“Chaos is the first condition. Order is the first law. Continuity is the first reflection. Quietude is the first happiness.”

– James Stephens

My first year in high school, I moved from club soccer to the high school team, along with several guys from my club team. We were all the same age, and the youngest team in our conference that year. We often were overmatched and outplayed by teams that were older and more experienced. It was a difficult but valuable learning experience. By the time we were all seniors, we found ourselves on the other end of that spectrum, one of the stronger and most cohesive teams playing. All those years of time together had forged some close friendships and more importantly, understanding. We understood how to leverage each other’s strengths and cover each other’s weaknesses due to sheer repetition and time. We had continuity. We were stable.

Over the last few years, your Denver Nuggets have followed a similar path, with the team having completely turned over in the last five seasons. Most-tenured Nugget Gary Harris was the vanguard of today’s team, with Will Barton joining him in the 2014-15 season. All-Star Nikola Jokic, Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, and head coach Michael Malone joined in by 2015-16, Jamal Murray and Mason Plumlee are on board by 2016-17, and Paul Millsap, Torrey Craig, and Monte Morris round out the picture for these past two seasons (though Morris and Craig saw spot duty in G-League assignments in 2017-18, to be fair). Barring any deals unexpectedly materializing, each of those 10 guys have all contributed positive and meaningful minutes as part of a squad that will be entering its third full season. Continuity. Stability. Suddenly, these “young” Nuggets – and their head coach and front office – appear to have more of that bedrock than any other organization in the Western Conference.

The only other team to finish above them, the Golden State Warriors, are looking at a nightmare scenario where Kevin Durant won’t be playing for them next season (if ever again) and Klay Thompson could miss at least the first half of the year, just as the team moves into an unfamiliar new arena. Though it would be foolish to count out any team sporting Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala, the Warriors are anything but stable.

The Portland Trail Blazers were able to end the Nuggets season, and should have most of their primary pieces back in play, with Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic all back to anchor a team that saw their first Western Conference Finals in a decade. Their depth will be tested by how their salaries get doled out, and they will certainly find themselves with some tough decisions to make about key contributors to last season’s cause. It’s a complex offseason for a team that has been knocking on this door for several seasons now, and saw the one Western Conference team in front of them take a big hit in the upcoming year. Though I’d link to a single SBN article to better illustrate the point, the ever-excellent Blazer’s Edge simply makes it too tough to choose. Check them out.

Though there are mixed reports around the level of animosity between stars James Harden and Chris Paul, it’s easy to see that the Houston Rockets are having a tough time of an offseason thus far, and there’s certainly more to come, whether personnel decisions, or the resolution of coach Mike D’Antoni’s contract.

The Utah Jazz appear to have placed a solid bet in a trade for former Grizzlies star Mike Conley. But with players like Kyle Korver and Grayson Allen moving on, there will certainly be some big changes in Utah, with some time needed to meld a team that was already giving the Nuggets fits last season.

The Oklahoma City Thunder will see the return of key pieces Russell Westbrook and Paul George, both will be coming off of offseason surgeries, and there certainly seem to be more changes in store for a team looking to make more noise in the playoffs than they recently have. Unfortunately for them, three of the five teams that finished above them were in their own damned division. Tough sledding in the Northwest these days.

The San Antonio Spurs, ever the picture of consistency, have finally started to move fully on from the lengthy continuous picture that Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, and even Kawhi Leonard brought to their salad days, with coach-whisperer Gregg Popovich the only part of that oft-triumphant crew still remaining. Though they may have much of the core back next season, having pieces like DeMar DeRozan on the table for offers sure looks like there will be some tumult to come for the Spurs.

The Clippers are shifting, as are the Kings. The Lakers very well may be champions again after acquiring Anthony Davis to play alongside LeBron James. Though the purple and gold may be a tough out, eventually, it will still take time to build that rapport, and learn the habits of whatever 7-8 guys they end up filling in the current picture with, as very few players are currently under contract.

The Timberwolves see some happy continuity in making it official with no-longer-interim head coach Ryan Saunders. That doesn’t change how many needs Minnseota has to get competitive from the bottom of the touch Northwest, nor how many changes they may make to make that first step.

The Grizzlies traded away Connelly, the Pelicans Gave up the Brow, and now will look like a young petrie dish, much like the Nuggets of three years ago. Dallas will try to meld the spectacular young talents of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis alongside a “Big Three” type of addition. Don’t sleep on the Mavericks taking a sizable jump next season in the ever-wild West. Even the bottom-dwelling Suns will be trying to make moves up, and will have to make some changes to make that happen.

Whether rising or falling, every Western Conference squad has more change and distraction this offseason than your currently-constructed Nuggets. Should that continue to be true going into 2019-20, Denver will have a golden opportunity to get out of the gates hot while everyone else in the league is still working out the kinks. Denver’s fortuitous and hard-earned seeding nearly propelled them to the Western Conference Finals in their first playoff appearance in years. Having a head start in what looks like the hoops equivalent of a Mad Max chase scene seems like a hell of an opportunity.

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