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#NuggetsGreats: The Blade Region - Round 1

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It’s day two of the Denver Stiffs #NuggetsGreats bracket and we’ve got a mix of old school and new in The Blade Region. This region is named for Alex “The Blade” English, who will make a strong case to be the greatest Nugget ever. In order to claim the region though English will have to overcome teammate and fellow jersey retiree Fat Lever as well as two fellow Hall of Famers.

As a reminder, seeding for this bracket was voted on by the fans and the winners of each round are voted on here, on Twitter and on Instagram. First things first, here are the results from yesterday’s voting.

Yesterday’s Results: Joker Region Round 1

No surprises here and most matchups were a runaway. Only the 4/5 matchup between LaPhonso Ellis and Paul Millsap provided any intrigue with Ellis winning on Twitter and the site while Millsap won on Instagram. Overall vote total went to Ellis though, 552 to 515. Now, on to The Blade Region.

Alex English (1) vs Bobby Jones (8)

Alright, let’s talk about this. Bobby Jones as an eight seed is criminal. One thing is for sure, recency bias was alive and well in the seeding. We’re talking about the third man of the “Big Three” during the most successful era of Nuggets basketball ever. There is precisely one Nuggets team in franchise history that has made it to a Finals and that is the ‘75-’76 Denver team led by David Thompson, Dan Issel and Bobby Jones. He is arguably the best defender in franchise history and has the highest career true shooting percentage of any Nugget. Jones went to three All Star games in his four seasons with the team before being given away in one of the worst trades in franchise history. He went on to be a key piece in the most successful era of Philadelphia 76ers history and was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame this past September. I repeat, Bobby Jones as an eight seed is criminal.

The other unfortunate part of Jones being seeded eight is his first round draw is a guy who has a good shot to win this whole thing. Many consider Alex English to be the greatest Nugget of all time and for good reason. English is the franchise leader in games played, field goals, assists, points, VORP and more. One of the most prolific scorers in the 1980s, The Blade led the Nuggets to one of only two NBA Western Conference Finals appearances in franchise history. He brought the franchise back to the postseason in his second full season in Denver (‘81-’82) and made the playoffs every year after. The Nuggets advanced past the first round of the playoffs more times (four) in English’s ten and a half year tenure with the team than they have (three) in the thirty years since he left.

Poll

Alex English (1) or Bobby Jones (8)?

This poll is closed

  • 96%
    Alex English
    (59 votes)
  • 3%
    Bobby Jones
    (2 votes)
61 votes total Vote Now

Allen Iverson (4) vs Marcus Camby (5)

The 4/5 matchup of The Blade region pits teammates from the brief Melo/AI era against each other. Allen Iverson’s star power rivals any Nugget ever and the trade to acquire him is a front runner in terms of the most newsworthy deals the team has ever made. I often wonder how different the Nuggets fortunes with Iverson would have been if they had just two things: a point guard of some notable talent and size (so, you know, not Anthony Carter) to play next to Iverson and just one year of a healthy Nene, Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby. Without those things though the Iverson experiment was much ballyhooed but ultimately short lived and a disappointment. AI played just 144 games in a Nuggets uniform and earned precisely one win in the playoffs during that time.

Iverson’s departure signaled a philosophy change from the Nuggets front office and the other casualty from their previous core due to that change was Camby. The former #2 overall pick was the “anchor” of Denver’s defense during the early Melo era and earned himself Defensive Player of the Year honors in ‘06-’07 after leading the league in blocks per game for the third season in a row. I put anchor in quotes though because Denver really didn’t play much defense at all during the 2000s and no one who watched Camby play would mistake him as a defensive anchor. He wasn’t a stout one on one defender by any means but he was an excellent weakside rim protector. Camby made a career in Denver out of erasing shots at the rim that resulted from terrible perimeter defense. He trails only Dikembe Mutombo on the Nuggets all time leader board for blocked shots.

Poll

Allen Iverson (4) or Marcus Camby (5)

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    Allen Iverson
    (28 votes)
  • 54%
    Marcus Camby
    (33 votes)
61 votes total Vote Now

Ty Lawson (3) vs Nick Van Exel (6)

A matchup of point guards who led their teams through turbulent times. If ever there was proof of George Karl’s favoritism to North Carolina Tarheels, it was Lawson. Notorious for not playing rookies, Karl thrust Lawson into the rotation from day one and made him the starter midway through his second season after Chauncey Billups was traded. Lawson’s lightning quick ability with the dribble and three point range made him one of the toughest point guards to defend in the NBA. After Karl was let go in 2013 Lawson and the team struggled and he had personal demons to battle off the court. He was arrested for DUI four times while in Denver, then after missing the first practice back from the All Star break in 2015 due to “travel related issues” from Las Vegas the writing was on the wall. Much like David Thompson, Lawson’s off the court problems leave him as one of the biggest “what ifs” in franchise history

Nick Van Exel might be the most underrated Nugget of all time. He was a star point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers but the arrival of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant signaled a roster change for L.A. who traded Van Exel to Denver for peanuts. His tenure in Denver was smack in the middle of the worst period in franchise history: the late 90s to early 2000s. Honestly the fact that the team won more than 100 games over Van Exel’s three and a half seasons for the Nuggets is a small miracle given he had Antonio McDyess and pretty much nothing else but a long line of Nuggets big man busts as teammates. Van Exel’s best seasons of his career statistically were in Denver and he was playing at his best when the Nuggets made a shift themselves toward a full rebuild. They traded Nick The Quick to the Dallas Mavericks for Juwan Howard, Tim Hardaway and Donnell Harvey (none of whom made it past the following season in a Nuggets uniform) in the first move that shifted the franchise towards the Melo era.

Poll

Ty Lawson (3) or Nick Van Exel (6)

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    Ty Lawson
    (27 votes)
  • 57%
    Nick Van Exel
    (37 votes)
64 votes total Vote Now

Fat Lever (2) vs Chris Andersen (7)

We round out The Blade region with a matchup between an all-timer and a fan favorite. Fat Lever is the greatest point guard in Nuggets history. It’s not debatable and it’s pretty impressive given some of the talent Denver has had at the position, including three guys in this very region of the tournament. Lever is the franchise leader in steals and, for the time being, triple doubles. He was Denver’s second star during their impressive run in the 80s and also a pillar of consistency. Out of the 492 regular season games the Nuggets played over Lever’s tenure, he suited up for 474 of them. The Nuggets retired his jersey two seasons ago to honor his efforts as one of the greatest Nuggets of all time.

On the other side of this matchup, there may not be a more recognizable Nuggets player than Chris “Birdman” Andersen. The very first player selected for the D-League was also the very first call up and made his debut with the Nuggets during the horrendous 2001-2002 season. Andersen was one of the remnants left after the Nuggets bottomed out roster was rebuilt around Carmelo Anthony and he benefited greatly as an energy player off the bench, quickly becoming a fan favorite with thunderous putback dunks and emphatic weak side blocks. Andersen parlayed that opportunity into a new contract in New Orleans but substance abuse issues resulted in him being barred from the league for two years. Once again it would be in Denver that The Birdman resurrected his career. Now on a perennial playoff team and inconically sporting a mohawk while covered in tattoos, Andersen’s high flying plays and image gave him national recognition. He remained with Denver through the Melo trade before becoming a cap casualty. Andersen would go on to win a championship as a member of the Miami Heat.

Poll

Fat Lever (2) or Chris Andersen (7)?

This poll is closed

  • 87%
    Fat Lever
    (54 votes)
  • 12%
    Chris Andersen
    (8 votes)
62 votes total Vote Now

A reminder, voting is open until 9pm MDT tonight.