Heading into the 2013 season, the Denver Nuggets have a deep and formidable roster, filled with talented but often underappreciated players. The Nuggets look like a dark-horse contender this year, which should be a refreshing change after a decade marked by a number of overrated Nuggets "stars."
The Nuggets franchise has enjoyed moderate success over its lifespan, but has yet to win an NBA title. While a number of storied teams remain banner-less after decades of play (the Indiana Pacers, Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic are but a few), it is surprising that a multitude of talented Nuggets squads have failed to garner a single championship win.
Perhaps this lack of success can be attributed to the presence of some substantially overrated players who have been tagged as leaders of recent Nuggets rosters. Let's take a look at some recent Nuggets who have failed to live up to expectations.
Carmelo Anthony has been the subject of a great deal of criticism since being dealt to the New York Knicks, due to his questionable effort and lack of team success. In wake of this recent criticism, I would only ask: What took so long?
Anthony is undoubtedly an outstanding scorer, and he put up plenty of points while with the Nuggets. But his lackadaisical defense and one-dimensionality kept him from becoming a true leader for Denver, and the superstar title he boasted during his first eight years in the league was hardly justifiable.
Combine his many flaws with his successful plotting to leave the organization, and it’s clear that Anthony did little to earn his place amongst the greatest Nuggets of all time. Denver failed to consistently compete at a high level with Anthony in the fold, and he was as undeserving of the superstar label while with the Nuggets as he is now.
Iverson, though one of the greatest scorers of all time, was overrated during his career for similar reasons to why Anthony is today. Simply put, all he did was score. While his career assist numbers are decent, Iverson’s primary calling card was always scoring during his career. And though that in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the fact that his scoring never got his team anywhere is what drags Iverson down.
Iverson’s sole playoff success came in 2001, when he managed to reach the NBA Finals as the leader of the Philadelphia 76ers. But after that season, Iverson only managed to get past the first round once more in his career. His lack of postseason success was particularly evident with the Nuggets, as the team greatly underachieved under the leadership of the Iverson-Anthony duo that failed to make a significant postseason impact.
Iverson’s ability to overcome his diminutive size and pour in a ridiculous number of buckets were highly impressive, but regardless of his individual success, he never managed to be the leader his teammates needed him to be.
Nuggets fans expected great things from Linas Kleiza going into the 2008-09 season. After making the leap to double-digit scoring his third year during 2008, the Lithuanian combo-forward looked like a great fit next to Carmelo Anthony due to his size and outside-shooting ability.
But the three-point shot that brought him into the rotation in 2007 seemed to vanish during Kleiza’s next two seasons in Denver, as he never managed to get his outside shooting percentage above a mediocre 33 percent.
Kleiza put up decent stats and pulled down his fair share of rebounds, but he never became the key cog that Denver management and fans alike hoped he would develop into.
At best, Kleiza was nothing more than a role player for the Nuggets, and the lofty expectations that heralded him as a breakout player were largely unwarranted during his time in Denver.
Voshon Lenard was considered a three-point marksman for much of his career, but was never particularly effective from long distance. After shooting over 40 percent from deep in his second and third seasons in Miami, Lenard’s outside shooting unexpectedly tailed off, to the point that he hit just 28 percent in his final season with the Nuggets in 2006.
Lenard failed to enact his trademark skill at a high level while in the NBA, and he was a non-contributor in other statistical categories. Though his career stats may look pretty solid, Lenard brought very little to the table during his time with the Nuggets.
The main problem with J.R. Smith during his tenure with the Nuggets was that he never seemed to get any better. He did a fine job as a shooter off the bench and could score at will, but he was vastly inconsistent and never managed to expand his game beyond putting up points.
In his five seasons with the Nuggets, Smith put up similar numbers in each year, and even saw his production drop off somewhat in his final year in Denver. Often hailed as a top-scoring talent, Smith failed to live up to his hype and supposed potential through his lack of improvement and inability to produce on a consistent basis.
Smith had his moments in Denver, but his points as a Nugget were largely empty and in retrospect he seems quite overrated.