Denver Nuggets: Tailspin Back to Inferiority?
*Note: This article was written on Sunday, July 13, three days prior to the Marcus Camby Trade, but I was unable to load it into Bleacher Report due to poor internet connections*
I was skimming through various Denver market news outlets recently, and I came across an article in the Denver Post that summed up exactly how I was feeling:
“The Nuggets front office is insulting their fans' intelligence.” Spot on.
I have waited patiently, as have other Nuggets fans, for this team to break out—and we are all still waiting.
After yet another first-round exit, their fifth in the last five season, the Denver Nuggets brass is showing no desire to design a plan to put a stop to that—unless that plan is to avoid the playoffs altogether.
Chalk up another underachieving season, as well as a dismantling sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers. Most assumed that the Nuggets would opt to go in another direction, perhaps a step toward the next level? Not the case thus far.
Instead, the first decision to be made was the announcement that George Karl would remain as Head Coach. Excuse me, come again?
First, I want to make it clear that I have nothing against Karl. I thought he was a great hire, and has done an above-average job during his tenure. He has also had to deal with off-the-court dilemmas that included cancer scares to both him and his son, Coby Karl. Nothing but respect here for Mr. Karl.
But in the end, this is a business, and George is just not getting it done. He has a new outlook on life after fighting cancer, and it is one that any person should strive for. In fact, I hope to one day to heed his advice and to live without the pessimism and emphasis on success.
That outlook though, is not befitting for a professional coach who is paid to win. He has lost his fire, passion, and intensity on the court—and it shows.
Karl had stated in a telecast this past season that fast-paced teams such as the Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, and Phoenix Suns are the most entertaining in the league, as well as his favorite style of play.
One thing those teams don’t have in common? They have not, nor will they, win any championships.
So while Karl essentially backs the run-and-gun style with little defense, and virtually no shot at a championship, the front office endorses the notion and re-ups his contract?
Better options had existed on the market, such as former Dallas Mavericks head coach Avery Johnson, a man who demands the respect and dedication of his players. Johnson took a team running a similar system and took them to the NBA Finals with a new emphasis on defense.
It would have been worth the try, no? At least it would have sent the message that they are trying to improve.
Then came the NBA Draft, a night in which the Nuggets could have bolstered their frontcourt with youth—or perhaps, if in position, traded up to nab an impact point guard.
The Nuggets' front office instead saw fit to end any speculation before it began, as they traded the 20th pick prior to Draft Day, ending any excitement and anticipation the Nuggets faithful might have had.
In what seemed to be a trade just to make a trade, the Nuggets picked up shooting guard Sonny Weems, out of Arkansas. Weems may be a talented player who may pan out, but better players were available at No. 20.
So while the frontcourt remains aging and susceptible to injuries, the offense remains stagnant without a true point guard, all is well—the team picked up a backup shooting guard.
The first news out of the Nuggets camp was positive—the extending of a qualifying offer to shooting guard JR Smith. With the way the free agent class has thinned out, though, I would not be all that surprised to see a team come with a frontloaded offer to pry him away. I will hold out hope that the front office will match anything thrown at JR.
Then came the disappointing news that the Nuggets answer to their point guard problem is—drum roll, please—Anthony Carter. Yes, that’s right, the same player from last year’s squad—the same player that can’t create for himself, let alone those surrounding him. If Carter is to get meaningful minutes, there is absolutely NO chance this year.
It now appears as if grit-and-hustle man Eduardo Najera is headed to New Jersey. The one player on the roster who offered what the Nuggets lacked, who openly stated he wanted to stay in Denver, and who would have been a bargain.
Instead, he was not even offered a contract.
This also has a domino effect, as it lessens the chance of using Marcus Camby as a trading chip due to lack of frontcourt depth.
What’s left for this club? They have proven they cannot win with their current roster, which is now minus a key bench player. They have a coach who doesn’t mind if he loses. They are well above the salary cap, leaving them with the mid-level exception to fill positions. Trade possibilities are limited, with Carmelo Anthony and perhaps Linas Kleiza now being the only viable options.
Most importantly, they have a front office that does not seem to have any idea in which direction they are headed.
Can this team pull out of the nosedive they are currently in? Yes.
They must first admit that the AI-Melo experiment did not work, and let AI walk after this year. Second, a coach must be found who can demand more commitment out of his players, as well as not be afraid to enforce discipline.
Third, they should package their picks to move up in next year's draft for an impact rookie, preferably a big. Fourth, they should hire a damn financial advisor so as to avoid any more occurrences of the contract hell-hole currently presiding itself in Denver.
I will not give up on this team due to an inept front office. Denver missed a window of opportunity, but now must look to open another. Players need to grow up, contracts need to come off the books to free up cash for free agency, and successful player drafts and development will be needed.
I know, I know, easier said than done.
Now fans must now wait even longer, longer than they should’ve—but if done right, the Denver Nuggets can quickly be rebuilt rather than having an extensive down period.
Now the golden question—by a show of hands, who has confidence for the Nuggets brain trust to do so?
Look for the Post-Camby Trade Edition by the end of the week.
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