Nuggets’ universe. The shared jersey number and positive shift in wins-and-losses are the only things the two players share. Their draft position, temperaments, and games are so very different as to make for an interesting long-term comparison. But which Nuggets might Jokic eventually be compared to, in that case? It all depends upon Jokic’s ability to fulfill his potential

To be fair, that’s most of what we have. Potential. Jokic has played 124 NBA games. Anthony? 954. Just how great is that potential? Nuggets broadcaster Scott Hastings recently shared his opinion on Jokic’s long-term potential in a post-game show, stating he thought the Joker could be the best to ever wear a Nuggets jersey by the time he’s done, should he live up to his potential. Think of the names on that list. Hastings can be a homer, but he knows the history of the organization and has seen many iterations of the Nuggets squad in his lengthy attachment to the team. In one observer’s view, Hastings gave his opinion with some gravity instead of hyperbole. Beyond opinions, many of Jokic’s advanced stats already outpace Carmelo’s for their career. Or for their sophomore season. Or for any single career season, actually... Unless I cannot read basketball-reference.com: Melo Joker

Which begs the question... and hopefully you knew it was coming, Nuggets Nation... When all is said and done, it would seem that there’s a very good chance a number 15 jersey will be floating up to the Pepsi Center rafters in a retirement ceremony someday. Close your eyes. Picture it. Out of sheer curiosity...

What’s the name you see on the back?