Woe Is Denver: Two Top Nuggets Defenders Have Packed Their Bags

Geoff TownsendAnalyst IJuly 27, 2008

Concern is written across the faces of Denver Nuggets faithful this Summer. 

After losing Marcus Camby in a relatively worthless trade to the Los Angeles Clippers and Eduardo Najera to free agency, the new-look Nugs don't look like much.

The Nuggets and their coach, George Karl—who has insisted he will revert back to his earlier coaching days and demand more of his players—have been vilified for their lack of focus on the defensive side of the floor. Yet the club's biggest moves—other than retaining J.R. Smith—have involved dealing away the two most energetic defenders on the roster.

Marcus Camby won the NBA's Defender of the Year award in 2006-2007 and was in the conversation to win it again in '07-08.  Though he is undersized and contributes very little consistently on the offensive side, Camby's help-side defense and explosive leaping ability has covered the backsides of his teammates since the '02-03 season.

No, Camby cannot defend one-on-one the likes of Shaquille O'Neal or Dwight Howard. But he is capable of running the paint area against the smaller players of the Western Conference.

He can change the approach of guards and small forwards with his presence alone.  As one of the most-respected shot blockers of this era, Camby makes opposing players well aware of what he can do defensively.

Eduardo Najera is not as big a name in the league, but the energy he provides off of the bench is an asset that is extremely rare.  It often seems as if Eddie is over-achieving—he perpetually lives in a sort of controlled chaos.

The undeniable fact, however, is that he succeeds.  He is not a threat to score twenty, but he will nag ballhandlers and rebound with the big guys inside.

The worst part about the losses is that nothing was gained.  The Nuggets received the right to swap second-round picks in the 2009 draft with the Clippers for Camby—though they received a $10 million exemption as well. And because they let Najera go via free agency, all they received was a wave goodbye.

With the money gained in the Camby deal, the only option to salvage any sort of hope is to buy a defensive culture.  Boston did so with Kevin Garnett, a move that paid off in spades.

Ron Artest. Tayshaun Prince. Gerald Wallace.  Defensive-minded players who can contribute offensively as well—the only salvation the Nugs can see.

They have already let the defensive culture of the team—as small of a culture as it was—walk out the door. They may as well look at refiguring the entire roster.

With the two top stars contributing very little defensively, where is the hope in Denver?  It seems as if the Nuggets have already conceded next season to rebuilding, but they haven't done too much to start that process.

How much longer do fans need to wait before they see something that this team is capable of?  The Nuggets show glimpses at times, but the fingers start pointing as soon as the proverbial wheels fall off.

Unfortunately, nothing has been done this summer to secure those wheels.