NBA Offseason: The Denver Nuggets Must Do More to Contend In the West

Noah CrouseContributor IJuly 29, 2009

DENVER - APRIL 22:  Head coach George Karl of the Denver Nuggets has words with the officials as he leads his team against the New Orleans Hornets in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center on April 22, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Hornets 108-93. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

As the rush of the NBA offseason begins to slow down and the dust begins to settle, we are now seeing how our favorite team's rosters will likely look come tip-off of the 2009-2010 season.

It has been an offseason full of moves, and one that has seen many of the NBA Western Conference teams reload in order to run down the NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers.

My question is simple: Have the Denver Nuggets done enough to put them in a position to again be one of the top-tier teams in the West?

Look at what other teams in the West have done.

The Spurs got Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess but lost Bruce Bowen. The Hornets acquired Emeka Okafor and will likely sign Ike Diogu, but lost Tyson Chandler.

The Mavericks resigned Jason Kidd, and added Shawn Marion, Tim Thomas, Drew Gooden, and Kris Humphries. The Trailblazers grabbed Andre Miller, while the Lakers and Rockets basically swapped Trevor Ariza for Ron Artest.

As I said, it was a busy off-season and through it all, the Nuggets have been very quiet, almost too quiet. There is something to be said for a team standing pat, dancing with who brought them, so to speak—especially when they are a squad that nearly made it to the NBA Finals last season.

But with everyone around them getting better, should we, the Nuggets fans, be worried that they will not be able to continue progress towards getting over the championship hump?

Being a good team is one thing, but going from a good team to a championship team is the toughest step. The Nuggets got worn down by the size of the Lakers. Nene, Kenyon Martin, and Birdman were exhausted and could not compete with the trio of Gasol, Bynum, and Odom.

The number one place the Nuggets needed help and their top priority had to be getting additional front court help.

Their front office saw their major offseason focus was to get Chris "Birdman" Andersen a new contract. After that goal was accomplished, Denver saw defensive "specialist" Dahntay Jones walk away for a contract with Indiana.

Their response was to move a secnd round draft pick for defensive-minded guard Arron Afflalo and throw-in Walter Sharpe. The team also addressed their backup point guard position by allowing Anthony Carter to test free agency and made a draft night deal to acquire Ty Lawson from UNC.

This past week, the Nuggets sent Sharpe and seldom-used shooting guard Sonny Weems to Milwaukee for power forward Malik Allen.

These are not exactly the headline-making deals of some of their counterparts, so will those moves be enough?

Looking at the Nuggets, it is easy to see that they have some of the best offensive talent in the entire NBA. There is no doubt that guys like Carmelo Anthony, JR Smith, Chauncey Billups, and Nene can score points in bunches and produce enough offense to match just about any other team.

Their defensive effort will likely continue to grow as the players continue to buy in to the George Karl style. The bench remains strong, with Arron Afflalo being a better all around player than Jones was, and Lawson will likely see his minutes grow as the season progresses. He should end up being not only a better backup than Anthony Carter, but also the heir apparent to the starting position once Chauncey is done playing.

Allen is a player who does nothing great and almost nothing really well. He is a big (6'9", 255 pounds) body who will likely only see the floor in garbage time, if he sees it at all (see Hunter, Steven).

Improvement at the backup guards and a big man who will never see the light of day is not exactly the making of a "great" offseason. But still, it is easy to justify because the other teams in the West, outside of the Lakers, are trying to play catchup.

After all, the Nuggets were the second best team in the West. But when you consider that the Spurs and Trailblazers were both close in record to the Nuggets and they both added potentially impact pieces, it could be easy to see the Nuggets go from the second seed all the way down to the four-to-six range.

The Nuggets don't have much to offer in the way of trade, only some expiring contracts (Steven Hunter, Malik Allen) or the possibility of a sign-and-trade involving Linas Kleiza. They are near the luxury tax again but they do have $8-or-9 million left on the trade exception they acquired for Marcus Camby.

The Western Conference is going to be tough top-to-bottom next season. If the Nuggets want to get over the hump and truly be a championship contender, they have to do something else.

They have to prevent their frontcourt of injury-prone players from wearing out, or even worse, getting injured and missing substantial time. I like a team that features Kenyon and Nene but worry if one of them is replaced by Allen for any amount of time. 

They have to address their need for another talented big man. I am not talking David Lee, because I don't think that will ever happen.

Sadly, I don't see any moves coming this summer. I honestly feel that Denver will take what they have now, go into next season and around the time the exception expires in November, the front office will see what is available and attempt to make another impact move.