Pivot Points: These Denver Nuggets Are Supposed To Be Contenders?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IDecember 9, 2009

DENVER - MAY 29:  Chauncey Billups #7 of the Denver Nuggets looks on from the bench in the fourth quarter of Game Six of the Western Conference Finals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers at Pepsi Center on May 29, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

After witnessing the Denver Nuggets suffer a double-digit defeat at the hands of the Charlotte Bobcats, I have began to question the Nuggets' viability as a contender to the NBA throne.

The Nuggets weren't just beaten by another inferior opponent, they allowed the Bobcats to methodically take them apart from the seams, and put the game out of reach early in the fourth quarter.

I've realized that the Nuggets have their share of concerns, but I always felt that their talent level and the leadership of Chauncey Billups would vault them to the upper tier of the NBA hierarchy, but doubts have crept in.

I'm aware that Kenyon Martin was absent from the contest against the Bobcats, but even his presence does not solve the interior woes that the Nuggets have.

Their inside rotation of Nene, Martin, and Chris Andersen is not a line-up that would strike fear into the hearts of any of the other dominant post players that are scattered among the league's contenders.

Although they are all athletic, they don't possess the height, strength, or girth to hold their own in a series against Boston, Orlando, or Los Angeles, who I envision as the top three contenders in the NBA.

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The only way that they could compete would be to control the tempo, and if you can't get easy shots out of the half-court set, then that theory goes out the window.

The bench was also perceived to be a strength of Denver, but in reality the bench is actually pretty ordinary. Compared to the benches of Orlando and Boston they are downright inferior.

Denver's bench could hold their own against the bench of the Lakers, but Los Angeles has more quality players on their bench and all of them have benefited from the experience of winning a championship.

Ty Lawson remains the best reserve player that Denver has in its stable and although he is great, teams will begin to adjust to his quickness and devise schemes that will lessen his impact as the season wears on.

The defensive side of the ball is slowly becoming a thorn in the sides of the Nuggets also, who have never been a great defensive team, but have definitely taken strides in the right direction.

The commitment to excel at defense is lacking from the majority of the Nuggets' players, with the exception of Carmelo Anthony and Billups, who alone seem to understand what it takes to advance to the next level.

The most damning aspect missing from the Nuggets is mental fortitude, or the belief that they are as good as any other team in the NBA.

I understand that Denver was coming off an emotional win over Philadelphia and former teammate Allen Iverson, and that this was the second game of a back-to-back, but the Bobcats are a team that you should beat.

Especially, when you are trying to prove that you belong at the top of the Western Conference with the Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks.

I'm sure, as a Laker featured columnist, I run the risk of being reminded about the Lakers previous trip to the Pepsi Center which ended in a blow-out loss by L.A., by the Denver featured columnists, whom I am friendly with.

I would answer them by responding the Lakers were without Pau Gasol, and were in essence a different team, and judging by the manner in which Denver lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves at home, apparently they are, too.

Of course, Denver has plenty of time to correct their flaws, but without a trade, how do you fix the interior game? More importantly, how do you convince the younger players of the need to play consistent team defense?

The Nuggets' record reflects that they are still an elite team, and are currently the second best in the West, but their recent play suggests that they may not be as good as first advertised.