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Denver Nuggets: the next wave

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We’re watching a force of nature sweep away everything in their path in today’s NBA. When that swell finally passes, who follows behind?

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Denver Nuggets
That’s the thing about a wave... you can try to hold it back...
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

It’s all downhill for Steph Curry from here.

Statistically speaking that is. Curry will be 30 this next season, and no matter what he does over these next few years, he’s quite probably descending the far side of a career peak. David Berri and Rob Simmons published a paper a few years back that Berri then turned into a great column for Vice Sports about why LeBron James was about to drop off a cliff, mathematically. The nearly superhuman James has defied those odds just yet, but the curve is inevitable for every player.

Berri and Simmons culled NBA player data, and observed the effects of age on the average NBA players winshares per 48 minutes. Here’s the telling table from Berri’s article:

graphic/data credit: David Berri

Add a little color and sprinkle in some Edward Tufte, and the table in Berri’s article takes on a fat bell curve, a lot like a wave:

Undertow to your right, please...

You’ll notice a few other names sprinkled into that chart, of a Denver Nuggets variety. We’ll get back to them in just a second. Of the six gents sprinkled across the right half of the diagram, which of the following is true?

A) they’re all All-Stars

B) half of them have been MVPs

C) they collectively put up 172 points last night, of the 231 scored in total (and Green was only eight of those)

D) all of the above

If you answered D, you were not only paying attention, but probably know what a number 2 pencil is. You’ll also notice that five of the six find themselves on the slippery-slope side of their careers. What about the young bucks crowding up the left side of that chart? Which of the following is true there?

A) each has put up a pro game of at least 17 points.

B) no All-Stars just yet, but a few probables and no improbables

C) had three rookies and two sophomores out of the six

D) all of the… I really need to get better at multiple-choice quizzes

While it may seem a folly to compare the apex players of today’s NBA with six of the Nuggets most recent draftees, look a little more closely at the right side of that list. Five of the six players there are with the team that drafted them, and all but one came into the pro game with hopes and concerns about their game, and how it might translate to the pros. Conversely, would you be shocked to find that any one of those six Nuggets players had turned into something special in five years? There might be a couple that you’d label a pleasant surprise, but each of them has shown enough promise in the early going as to not be a surprise if they turn into a game-changer.

Even better, the Nuggets wave hits at a fortuitous moment. Whichever of the players on that list still form the Nuggets core in three to four years, they’ll be hitting their four-year peak as the tsunami that is the Golden State Warriors finally washes up to shore. To form the nucleus of what most NBA Champions seem to need these days, it takes 3 or more special players. The Nuggets need only hit on half of the promising group coming along.

Though that feels like a long wait as a gratification-now Nuggets fan, it at least offers hope for the future. It’s certainly a lot more heartening than being one of the Western Conference squads who built their rosters hoping to make it to the Finals any time soon.

Hang tight to those life rafts and your balls for a little longer, Nuggets Nation. We’re about to catch a wave.

Poll

When do these Denver Nuggets see the Finals?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    2020-2021
    (188 votes)
  • 24%
    2021-2022
    (142 votes)
  • 11%
    2022-2023
    (66 votes)
  • 1%
    2023-2024
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    2024-2025
    (5 votes)
  • 28%
    Silly rabbit. These Denver Nuggets do not make the Finals.
    (163 votes)
571 votes total Vote Now