LeBron and Wade. Kobe and Pau. 'Melo and Amar'e. Duncan and Parker. Dirk and Kidd. Rose and Boozer. KG and Pierce.
These are just some of the many two-star collaborations that we've seen come together in the last few years. It seems that more and more teams are beginning to believe that to be successful in the NBA you have to have a dynamic duo of superstars.
The Nuggets are the latest team to be left in the dust of a superstar trying to create one of these duos in another city. But unlike the Cavs and Raptors that were left starless last summer in the new Miami Heat formation, Denver is thriving without their superstar. The Nuggets are proving that you don't need two big-time players to be successful—you don't even need one.
When Carmelo was traded to New York after a long season of speculation and gossip, it seemed that another team was destined to plummet to the bottom of the standings in the aftermath of the departure of their superstar. But after the Nuggets won their first two games with their new team, the basketball community started to look a little closer at the trade that seemed to make New York a title contender and Denver a rebuilder.
The Nugs sent away Anthony, of course, along with aging PG Chauncey Billups, PF Shelden Williams and bench warmers Melvin Ely and Anthony Carter. Carmelo and Chauncey had been their foundation for some years, but the other three were easy to let go of, as they were basically just salary-cap-related additions to the trade.
On the other end of the trade, the Knicks traded up-and-coming stars Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, along with promising young center Timofey Mozgov. All of these are solid pieces to the trade, none of them throwaways like Williams, Ely and Carter on the other end.
All of the players that the Nuggets received in this blockbuster trade molded in perfectly with the players they already had. Felton gave them a fantastic bench PG behind Ty Lawson, Gallinari and Chandler filled the void at SF left by Melo, and Mozgov gave them a solid center to give Nene and Birdman a rest when they needed it. At PF, they were left with Kenyon Martin and Al Harrington, who are interchangeable starters, and at SG they still had Aaron Afflalo and J.R. Smith, also interchangeable starters.
As the games rolled on, it became more and more obvious that the Nuggets got the better end of this deal. New York was left with a shockingly shallow team and began to lose games to teams that were fairly bad; they even lost two games to the Cavaliers. Denver, on the other hand, came out of the trade with two solid rotations and then some, giving them one of the deepest and most evenly dispersed teams that I've ever seen. In fact, the Nuggets have had nine different players lead the team in scoring over the 19 games that they've played since the trade.
Contrary to the Knicks, Denver completely manhandles bad teams these days, with the exception of a slip-up loss to the Clippers. To name just a few examples, the Nuggets have beaten the Bobcats, Pistons and Raptors all by about 30 points. And just as the Knicks have done pretty well against the NBA's best, the Nuggets have as well. They've beaten the Spurs, Lakers, and Celtics, lost by a buzzer-beater to the Magic and came within five points of the Heat.
The Nuggets are 15-4 since the trade and are in fifth place in the West. They are fighting for fourth place, as well as the Northwest division title, with the Oklahoma City Thunder, whom they have two games against left in the regular season, and whom they will most likely face in the first round of the playoffs. The Knicks, on the other hand, have fallen below .500 and are in seventh place in the absolutely pathetic bottom half of the East.
Proving that a team can be great with a full roster of good players and no superstar, Denver is helping to stop the NBA from becoming a star-studded-powerhouse-versus-pathetic-starless-joke league. If you are a fan of the NBA, get down on all fours and thank the Denver Nuggets for saving Professional Basketball.
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