Watching the remainder of the NBA Playoffs without their hometown team still alive after the first round is nothing new to Denver Nuggets fans. The 2012 playoffs are no different, as the Nuggets suffered another first-round loss to a team that has made a habit of ending Denver's season, the LA Lakers. The Nuggets made it interesting by fighting back from a 3-1 deficit, generating excitement amongst fans, but no matter how exciting or hard-fought the series was, the end result is still the same.
The Nuggets have made the playoffs nine straight seasons, which puts them in an elite class with the San Antonio Spurs (15 straight playoff appearances) and the Dallas Mavericks (12 straight playoff appearances). But the difference with the Nuggets, compared to the Mavericks and Spurs during the streak, is championships. San Antonio has four and Dallas has one. The Nuggets, of course, have zero.
The question then becomes, is that a success? The short answer, yes. However, just being successful is not bringing any championships to Denver. What good are nine straight playoff appearances with eight first-round exits and no hardware?
After last night's loss, George Karl said he is proud of the team and content with the way the season turned out. Very encouraging words for members of the Nuggets, but not necessarily for the fanbase. Those comments can be taken as George Karl is OK with just making the playoffs, but not getting past the first round. Could he be content because the front office isn't sending much pressure his way?
A lot of emphasis was put on whether or not the Nuggets had a potential star on the roster. While many games this season featured big games from a number of Nuggets players at different times, no player stepped up to consistently carry the team.
The potential is there for Ty Lawson to be the star the Nuggets need, but will he be able to step up next season to the role full-time? It's no secret that when Lawson is aggressive and drives to the hoop, the game favors the Nuggets. Lawson took a huge step in the final eight games of the regular season, which carried over to the series against the Lakers. In order for the Nuggets to advance in the playoffs in the future, Lawson must pick up right where he left off in Game 7.
JaVale McGee showed how dangerous he could be, but like so many others on this team, he was very inconsistent. McGee battled issues with his offense in the post game during his time at Washington, but since arriving in Denver, he managed to find a much better role in the offense. He has shown his value, and the Nuggets have the upper hand in contract negotiations since McGee will be a restricted free agent. However, if the price to keep McGee around becomes too high, the Nuggets may decide to part ways with McGee so they don't fall into a similar situation that they had with NeNe.
Andre Miller told the Denver Post that he is keeping his options open. Miller wants to be on a championship contending team, so the Nuggets may need to find a replacement for Miller if he decides to sign with another team.
Rudy Fernandez is another restricted free agent the Nuggets will need to decide on. Fernandez has expressed interest to be in Denver, but depending on the offers from other teams, will he be worth keeping around?
The Nuggets have solid ground to build on, but is the core they have enough to contend for a championship next season?