Can the Denver Nuggets Really Win the NBA Championship?
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They have a bona-fide superstar, a top-tier point guard, a banging frontline, a high-profile head coach, a deep bench, and role players that fill every conceivable team need.
They have shooters. They have rebounders. They have defenders. They have athleticism. They have veteran leadership.
However, one question remains unanswered: Do the Nuggets have enough?
As of Monday, Denver sits at 37-19, a half-game ahead of the surging Utah Jazz for second place in the Western Conference.
Before the season began, the Nuggets had their fair share of skeptics.
Many believed that Denver's run all the way to the Western Conference Finals last season was simply a case of everything coming together at the right time.
Preseason prognostications from "experts" everywhere assumed the Nuggets tail off in 2009-10, perhaps finishing somewhere in the middle of the Western Conference playoff picture.
The defending champion Lakers reloaded, and some even foresaw a possible 70-win season in their future.
The 2008 champion Celtics had signed Rasheed Wallace, and Kevin Garnett would be back from injury.
The Trail Blazers were growing, and were expected to finally make "the leap" into elite territory.
Certainly the Nuggets wouldn't be able to contend with all of these elite teams, right?
Instead, Denver has picked up right where they left off, and clearly warrant mention as a legitimate championship contender.
As I mentioned previously, the Nuggets are as talented and deep as any team in the NBA.
However, are they focused and disciplined enough to actually win it all?
At times, this is a group that has shown a potentially dangerous lack of focus.
A few times this season, the Nuggets have come off a win over an elite team with a prompt loss at the hands of a bottom-feeder to follow.
During the conference finals last season, a pair of inbounding mishaps late in games proved quite costly in their efforts to upset the Lakers.
So, what's the key for Denver?
The Nuggets need to be able to maintain stability, consistency, and, most of all, focus.
In my mind, these responsibilities fall squarely on the shoulders of their point guard, Chauncey Billups.
Since Billups returned to his home town to play point guard for the Nuggets early last season, the team boasts a regular season record of 86-38.
Prior to his arrival, the Nuggets struggled to harness all their talent and convert that into a winning basketball unit.
Billups has brought his winning mentality to the Nuggets, and everything else appears to have fallen perfectly into place since.
Billups is never out of control, and always seems to know exactly what to do with the basketball.
His presence on the floor is like hair gel for the Nuggets: he keeps everything in order and makes it look good.
He's also a top-of-the-line defensive point guard, and his intensity on that side of the floor has brought out the best in Carmelo Anthony's defense as well.
The group of Billups, Anthony, Nene, Kenyon Martin, and Arron Afflalo actually gives Denver one of the most physical and skilled defensive lineups in the entire league.
With their newfound dedication to stopping opponents as opposed to just outscoring them, the Nuggets are absolutely built to win a championship, and win it now.
Will they have enough to dethrone a healthy Lakers team come May?
Time will tell, but there's no more doubting these Nuggets.
They're certainly talented enough, and now, they appear dedicated enough to finally take it all the way.
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