View Full Version : 6 Reasons This Season's Nuggets Will Be Better

09-08-2008, 11:24 AM
Here's the rap I usually hear on the Denver Nuggets offseason - and it ain't that hot:

They gave away their first rounder (actually traded it for a future 1st). For absolutely nothing (actually for a $10 million trade exception), they gave away Marcus Camby - All-Defensive team, DPOY, the only guy who plays defense on a no-defense team. And they let the only other guy who played some D - Eduardo Najera - walk away and sign with the Nets. And they didn't meet their glaring team needs by acquiring either a point guard or a real center. In fact, all they got were a bunch of minimum contract scrubs. The only bright spot in their dismal offseason was re-signing J.R. Smith.

So you say, "And you actually think they're going to improve this season?" Correctomundo. You heard it here first, folks.

And here are the 6 reasons why I believe it's true:

1. Nene is Camby's replacement, and Nene is a better all-around player than Camby

Marcus Camby is one of the least understood players in the NBA, at once terrible and fantastic, very much an asset, and very much a liability - but on what balance and in what quantities are questions that always remain unsettled. However, after the initial shock of losing him in a move that seemed bizarre on its surface, it seems that most Nuggets fans have come around to the (correct, in my opinion) conclusion that moving him out was the right thing to do, as his age, his steady decline last season, and his near total lack of offense clearly tipped the scales to "liability" for the size of his contract. Anybody who watched a lot of Nuggets games carefully had the experience many a time of seeing opponents run up the score while Camby was in the game, with Denver unable to stop the bleeding until Najera came in for him. Unable to intimidate or defend one-on-one, Camby waits until the last possible moment to swat, alter, and block. In this way, he cut the Nuggets' frontcourt defensive effectiveness by half in forcing Kenyon Martin and/or Najera to play post defense for two. To his credit, he'd scoop up a ton of D-boards on missed attempts, but to the chagrin of (and at times risk of physical harm to) his teammates, he'd box them out to grab those rebounds and pad those stats.

Nene is the one who can restore balance to The Force. As evidenced in the 2007 playoffs against the Spurs - and attested to by Tim Duncan - he is a legitimate and solid post defender. He has the size and strength to handle the league's truly big bigs. He will be a much better compliment to K-Mart than Camby was, in that Kenyon will be freed up to man another big and/or double, along with Melo, opposing threats at the 3 and 4 while Nene mans the middle. Not only will Nene himself be a defensive upgrade to Camby (pulling down fewer boards but also allowing fewer points), K-Mart will be freed from Camby's shadow to emerge as the great defender he really is. And I don't think most of you will need much convincing that Nene is a much more potent offensive threat than Camby. Unlike Camby, he has a legitimate post up game, he can run pick-and-rolls with Melo, and he's effective in playing off the ball. And he won't loaf around at the top of the key.

2. The increased role of J.R. Smith

Smitty might just be the best kept secret in the NBA. Everywhere I look, he continues to be written off by the skeptics. And while it's not that he hasn't given them any ammo to work with, few have been quick on the uptake that he has put his worst days as a player and (it seems) as a person behind him. Whether he has truly made a turnaround in his attitude and behavior is, of course, just a total guessing game at this point. But he's given the Nuggets fans and organization reason to believe. Mark Warkentien, when announcing J.R.'s re-signing, sang his praises for the hard work he's been putting in at the gym all summer long. He appears focused, and aimed in exactly the right direction. And in the disappointing collapse against the Lakers in the playoffs, J.R. clearly rose above the rest of his teammates as the player who exhibited the most heart (and frankly, the most effective basketball at times). I've already broken down his on-court improvement in a previous blog entry (http://www.prosportsdaily.com/forums/showthread.php?t=206905) here, so I won't rehash it. Suffice it to say that with the increased minutes and higher quality of play from J.R. that we fans are expecting to see, he will be a key contributor to Denver's success.

3. The "return" of Chucky Atkins, and the DEcreased role of Anthony Carter

Anthony Carter was arguably the worst, most unqualified starter in the NBA last season. Simply put, he has little business playing much at all, but for him to average 28 minutes in 67 starts was just absolutely outrageous. Atkins has made his rounds in the NBA, and over the years has earned the dubious reputation as a "sucky" "chucker" (ha ha - get it?) who plays no defense. So some will scoff at the idea he's an upgrade to AC. The truth is that in Denver, the jury is still out. Injured for practically the entire season, and hobbled in the games he did play, we were deprived of the opportunity to see how he fit with the team. But importantly, he did show glimpses of having a much better court vision and distributive ability than Carter - and with guys like Allen Iverson and Melo around to do the heavy lifting, he doesn't need to do too much more than that. Even so, he has a superior perimeter shot to AC, and thus can more effectively space the floor. The defensive liability can't be ignored, but hopefully this will be minimized by increased minutes for Smith as well as the addition of Renaldo Balkman, who can provide a measure of perimeter defense.

4. The new "scramble squad" should compensate for the loss of Najera

Near the beginning of last season, the local TV announcers for the Denver Nuggets dubbed their high energy second unit the "scramble squad" for their tenacity, scrappiness, and defensive punch off the bench. While the loss of Eddie Najera could truly hurt the Nuggets (he has by far been their most underrecognized player for the past few seasons, and an integral part of the team), the improvement of Linas Kleiza (who had a very impressive Olympic outing this summer), and the additions of Balkman and Chris "Birdman" Andersen should patch up most of the spaces in Denver's game left behind by Najera's departure (as well as Camby's).

5. Melo will actually play some defense

Okay, take a minute to catch your breath. Done laughing? Okay, then. This is without a doubt the shakiest of my predictions, but it has its foundation in three factors that I believe are real: a) At the end of the postseason implosion, I think he truly reached the end of his rope, and understands that he needs to be the impetus for change in Denver; b) this attitudinal shift was evident in his demeanor, his approach, and his game when he played for Team USA in Beijing, as he graciously accepted a backup role and focused his game on defense, rebounding and, generally speaking, the "little things" he has often neglected in his play for the Nuggets; and c) the dramatic progression from epic failure in the playoffs to equally epic victory in the Olympics has driven home how great the payoff of hard work feels when it results in success, and this has reignited his desire to win. I think we will see a Carmelo Anthony who is now more than ever not only willing but hungry to do everything it takes to lead his team to success.

6. Starting with AI, this team is still overflowing with talent

This point really needs no explanation and, in my opinion isn't really even debatable, but merits being pointed out just to illustrate that in many ways the Nuggets were already underachievers last season. By that measure they should improve just by playing on a level closer to how they look on paper. Ultimately, I have lost my faith in the potential for AI and Melo to go all the way on the same team together (although I'd be thrilled to be proven wrong), but dammit, they sure should still be able to get past the first round. I believe that Camby (and to a lesser extent, an Anthony Carter with way too many minutes) were severely detrimental to chemistry, and that we will see lineups and rotations this season that are much more conducive to effective team play, and to maximizing Melo's strengths and minimizing his weaknesses. Nene is the pivotal figure in this transformation.

So there you have it. I won't make a wins prediction, but I will definitely predict that contrary to popular opinion, the Nuggets will indeed make the playoffs. They will also have a better outing than last time once they do. In a West that's so tough, breaking through to the second round is no small order. But the pieces are there, and I think they've got it in them to put them together better than they managed to in 2007-08.

Just as a final note of caution, I offer to you this grain of saltto take with my writeup: That, as with most NBA season predictions, it assumes the good health of the players. I know some will say it's crazy to do that with the Nuggets, but I'm just loco like that - and right until proven otherwise. And in anticipating one more potential criticism, allow me to disclose that I'm operating on the assumption (based on his stated intention to coach the team more assertively this season) that George Karl intends to open the door and invite some common sense into the Nuggets locker room. And I for one will clasp my hands and pray to the basketball gods that they will slap some sense into him and make it so. To wit: AI 42, J.R. 27, Chucky 19, AC 8.


09-08-2008, 05:29 PM
You make a valid argument; I don't agree with you though, lol. Nicely done though

09-08-2008, 08:10 PM
You make a valid argument; I don't agree with you though, lol. Nicely done though

Thank you. But why do you disagree?

09-08-2008, 09:15 PM
I agree in most part. Feb 2, and 4, 2008, Camby was out with injury and Nuggets still won both games. I like Camby he is a very good player, but Nuggets can adjust.

09-09-2008, 02:20 AM
theyll adjust but wont have the depth to make it in the west
nene or martin will have a serious injury and the birdman will not help
they may try kleiza/melo at the 4 and go small, but thatll only take you so far
this team is not a contenter and will fight for the 8th seed

Frank Costanza
09-11-2008, 05:08 PM
I agree with you , I ve always feared denver, they are a dangerous team with weapons that few teams have. defense is something almost every team can improve upon and can come from a string of playing well and having a coach with experience like carl to anchor it from practice all the way to the games, PPl underrank denver not considering them a power house in the west but as long as you have melo , Ai and the role players you got inplace youll always make the playoffs, in the playoffs though, you guys will need to get your defence ready by then or itll be tough beacuse of the way the game plays out, all in all denver wins more games than last yr, if nene stays healthy all sould be well, if he goes down its gonna be tough, also ppl forget bout KMART, he is valueable , healthy , and a fierce warrior hell help your denfensive woes, btw im from toronto and man as much as i respect your team we kiccked your *** by 40 on my bday march 23 2007 just wondering if that loss still sits with you guys,

09-12-2008, 01:11 AM
Are you a Raptors fan living in New York? On March 23, 2007 we lost to Toronto by a margin of 27 points (94-121) (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/boxscore?gameId=270323028). So yeah, it was a blowout, but I had forgotten about that particular game, to tell you the truth. Looking at the box now, though, Melo shot 3-15 and AI shot 3-12. It's a very rare night when a lucky opponent of ours will catch them both asleep at the wheel like that.

09-25-2008, 06:14 AM

DANG, there gos reason number 3, looks like you'll be seeing more of AC than you expected. Its the Clippers gain, and no offense but **** YEA

09-25-2008, 09:11 AM

DANG, there gos reason number 3, looks like you'll be seeing more of AC than you expected. Its the Clippers gain, and no offense but **** YEA

Yeah. Same old story with Denver. But the silver lining is that if he actually recovers according to schedule, he won't miss much of the regular season. And I still think AC will have a decreased role by virtue of an increased role for J.R.

Then again, Karl is still the coach. We'll see what happens when we get there, I guess.

But that said, not all six reasons absolutely have to happen for the Nuggets to improve. Reasons 1 and 2 (and number 5, which hopefully does actually happen), are vastly more important than the others.

AI-JR-Melo-K-Mart-Nene remains >>> AC-AI-Melo-K-Camby

10-03-2008, 02:40 PM
Well done thread. The only thing I had a problem with, is I think they could have gotten a higher pick for Camby. He can help someone bigtime this season. Now it'll be the Clips.