Periodically, I like to remind those who read my articles that I often relate what I observe the Nuggets organization going through to my own growth as a professional in my career field. As we all know, the Nuggets have been through an interesting, and exciting rebuilding process, and I think it makes us feel more connected to them if we can relate their experiences with our own from time to time.

So, this week, I thought back to a point in the very early part of my career when I was making the transition between being a rookie and being relevant. I had a review coming up, and I was feeling great about how I was progressing with the company I worked for. My boss at the time was a very encouraging and supportive coach. To date, she’s the one who has challenged me most in my professional life, subsequently pushing me past anything I could ever imagine I could achieve. I don’t say this to be self-promoting, but I say it to highlight the importance that her challenges and expectations played in helping me grow.

I don’t remember everything from that review, but I remember that it was positive, and in her usual style, my boss issued me a challenge at the end. I don’t know about you, but I love a challenge. Working on accomplishing my next challenge keeps me focused and energized, and with my boss’ help, I was able to learn this about myself so I can stay motivated day to day.

The challenge I received on that pivotal day was to make the switch from just a friendly face for my clients, to the business woman they couldn’t manage without for guidance. This wasn’t a challenge that she issued to me hoping that I would step up to conquer. This was an expectation she set forth for me, and because she knew I had developed to the level I needed to be at to make the transition, she knew I could do it.

There were no longer any crutches of being new and inexperienced to lean back on. I was to be able to stand on my own with the support of my team, and transition into leading that team to where we wanted to be.

The idea of it both thrilled, and terrified me. Could I really accomplish what she had laid out? We often hear that we are more afraid of success than failure, and in that particular moment this rang true for me.

Fortunately, I was able to make the transition with some hard work and confidence in myself, and this experience set me up to be able to tackle future challenges with enthusiasm knowing that I was able to navigate whatever came my way.

But, it all started with the first gauntlet being thrown down. Had my boss issued that challenge with anything less than a fully disclosed expectation that I would achieve what she was asking of me, I probably would have had a hard time moving on. It was her supportive, but firm insistence that I had graduated to the next step that caused me to expect more from myself.

I think this is just the point where our Denver Nuggets are now. They have had a few years of being new, young, and inexperienced. They’ve had time to make mistakes, and learn with one another, all while being led by a head coach who is also new to his role. They’ve spent the last couple of seasons on the brink of a playoffs appearance only to miss out at the last minute, and they’ve made smart moves in the draft to acquire the defensive pieces they have been missing.

So, this season it’s time for the Nuggets to no longer lean on the crutch of being green. My minimum expectation of them is that they capture the 8th seed in the West and go on to win one or two games against whoever holds the first slot. Ideally, they will shoot for higher if they’re able to have everyone healthy for the majority of the season.

If they do eek by meeting just the minimums this coming season, I expect to see them far surpass that in the 2019-2020 season when they’ve had time to develop their new draft picks. There are no longer any acceptable excuses for missing the playoffs. The team is well developed, and healthy enough to move on.

Beyond striving to make their (very) patient fans happy, I hope to see the coaches and players set some serious standards for themselves heading into the coming season. They’ve held making the playoffs as a goal for a few years now, and I believe it’s time for them to turn that hope into a concrete expectation.

Anything less should be unacceptable.