Denver Nuggets: Where to go from Here?

Geoff TownsendAnalyst IMay 21, 2008

Basketball in Denver has been like an unquenchable thirst lately. 

The Nuggets won 50 games this season, the best record they have posted since adding Carmelo Anthony to the menu. Prior to the third overall pick five years ago the Nugs won just 17 games.  The Nuggets, though, have become the hardest team to watch, let alone to cheer for.

Their outright refusal to set up a defense even 50 percent of the time showed all season.  This season proved that a great offense does not beat a good defense.  Defense is much, much easier to repeat time and again, while shots don't always fall. 

The Nugs spent more time watching driving point guards and high pick-and-roll plays then they did moving in for help side defense, or stepping up in pressure situations down the stretch.

Granted a 50 win season would normally have been more than enough to secure a playoff spot, the Nuggets limped in and were quickly pushed aside.  The Nuggets did so little against the Lakers in round one that Kobe seemed remarkably relaxed and calm in games on the road. 

The Pepsi Center became a home away from home for him and his minions, with more and more fans coming out to laugh at the Nuggets rather than motivate them and cheer for the unlikely.  When your stars "quit" (Carmelo said it, not me), though, it is hard to cheer for anything.

Unless the Nugs make a change, nothing will change, either. 

George Karl has lost touch with the team. 

Carmelo Anthony admitted to quitting down the stretch, and AI fell back to his old ways and overplayed his part. 

While the bench ceased to exist (minus J.R. Smith, who may be the brightest star on the roster) when the Lakers group of misfits put a hand on their hip, and the defense in the paint was less than stellar.  

The Lakers exploited every aspect of the Nuggets game and thrust their problems onto the national stage.  Us, Colorado taxpayers knew all along that we were witnessing the beginning of a train wreck.

That train looks a little something like this:

Engine: Carmelo Anthony

Conductor: George Karl

Car #1: Marcus Camby

Cars #2-10: Underperforming role players, interchangeable

Caboose: Denver Sports Fans who have to sit and watch after being scolded and told to wait patiently for this "young" team to mature and challenge an ever-increasingly skilled Western Conference.

Denver sports fans have waited patiently by as the team continues to do very little to improve the overall performance of the players.

We know what they are capable of because they will have a fast break or two per game that gets fans out of their warm seats, but we are still left with the feeling that we aren't getting too much for the money.

Marcus Camby is not worth the $11.25 million the Nugs spent on him last season.  For what?  Nine points a game and 13 boards?  For a All-NBA first team All Defender, 3.6 blocks per game is amazing, but he is an offensive liability, and no liability is worth that kind of coin. 

Carmelo Anthony is more than happy to sit idly by and watch this thing go down in flames.  And why not?  He made a little over $13 million last season and made no effort to become a better basketball player. 

His greatest achievement during the '07-'08 season was to be a starter on the West All-Star team.  His off-court problems have done nothing to better his image either.  At this point he is a stubborn example of a player who will fall far short of his potential.

Allen Iverson had no answer for any question his team was presented.  "It is what it is," became his go-to response to each and every one of the problems  with the Nugs

Sure he scored 26.4 per game, but he also averaged three turnovers.  His persistent whining on his ridiculous drives through the paint got old too.  And at $19 million plus and 13 NBA seasons, I expected more of a leader.

Anthony Carter is arguably the worst point guard in the league.  His style does not mesh with anything the Nuggets, or the NBA for that matter, are trying to play.  He averaged only 7.8 points per game and 5.5 assists. There are NBA teams who have players sitting on the bench who average more than that.

Linus Kleiza, Eduardo Najera, Chucky Atkins, and Yakhouba Diawara are expendable at best.  None of them can provide any sort of consistency off the bench, and only Najera is capable of playing anything even resembling defense. 

Must I continue? 

The bright stars of the Nugs have been J.R. Smith and Nene, but neither has been worthy of hanging a hat on, let alone a franchise. 

The Nugs need a change, whether that comes by way of trade, free agent, draft, or coaching change (the choice I have begrudgingly come to believe would be the most beneficial in the long run). 

Who is going to be the spark?  The catalyst to improvements?

Is Avery Johnson still available?  Maybe The General could bring fire back to the Rocky Mountains. 

Unless something changes though, players will collect their paychecks and continue to remind us that "it is what it is," and all we can do is fall back into our chairs with our six dollar Coors Lights and wonder what it feels like to live in Los Angeles.