How Denver Nuggets' Success Has Created a New Blueprint for Building a Contender
Denver has become the true darlings of the league. It had been cruising along before the torrid 15-game winning streak it unleashed brought it much more publicity. Now that the streak is over, Denver will likely fade back slightly out of the limelight while still pounding down thunderous dunks all over the Mile High City.
Building a team that can contend for a title is anything but simple, but most teams go about it the same way. Denver, on the other hand, is an entity all its own.
No Superstar Player
The Nuggets made headlines this season for getting involved in the inevitable Dwight Howard trade. Los Angeles Lakers star Andrew Bynum moved cross-country to Philadelphia in a move that was supposed to push a young athletic team over the top. The Sixers were supposed to be a complete team now that they had their missing piece in a dominant center.
Denver slipped right in and took Andre Iguodala from Philly. The Lakers have struggled all season with Howard, and Bynum has yet to see the floor. All the Nuggets have done is transformed from a marginal playoff team to a dynamic powerhouse in the West.
How many teams can say their best player averages under 13 points a game? The Nuggets play an incredible style of basketball by sharing the ball equally. Their game-plan has them sitting at 3rd in the West and ranking in the top three in the league in scoring, assists and rebounds.
Rarely does a team prosper without a superstar. Down the stretch, Denver can throw so many different options at its opponent that they cannot focus on one player. That uncertainty is something that scares teams in the playoffs. The Nuggets are the team no one wants to play because when one of them gets hot, they all get hot.
Building Through Trades
Of the Nuggets' top-nine scorers, starting power forward Kenneth Faried is the only player the team has actually drafted.
They have made a handful of difficult trades that could have each backfired and derailed the team. Fan-favorite Nene was randomly dealt to the Washington Wizards for JaVale McGee, a player with a considerable reputation for being prone to boneheaded plays.
A few years ago, Denver made the decision to deal bona fide superstar Carmelo Anthony to New York. In return it received starting forward Danilo Gallinari and sixth man Wilson Chandler. Both have thrived in Denver and became crucial parts of the team.
Trading Raymond Felton for Andre Miller gave the Nuggets a perfect veteran point guard off the bench and allowed Ty Lawson to flourish. Lawson was also acquired in a draft-day trade with Minnesota.
The front office has lucked out and hit all the right buttons with all its trades working out. Kudos to them.
Denver has eight players averaging over nine points per game. Only Lawson, Iguodala and Gallinari get over 30 minutes a night.
One thing the minutes balance does is keep players healthy. Denver has avoided the injury bug, aside from Chandler and Lawson's minor ailments. The Nuggets have had less catastrophic injuries than most—if not all—teams in the NBA.
This team spreads the love. Five players average over five rebounds per game and three guys have over five assists a night. Its depth is as talented as any team in the league and makes it impossible to predict.
Any one of the players can get hot from the outside and light up an opponent. As the most balanced team, it gives the advantage of keeping everyone fresh and running teams off of their home floor. As evidenced during the 15-game winning streak, anyone can lead the team on any given night, as five different players led the team in scoring over the last eight wins.
Perfecting High-Octane Offense
Denver is right at the bottom of the league, giving up 101 points per game. Not coincidentally, it has one of the most prolific offenses in many different ways. The Nuggets lead the league in dunks, shoot threes at a high rate and are third in the league in free throw attempts.
The one thing they are adept at doing on defense is forcing turnovers at an astounding rate. They force the second-most in the league—at 16 a night—which ignites their fast breaks which usually end with something like this.
When this team gets on fast breaks, it is must-see entertainment. The Nuggets are top five in the league in steals and blocks despite the amount of points they give up, which further contributes to their massive dunks in transition.
An anomaly at its finest, the Nuggets truly have mastered the art of the high-octane offense.