Who Can Beat the LA Lakers? The Denver Nuggets, That's Who!
The Denver Nuggets have been a bit of a roller coaster ride the last few years, to say the least. However, they have the optimum mix of talent, nerve, and coaching to get over the mountainous task of beating the two-time champion Lakers!
I know there are doubters, but read on...
The Nuggets, under George Karl, have picked up the concept of disruptive defense and have run with it!
They are particularly adept at forcing turnovers and converting them into fast break points. The Lakers are primarily a half-court team, especially in the playoffs.
The Nuggets ability to generate steals by Ty Lawson, JR Smith, or Chauncey Billups will factor into springing a big playoff upset!
George Karl has gone from wonderboy coach in the '80s, to the man who guided the Sonics to the Finals in the '90s, got close with the Bucks in the early '00s, and has become a respected (especially by the officials) coach in the league.
If you don't think that how a referee crew respects the play of the team that has a respected coach (which DOES affect the whistles), then you have simply not watched the NBA for long, my friend. Latitude by the zebras starts with how they know the team's attributes, established by the coach.
Mr. Big Shot
Chauncey Billups is STILL better than the majority of PGs in the league as far as being a floor leader. The Team USA member has made his bones hitting big shots all around the league.
He will be able to corral and guide this team of admitted hotheads and gifted talents to the Western Conference Finals again, as he did in 2009. The man has what it takes because he has seen everything on the court and is still dangerous in the clutch!
Adding Al Harrington to a bench that also includes JR Smith, Ty Lawson, and Chris Andersen means that you now have three guys coming off the bench capable of putting up 20 points!
This does two things: 1) It allows the starters some room for having a slow night on the offensive end of the court, and 2) it gives the opposing team something to game-plan for on its defensive end.
If having big-time playmakers on the bench was not crucial, then guys like Kevin McHale, Vinnie Johnson, and even Lamar Odom would not have the value that they did and do.
Ability to Light It Up!
The Nuggets are a virtual mine field in that one can almost never tell who is going to go off for an offensive explosion!
Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Nene, J.R. Smith (pictured), and Al Harrington are all capable of carrying the team offensively for a stretch, a quarter, a half, or even a game!
At times, that lineup will be on the floor and the opposing coach has to realize that the scoreboard will light up like Times Square!
No Fear Factor
A very big weapon that championship teams have against many of their opposition is intimidation. That does not have to be in a physical manner, it can be in knowing that the other team will play until the champs make their run and then fold.
The Nuggets, like Kenyon Martin here, have enough experience and, frankly, loose cannons to not be intimidated by Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant, etc.
A mix of top superstars like Anthony, champion veterans like Billups, and players looking to etch their names in championship glory like Lawson are not going to just roll over for the Lakers to cakewalk to another championship.
This is the NBA. Superstars get the majority of the calls. Superstars put fannies in the seats. Superstars get voted to All-Star games. Superstars lead their teams to the title.
Carmelo Anthony has done all of those, except the last point. He has caused his game to mature and be well-rounded. I could not say this three years ago, but he does play defense and rebound adequately for a man of his talents. He has become a team leader, no longer looking to veterans like Andre Miller, Allen Iverson, or even Billups to be the head honcho.
He is primed to add his name to the list of men like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Tim Duncan as a champion leader.
Time Is of the Essence
Nine of the Nuggets players will become free agents as of July, 2011. All of the attention so far has been directed towards Anthony, naturally, but starting center Nene and supersub J.R. Smith are also entering the last year of their deals as well.
This can work to the team's benefit, as Karl will no doubt let them know that the absolute BEST way to maximize one's negotiating position is to be a key member of a championship team! It does have the ability to swing the other way and push a team over the edge out of greed and insecurity, but Karl, owner Stan Kroenke, and the front office will be ready to handle this situation.
The Styles Clash
Just as styles make fights in boxing and MMA, styles here make the matchup. The Lakers are a predominant half-court team. The Nuggets are a predominant running team. The team that is best able to enforce its will through its style of play will be the victorious one.
The Nuggets' second unit, which includes Ty Lawson (pictured), has to keep up the tempo to make the Lakers be a little less comfortable than they want to be. This point could be the difference between getting fitted for a ring, or going fishing.
Though the Nuggets do not go 11 deep like the Lakers (presuming they resign Shannon Brown), their first nine are a high-quality nine with roles clearly defined and a style that is conducive to their success.
George Karl will be at his mad-scientist best to cause the Nuggets to be standing there at the end, led by Melo, guided by Chauncey, and fueled by J.R., Kenyon, Nene, and the rest.
The Nuggets can beat the Lakers! Their chance is better than you may think.
Let's hear what the B/R community thinks.