Prior to the 2012-13 NBA season, our Denver Nuggets were the darlings of the NBA prognosticators. Many had the Nuggets ascending into the Western Conference’s top four, with some (including ESPN’s John Hollinger and our own Nate Timmons) predicting that the Nuggets would finish top overall in the Western Conference at season’s end.

By finishing third overall in the Western Conference at the end of the 2012-13 season, the Nuggets proved many of the optimists correct and – arguably – exceeded the expectations bestowed upon them … until a disappointing post-season playoff loss to the Golden State Warriors seemed to erase a feel-good season in just two weeks. That heartbreaking loss, combined with the loss of star player Andre Iguodala to said Warriors, the losses of key role players Kosta Koufos and Corey Brewer, and the departure of head coach George Karl and general manager Masai Ujiri, has the NBA prognosticators significantly downgrading the Nuggets going into this new season.

Here's a quick rundown on what the so-called "experts" are predicting for our 2013-14 Denver Nuggets and I'll leave it to our real experts, the readers of Denver Stiffs, to agree or disagree with what the punditry is saying about our beloved home team. – Kevin Pelton – 44 wins, 7th in Western Conference

Pelton uses an assortment of acronyms that I frankly don't understand, with his favorite SCHOENE landing our Nuggets 7th in the Western Conference – a four-slot drop from last season. Pelton summarizes his predictions thusly:

Just five teams since the ABA-NBA merger have gone from winning 57 games to missing the playoffs in the following season (see table), and there's likely too much talent left for Denver to take a significant tumble. The Nuggets probably won't get upset in this year's playoffs, but that doesn't mean quite what the organization hopes. Expect Denver to be in the mix for one of the bottom seeds in the West postseason and a difficult first-round matchup that will probably end in familiar fashion. – Ben Golliver – 2nd in the Northwest Division

Golliver doesn't predict where the Nuggets will land in the Western Conference overall, but doesn't see them repeating last season's win total by any stretch:

… a repeat of Denver’s magical 57-win season in 2012-13 seems downright impossible. – Royce Young – 39 wins, 4th in the Northwest Division

The longtime Nuggets pessimist Young picks the Nuggets to win only 39 games, but admits that the Nuggets season could go either way.

I've got them picked for 39 wins, which puts them fourth in the division. But at the same time, they could prove to be a playoff lock by December. I'm so confused. Eye on Basketball – Win totals vs. over/under – 43, 39, 41, 46.5 wins

CBS takes an aggregate prediction from their writers plus and has the Nuggets south of 47 wins but north of 39. Writes our friend Matt Moore:

I doubt this team goes under .500 (though one of my colleagues does and the other puts them right at it), but 47 seems sky-high. – Yannis Koutroupis – 35+ wins

Like many NBA pundits, Koutroupis believes the Nuggets' off-season "upheaval" will result in a tough 2013-14 NBA season:

The potential to win 57 games isn’t there this season, but keeping their 10-year playoff streak intact is possible if the team finds their way under Shaw’s system and Danilo Gallinari returns as a contributor.

Grantland – Zach Lowe – "The Western Conference Morass"

Lowe doesn't predict a win total, but he has joined the chorus of naysayers that wouldn't be shocked if the Nuggets miss the playoffs altogether in 2014:

The Nuggets are firmly in the mix for one of the last two playoff spots, but they're in that mix — not above it. – Jeff Caplan

Caplan writes extensively about the two-sided argument about the 2013-14 Nuggets: the in-the-playoffs version versus the out-of-the-playoffs version. But Caplan doesn't give a firm prediction of his own, and basically states the obvious:

There are two competing camps of thought on this. One says at last the Nuggets can get past the first round, a feat accomplished just once despite Karl taking Denver to nine consecutive postseasons. The other predicts a freefall out of the top eight minus the full-throttle offensive innovator who squeezed all he could out of this superstar-less team. – Tom Ziller

Our esteemed colleague Tom Ziller believes the Nuggets will be back in the playoffs, but doesn't expect much beyond that, noting the team's history of first round exits:

So for the foreseeable future, Denver's going to have one of those good, non-contending teams that get so maligned. Frankly, Denver should be used to this: Karl had this team in this position since 2004, although there were high expectations in Carmelo Anthony's heyday.

Yahoo! Sports – Ball Don't Lie – 35 wins

Our friends at Ball Don't Lie are anything but bullish on our Nuggets this season, predicting a lowly 35 wins for the Nuggets:

What’s most frustrating is Denver’s decision to keep the band together, even after losing Iguodala. It’s true that Andre’s departure isn’t anything close to what the Cleveland Cavaliers went through with LeBron James in 2010, and that Dre disappointed offensively in his lone year in Denver, but re-attempting this no-superstar ideal a year later without Dre and Karl, and with a host of defensively-lacking performers reeks of a mistake in the making.

Taking all these predictions in summation, it seems that the Nuggets are being predicted as a 7th or 8th seed.

My thoughts? I'm predicting that the Nuggets win 47 games (a 10-game drop from a season ago), finish 2nd in the Northwest Division and finish 7th overall in the Western Conference.

But nothing would make me happier than proving the pundits above dead wrong as the Nuggets ascend up the Western Conference ladder into a 6th or 5th seed and make some noise when they get to the playoffs.