I’m sure there are those who will justify their recent lackluster performances by citing the absence of Chauncey Billups from their lineup. Admittedly, this has created a glaring chasm in their cohesion and leadership, but to rest their struggles solely on his missing presence would be overly simplistic.
Numerous red flags have become apparent throughout the course of the season, even before Chauncey’s injury, and perhaps the most alarming is their subpar performances on the road and against bad teams.
Good teams beat bad teams, regardless of the venue.
George Karl once again seemed overly relaxed, even in defeat, saying after the game, “Losing is extremely frustrating. You don't like to lose, but Sacramento is playing at a good level and we are not playing at a great level. I told the team the best they have going is that we have three days off practice."
I'm not sure that three days of practice is what this team needs right now, unless of course within those days something even resembling an offensive system is put into place. The Nuggets have become entirely too dependent on Carmelo's offensive output as of late and rely far too much on his one-on-one play to put points on the board.
One supposed bright spot in their loss to the Sacramento Kings was the play of Nene, who scored 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
You’ll have to excuse me if I’m not overly ecstatic about this “breakout” performance. To me, not a game should go by that Nene doesn’t pull down at least ten boards, and to celebrate his eight rebounds really speaks volumes about his inconspicuousness on most nights. With his size and athleticism, there is no reason this guy isn't a hands down All-Star at this point in his career.
This leads me to my first suggestion. Trade Nene! Please. I’m tired of hearing about how much potential this guy has. He is in his seventh NBA season for crying out loud. Let’s let him be somebody else’s project. Let’s let some other fan base get annoyed by the way he argues with the referee on every single call and suffer through the countless blown finger-rolls. Dunk the damn ball already!
I’m thinking Nene for New York’s David Lee sounds pretty good right about now. The Nuggets could even absorb the bad contract of Jared Jeffries to make the numbers work. Sure, the Nuggets would lose a little versatility with the departure of Nene, but Lee is tough and can rebound with the best of them, and that is exactly what the Nuggets need to get them to the next level. Even Jeffries would give them some much needed rebounding and a solid defensive presence, not to mention some additional front-court depth.
Jeffries has demonstrated some of his abilities lately as a sort of rover defender in the paint, guarding multiple positions and picking up easy rebounds and put-backs. The Nuggets could definitely use someone like this to bolster their uninspiring rebounding.
The Knicks in return would get an infusion of athleticism with Nene, and he would seemingly fit perfectly in D’Antoni’s up-tempo, defensive vacuum. Sounds like a win-win deal to me.
Now that the Nuggets have addressed their front-court issues, it’s time for my second suggestion. Start J.R. Smith!
The sixth man experiment has run its course, and it’s time for George Karl to start his best five players already.
J.R. has been inconsistent at best in his bench role, and despite the possibility of his Dr. Swish persona emerging on any given night, it seems like he is trying too hard to provide instant offense rather than consistent offense. Perhaps the starting role would allow him the opportunity to stabilize his overall game and settle into his amazing athleticism.
My third and final suggestion to inject some life into this team, play Renaldo Balkman! We give the man a three-year extension, and then we let him rot away on the bench? It makes no sense to me.
Balkman may not be the be the most gifted player on the planet but is certainly athletic, and he is known for his scrapping and hustle, two qualities I would argue the Nuggets are lacking in right now.
If George Karl is looking for a spark-plug off of the bench, Balkman could be the guy. Every time he is inserted into the lineup, he plays with outstanding energy. He can run the floor with any big man in the league, and he could easily get double figures in points every night with transition buckets alone.
You may not agree with my suggestions. You might argue that the Nuggets would be without a true center in this scenario, that J.R. Smith is more valuable as a sixth man than he would be as a starter, or that Balkman is being given exactly as many minutes as he deserves.
But regardless of your opinion, one thing you can't argue is that the Nuggets have been missing some of that "it" factor lately. They obviously need an injection of life, despite what Coach Karl thinks, and even if you don't agree with the specifics I put forth, I think the Nuggets need to do something quickly if they want to solidify their position in the ranks of NBA supremacy.