The Denver Nuggets have finally waved goodbye to their chance at a NBA Championship. The team's game six shellacking by the Los Angeles Lakers have many fans in Denver questioning the next step of the championship journey.
Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony returned the Nuggets to the Western Conference finals for the first time since the 1984-1985 season, but the next step to building a true title contender comes within the organization, changes must be made if the Nuggets want another chance at a ring.
The Nuggets need to part ways with this article's cover boy, Kenyon Martin. His inability to shoot the basketball, allowed L.A. to pack the paint, forcing Martin to become a jump shooter. His strengths, rebounding, and blocking shots, were not present during the series.
This 31 year old Power Forward just does not fit into an offensive role, and more importantly has lost a few steps on defense. His $14 million salary will be tough to dump, but it has to happen.
Martin's Points/Rebounds/Blocks During the Series
- Game 1: 15/8/2
- Game 2: 16/3/1
- Game 3: 6/7/2
- Game 4: 13/15/2
- Game 5: 12/5/1
- Game 6: 13/5/0
- Average in Series: 12.5/7/1.3
These are not the numbers of a superstar, they are the numbers of a pedestrian Power Forward. Charles Barkley said it best: "Anybody near seven-feet should be able to get 10 points and 10 rebounds a game." Martin recorded a double-double once in six games.
Power Forward/Center Chris Andersen needs to replace Martin at Power Forward. The team must re-sign him quickly. Andersen is able to give about the same on the offensive side as Martin, but his defense is much better. Martin shot less than 50 percent from the floor in the playoffs.
Andersen's Offensive numbers are hurt by him playing only 20 minutes a game as opposed to Martin playing 36+ minutes. Andersen shot 62 percent from the floor in the playoffs.
Chris Andersen's Points/Rebounds/Blocks During the Series
- Game 1: 8/5/2
- Game 2: 2/4/1
- Game 3: 15/7/3
- Game 4: 6/14/2
- Game 5: 2/8/4
- Game 6: 2/2/3
- Average in Series: 6/7/2.5
The Nuggets need to concentrate on defense. They can not rely on 100+ points a night to win basketball games, some days the shots just don't fall, and the Nuggets never seem to get back on defense.
Points Given Up Against L.A:
- Game 1: 105 pts
- Game 2: 103 pts
- Game 3: 103 pts
- Game 4: 101 pts
- Game 5: 103 pts
- Game 6: 119 pts
The next step for the Nuggets will be trading J.R. Smith. Smith's is too streaky a shooter to lead the team consistently if Anthony and Billups aren't playing well. The proof is in the pudding and the pudding is sour:
J.R Smith's Scoring Against L.A:
- Game 1: 8 Pts
- Game 2: 3 Pts
- Game 3: 10 Pts
- Game 4: 24 Pts
- Game 5: 7 Pts
- Game 6: 24 Pts
His supposed strength as a three-point shooter takes away too much from his athletic ability. Smith needs to drive to the basket and score from all parts of the floor, including the free-throw line! (25-of-46 for 54 percent in playoffs)
His age, 23, and his relatively cheap price tag, less than $5 million, makes him perfect trade bait.
The last two steps of the Nuggets rise to the NBA Title rely on a building a future Point Guard and keeping Nene around. Chauncey Billups is 30 and he seems to be in his prime, now would be the time to draft your future PG.
Billups can teach the guard how to deal with all types of adversity, while showing him the ins and outs of the Nuggets offense.
As the Nuggets will be drafting late, with only a second-round pick a player such as Darren Collison, a senior out of UCLA would be a perfect fit.
Nene Hilario, or simply Nene, is a force in the Nuggets system offensively and Defensively. He does not get many touches on the offensive side, but when he does he makes them count. He is also an excellent passer opening up the lanes for Carmelo and Chauncey in their mid-range games.
Nene's presence in the post is strong, and keeping him around along with Andersen will convert the Nuggets toward a more defensive mentality.
Carmelo Anthony is a young superstar and Chauncey Billups looks as good as ever. If the Nuggets make these moves and continue to build around Billups and Anthony, David Stern will be visiting Denver with a Championship trophy soon.