While the coach has no doubt helped the Nuggets reach respectability in a crowded Western Conference, the team has failed to make any real improvements in three years under his tutelage.
In fact, Denver still has the same problems on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.
The offense scores well over 100 points per game, but has no real direction. Every possession seems improvised. Eventually the ball ends up in the hands of Carmelo Anthony or Allen Iverson, and one of the two ends up taking it to the hoop.
I'm not saying this can't work, as they are two of the top scorers in the league, but it seems like streetball.
There's no one down low to pass to, as Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby hang out around the wing. There's also no consistent three-point shooter to kick to when Anthony gets doubled.
Solid defensive teams like the Spurs, Pistons, and Jazz can exploit the Nuggets' lack of offensive organization. I realize Denver beat San Antonio the other night, but the Nuggets scored only 80 points in doing so.
Defense also remains an issue. For the third straight year, Denver is giving up over 100 points per game.
While Karl maintains that the team is committed to defense, it's hard to agree based on performance. It's one thing to say you're committed to D; it's another to actually commit.
For a team with three so-called "great defenders" (Camby, AI, K-Mart), the Nuggets should be doing far better than they are.
The guards play with their hands at their sides, Martin only gets up for certain possessions, and Camby, while his numbers are good, leaves the basket wide open on too many occasions.
Opponents have learned that if they put their big man on the wing, Camby will follow, creating a perfect lane to the basket.
One thing that makes the Spurs defense so good is that Tim Duncan and Fabricio Oberto rarely get more than three feet away from the hoop. The Nuggets must embrace this philosophy if they want to win a playoff series.
The final problem, meanwhile, concerns the acquisition of Iverson.
If you acquire a guy like AI, you should win eight or nine more games per season. It hurt to lose Andre Miller and Reggie Evans in the Iverson trade—but the Nuggets picked up a no-doubt Hall-of-Fame scorer with incredible quickness and a nose for the ball.
However, even with AI on the floor, Denver has shown few noticeable improvements.
Karl's teams have a habit of underachieving. He had an amazing squad in Seattle in the early 90s but made only one Finals appearance. In Milwaukee, his Bucks—with Ray Allen, Sam Cassell, Glenn Robinson, and Tim Thomas—lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to Iverson and the 76ers.
The Nuggets will once again finish in the ballpark of 50 wins, probably good enough for the No. 5 seed in the West. However, I don't see Denver winning a series until they get a coach who can foster flow on offense and commitment on defense.
Maybe Jeff Van Gundy could take the job, as he's already coached Camby with a less talented supporting cast. In any event, the team is stagnant, and a change is in order.