For many Nuggets, and NBA fans in general, the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors have persisted far too long.
This Melo-drama is nothing more than a soap opera with the shining star who is Susan Lucci-esque when it comes to winning in the playoffs.
For Nuggets fans, losing Carmelo Anthony seems dreadful for Denver. If the Nuggs couldn't truly compete with Melo—a supposed superstar—how can they win a championship without him?
But fret not Nuggets backers, Melo isn't the end-all be-all and your team already has some strong young players for which to build around.
Arron Afflalo, the third-year shooting guard who has started for two seasons, was acquired in a trade with Detroit before the 2009-10 season and he's begun to blossom as a talented player for Denver.
Afflalo is solid off the dribble, attacks the hoop well, and has one of the most beautiful jump-shots you'll ever see.
He's a career 46.4 percent shooter (40.7 from behind the arc) and his work ethic is second to none, a reason why both of those percentages are higher than that this season (51.7 FG, 43.0 3PT), while moving his free throw accuracy from 73.5 percent last year to 85.0 percent this season.
But Afflalo doesn't only work on shooting the ball, he's relentless around the rim, and his passing has improved as well. He's upped his rebounding to 3.8 boards per game, and assists are double his career average at 2.4 per contest.
Defensively, Afflalo is arguably the Nuggets best, and his motor never stops on that end of the court, even if he's D-ing up Kobe Bryant or other of the NBA's greatest players.
On a team with lots of divas and head cases, Afflalo is a perfect fit, the team player that works hard and listens to coaching while continuing to develop as a professional basketballer.
And beyond all those other positives, Arron Afflalo is dependable, he's started 118 games in the last season and a half with the Nuggets, including all 43 games this year.
Running with Afflalo on the starting lineup will soon be second-year point guard Ty Lawson.
Lawson, like Afflalo, has more energy than the Energizer bunny and he uses his youth to his advantage.
Lawson possesses supersonic speed, with the ability to slash to the hoop or outrun opponents down the hardwood with ease.
His legs give him speed and the quickness of a humming bird and the hops of a kangaroo.
Lawson cuts in and out of defenders, able to toss up tantalizing teardrops over the tall trees, or just dunk all over them, as he did to Didier Mbanga last season.
All that and he's only 5'9” tall—Lawson is fearless, a quality needed by a point guard hoping to be a player at the elite NBA level.
And more times than not, Lawson can be seen dishing dandy dimes to teammates that turn them into easy buckets.
But Lawson understands he's still growing as well, and he's worked on his shooting touch as well as some of his leadership characteristics.
Lawson's shooting percentages have all improved (50.3-51.0 FG, 36.0-38.5 3PT) and the team can count on him more lately when they need a spot-up shot knocked down.
And all the time, Lawson is learning from one of the game's greats in Chauncey Billups on how to lead a team by example.
Over the last 20 games, both Lawson and Afflalo have been producing plentifully, proving the future of the franchise is in good standing.
In those games, Lawson scored in double digits 13 times, Afflalo 14 times. Over that time, Lawson's averaged 12.0 points and 4.0 assists per game, while Afflalo scored 13.25 points and grabbed 3.9 rebounds per. Both recorded season-highs in points during that time (Lawson, 24) with Afflalo's 31 points coming on a highly efficient 11-14 (78.5 percent) shooting from the field.
What's most encouraging about the two is that they're at their best when they are needed the most.
When Melo struggled last week, Afflalo was there to pick up the slack while Lawson filled in fluidly when Billups missed games due to injury, enjoying his best outings when he is given the opportunity to start.
Meaning, when Anthony is eventually traded and whenever Billups steps down as the starter and moves over for Lawson, the Nuggets will immediately have a new era of two potential stars, or at least a solid cornerstone from which to build around.
Other Nuggets youngsters
Besides Lawson and Afflalo, who shine among the Nuggets young players, other youthful ballers could impact the team when Melo is gone.
Gary Forbes: Forbes plays small forward (Melo's position) and fills in well off the bench. The 26 year old rookie has shown flashes of brilliance on the court, dunking the ball aggressively occasionally and he's learning how to play at the NBA level quickly.
Shelden Williams: Williams is a stout big man that knows rebounding. As a fourth year player, Williams is already on his fifth team in the NBA, but he may have found a home for the near future with the Nuggets because he's 13th in rebounding per 48 minutes and Denver is deficient in that department.
J.R. Smith: Even though this is Smith's seventh year in the league, he's still only 25 years old and he's the most potent scorer outside of Anthony currently on the Nuggets team. When Smith is on top of his game—playing unselfishly, taking higher percentage shots by attacking the hoop, and protecting the ball from turnovers—he's a great player. And his athleticism is top-notch at the NBA level. But he is still struggling to be consistently stable and not lose his cool on the court. If and when Melo leaves, JR likely already knows he will be counted on to score and may finally get his starting spot at the small forward position.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being the CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman is a Denver Nuggets, Denver Broncos and NBA Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com, the Colorado/Utah Regional Correspondent for stadiumjourney.com and a weekly contributor to milehighhoops.com.
Rich also heads up PR for K-Biz and Beezy, a Colorado-based rap group.
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