Day three of the Denver Stiffs #NuggetsGreats bracket includes some controversial picks in The Melo Region. This region is named for Carmelo Anthony, one of the best 1-on-1 scorers in NBA history and the biggest reason the Nuggets made the playoffs in every season of his Nuggets tenure.
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: Blade Region Round 1
Alex English and Fat Lever, the top two seeds in the Blade Region, ran away with the votes to move onto the second round. At the time of posting this piece, the matchups between Allen Iverson and Marcus Camby as well as Ty Lawson and Nick Van Exel are too close to call. All four have a case to move onto the next round and were integral pieces in Nuggets history.
Now, onto today’s bracket:
Melo Region Round 1
Carmelo Anthony (1) vs Earl Boykins (8)
The player that brought the Nuggets back to the playoffs following a 17 win season, Carmelo Anthony was an elite 1-on-1 scorer from the moment he joined the team. In nearly eight seasons with the team, Anthony and the Nuggets never missed the playoffs, and Melo had many signature moments along the way. His battles with LeBron James and Kobe Bryant were mostly incredible, and he nearly willed the Nuggets to their first NBA Finals appearance in 2008-09. His 24.8 points per game during his Nuggets tenure is second in franchise history (minimum of 10,000 minutes played) to only Alex English, and it helps encapsulate just how impressive his scoring was. He made difficult shots and may have been the best 1-on-1 player in the NBA for a time.
More than anything, Melo put the Nuggets back on the map as a franchise. They were searching for someone to take the reins, and Melo pointed them back in the right direction.
In the 8th seed is Earl Boykins, possibly the perfect player to inhabit one of the final seeds of this bracket. The former Nuggets point guard is listed at 5-foot-5 and 135 pounds on Basketball Reference and is perhaps the smallest player to play in NBA history. Muggsy Bogues of the Charlotte Hornets is listed at 5-foot-3 and 136 pounds, so he may have been shorter but was definitely a bit thicker. Boykins was the backup point guard when Melo first arrived in Denver, and he captivated fans with his ability to navigate the floor at his size. Boykins averaged 12.1 points and 4.0 assists per game in his role and was a truly productive player. Watching Boykins dribble under the basket without even considering shooting over a larger rim protector was always entertaining, but Boykins consistently used his size to his advantage, finding new angles to attack defenses and find passing lanes.
Carmelo Anthony (1) or Earl Boykins (8)?
This poll is closed
Antonio McDyess (4) vs Kenyon Martin (5)
One of my favorite matchups of the entire bracket, Antonio McDyess against Kenyon Martin is the battle of signature Nuggets power forwards in the late 1990’s and throughout the 2000’s. McDyess was caught on a Nuggets team in transition after Dikembe Mutumbo and the remnants of the team that upset the Seattle Supersonics was broken up. Even still, McDyess spent six seasons in a Nuggets uniform, averaging 18.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game. He was extremely productive but very exciting as well, and his combination of size and athleticism led to several highlight worthy plays during some down years for the Nuggets franchise.
His counterpart in this matchup, Kenyon Martin, was also an incredible leaper who had his athleticism sapped by knee injuries throughout his career. Martin was drafted first overall by the New Jersey Nets in 2000 but signed a major contract with the Nuggets after four NBA seasons. He spent the next seven years of his career in Denver as the complementary forward next to Carmelo Anthony. While Melo was the scorer and offensive playmaker, Martin was the enforcer and defensive anchor. Even though he had injury issues in Denver, Martin was still a great athlete, accumulating 661 regular season dunks in his seven seasons with the Nuggets. Here are some of them:
Antonio McDyess (4) or Kenyon Martin (5)?
This poll is closed
Dan Issel (3) vs Nene (6)
Another fascinating big man matchup between two iconic Denver bigs (and later a Nuggets coach). Dan Issel, nicknamed The Horse, spent 10 of his 15 seasons with the Nuggets, including one year when the Nuggets were an ABA franchise. He averaged over 20 points and 8 rebounds per game in a Nuggets uniform, serving as the second option offensively behind two Nuggets greats in separate eras: David Thompson and Alex English. The Nuggets made the playoffs in all but two of Issel’s 10 seasons with the team, and his production was some of the most important in Nuggets franchise history. He was never truly “the guy” but was always a key cog in whatever the Nuggets did. For being such a big guy on the court, Issel always moved pretty well, and he played with an edge as a scorer the Nuggets always needed.
On the other side, Nene was one of the most important and underrated members of the Nuggets franchise during his 10 seasons with the team. His averages with the Nuggets of 12.4 points and 7.0 rebounds per game undersold just how talented and dominant he could be at times. The big man was caught in a minutes crunch with Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby before the Nuggets moved Camby prior to the 2008-09 season. Nene stepped up in Camby’s absence and helped take the Nuggets to another level, and his combination of physicality, athleticism, and grace was rare for a big man at the time.
Interestingly, Nene is fourth all-time for the Nuggets in win shares on Basketball Reference, behind only Melo, Alex English, and...Dan Issel.
Dan Issel (3) or Nene (6)?
This poll is closed
Jamal Murray (2) vs J.R. Smith (7)
This is another fun round. Denver’s current starting point guard and highly talented scorer in Jamal Murray versus a former talented Nuggets guard in J.R. Smith. So far in Murray’s four years as a Nugget, he has slowly but surely established himself as the second best player on the team behind Nikola Jokic. Murray shows occasional flashes of top level scoring and playmaking but mostly remains very consistent and solid as a starting guard. In his first playoff run with the Nuggets, he became only the eighth player in NBA history to average 21 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds per game in his age 21 season or younger, joining Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Tracy McGrady, Stephon Marbury, Bradley Beal, and Donovan Mitchell.
On the other side, no player in the NBA could catch fire quite like J.R. Smith, who had some of the craziest shots, dunks, and plays in Nuggets history. Sometimes, he made George Karl mad, but the talent was truly incredible. In five seasons with the Nuggets, Smith scored 13.7 points per game and shot 38.2% from the three. He was inconsistent, but no player in franchise history was more of a walking highlight reel than J.R. Smith.
Jamal Murray (2) or J.R. Smith (7)?
This poll is closed
A reminder, voting is open until 9pm MDT tonight.