Top 10 Denver Nuggets of All Time
While the Nuggets don’t boast an NBA championship, they have still left their mark on the league. They have three players in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and a number of NBA records.
When the franchise joined the NBA in the 1976 NBA-ABA merger, the team name was changed to the Nuggets since Houston already owned the rights to the Rockets.”
It was hard to narrow down the top 10 players of all time for the Nuggets. The players I have chosen may not have been the most talented, but they have made the biggest impact on the franchise. I decided to exclude coaches on this list because I think it’s unfair to compare players and coaches.
Here are the Nuggets that I think deserve top-10 honors.
Dunn played for the Nuggets in 10 seasons. While he did log a lot of minutes for the Nuggets, Dunn wasn't one of the best. He was a minor player on the team in the '80s, but by far the hardest player to leave off this list.
No, not the golfer. Jones played in both the ABA and NBA in Denver. However, he’s most recognized for his championship in 1983 with the Philadelphia 76ers.
If Miller plays a few more seasons with the Nuggets, he could make this list in the future. Miller has 2,878 assists for the franchise. If Miler hadn't been traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, he would have cut the top 10.
10. Chauncey Billups
Chauncey Billups had two stints with the Denver Nuggets. He played on the team from 1999-00 and then rejoined the Nuggets for the 2008-11 seasons. Billups arguably had his best season with the Nuggets in 2009 when he averaged 17.9 points and 6.4 assists in 77 games.
In the 2008-09 season, the Nuggets matched the most wins in franchise history at 54, with Billups at the point.
The Nuggets made the Western Conference Finals in 2009. This was the first time they had made it that far in the playoffs since 1985. Billups set a franchise record for three-pointers in a playoff series by dropping 19 threes against the New Orleans Hornets in the first round.
Billups represented the Nuggets in the 2009-10 NBA All-Star Games.
9. Marcus Camby
Marcus Camby was a crucial part of the Denver Nuggets' rebuilding phase that began in 2003.
The Nuggets traded Antonio McDyess for Camby in 2002. In 2003, Camby helped the Nuggets reach the playoffs for the first time in six years.
Camby was best-known in Denver for his huge blocks. He led the NBA in blocking from 2006-08 and earned All-Defensive First Team honors in the 2007-08 seasons.
In 2007, Marcus Camby was awarded the title of NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He had a fantastic year for the Nuggets, averaging 11.2 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game.
8. Kiki Vandeweghe
Kobe Bryant learned the jab step from Kiki Vandeweghe.
Vandeweghe averaged 23.3 points while shooting 54 percent from the field in 293 career games with the Nuggets. Everyone knew Vandeweghe for the “Kiki Move,” which players now refer to as the jab step. It was the only move he had in his offensive repertoire, but it was deadly.
In 1983, he finished second in the NBA in scoring with 26.7 points per game. He had another high-scoring season in 1984 when he finished third in scoring by averaging a career-high 29.4 points.
The sharpshooter made the 1983-84 NBA All-Star teams.
On March 20, 2013, Vandeweghe was hired as the NBA's vice president of basketball operations.
7. Dikembe Mutombo
In just five seasons with the Denver Nuggets, Dikembe Mutombo amassed the most blocks in franchise history.
The Nuggets drafted Mutombo with the fourth overall pick in the 1991 NBA draft. Mutombo made the NBA All-Star team in his rookie year after averaging 16.6 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game.
In 1994, Mutombo and the eighth-seeded Nuggets stunned the world when they defeated the No. 1 Seattle SuperSonics in five games. It was the first time an eighth-seeded team had ever made it out of the first round of the playoffs.
The following year, Mutombo earned the title of Defensive Player of the Year. He earned the honors by averaging 11.8 rebounds and a career-high 4.5 blocks per game.
Mutombo could arguably be called the best Nuggets defender of all time with his 1,468 blocks and 5,054 rebounds.
6. Carmelo Anthony
In seven seasons, Carmelo Anthony made it to third on the Denver Nuggets' list of all-time leading scorers.
Before the Nuggets drafted Anthony with the third pick in the 2003 NBA draft, they had not made the playoffs in six seasons.
The Nuggets would make the playoffs in every season with Anthony. After the 2009 campaign, Anthony led the team to its first Western Conference Finals appearance since 1985.
During his tenure with the Nuggets, Anthony scored 13,970 points. He made the All-Star team four times—the second-most NBA All-Star Game appearances in Nuggets history. Between the Nuggets and Knicks, Anthony has averaged 25 points per game in his career.
Anthony could have been the best Nugget of all time had he not requested a trade. He left for the New York Knicks in 2010.
5. Lafayette "Fat" Lever
Fat Lever was the greatest point guard to ever play in Denver. He almost averaged a triple-double in his career with the Nuggets in the late-'80s.
The guard has the most steals of all time in Denver with 1,167 takeaways. He also was one of the best passers Denver has ever seen. He currently has the second-most assists with 3,556 dimes, averaging 7.53 per game.
Standing at 6’3”, one wouldn't think that Lever could pull in a lot of rebounds. However, he averaged 7.6 rebounds per contest in six seasons in Denver.
In the 1989-90 season, he had his best year by averaging 19.8 points, 7.9 assists and 9.3 rebounds in 71 games.
Lever made the NBA All-Star team in 1988 and 1990.
4. Byron Beck
Byron Beck was the greatest Denver Rocket of all time. Beck was one of six players to participate in every season of the ABA and he played in Denver from 1967 to 1977.
One of the most tenacious rebounders in Denver history, Beck has the second-most rebounds in franchise history with 8,603 boards.
Beck was also known for his sweeping hook shot. He currently sits at sixth in all-time scoring with 8,603 points.
The versatile forward/center made the ABA All-Star team in 1969 and 1976. He played in the inaugural season of the ABA/NBA merger before retiring.
In 1977, Beck became the first player in Denver professional basketball history to have his No. 40 jersey retired.
3. Dan Issel
In 1993, Dan Issel was the first Denver Nugget to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
In eight seasons with the Nuggets, Issel averaged 20.7 points per game. He currently places second in Nuggets all-time scoring with 16,589 points.
From 1975-85, Issel also grabbed 6,630 rebounds—the most in franchise history.
Issel was a part of the Nuggets during the NBA-ABA merger. In their last ABA season, Issel was selected to the ABA All-Star Game. He also was a part of the 1977 NBA All-Star team along with teammates Bobby Jones and David Thompson.
2. David Thompson
After receiving the accolade of 1976 ABA Rookie of the Year, David “The Skywalker” Thompson led the Denver Nuggets to the ABA Finals.
In his seven seasons with the Nuggets, Thompson averaged 23.57 points per game. He made the NBA All-Star team three consecutive times from 1977-79 with the Nuggets.
The nickname “The Skywalker” was awarded to Thompson for his incredible jumping abilities. He participated in the first ever Slam Dunk Contest at the 1976 ABA All-Star Game. He finished second in the competition to future Hall of Famer Julius Erving of the New York Nets.
Thompson had his achievements recognized when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.
1. Alex English
It’s hard to argue that Alex English isn't the best Denver Nugget of all time.
He’s the Nuggets' all-time leader in points, assists, games played, minutes played, field goals made, field goals attempted and offensive rebounds.
An offensive powerhouse, English recorded 21,645 points for the Nuggets. In 1983, he captured the NBA scoring title by averaging 28.4 points per game.
English was the first player in NBA history to record 2,000 points in eight consecutive seasons. He made eight NBA All-Star Games with the Nuggets from 1982-89. He also led the Nuggets to eight consecutive playoff appearances from 1982-90.
English was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997.