Denver, CO. Mid-market teams such as the Denver Nuggets can only do so much when it comes to off-season acquisitions. In the NBA world that everyone now lives in, where six or seven teams seem to be the only realistic destinations for superstar players to end up at, it can be extremely challenging for every other franchise. The evolution of this league, and the reality that superstar players want to play with other superstar players, means that it can truly be a bleak situation for teams not located in L.A., Miami, New York, Boston, or Chicago. The big cities rule the NBA landscape, and apparently will for the forseeable future. Big market teams, who can offer bigger contracts, plenty of endorsement deals, and the appeal of the big-city nightlife, are winning the battle of acquiring the biggest names the NBA has to offer. So for the Denver Nuggets, or teams like them, what do they do to compete and stay relevant? They do what they have done over the last couple of years, and GM Masai Ujiri is a man who understands this.
Heading into the 2012-3013 season, which by the way begins in late October, both conferences have a few teams with the spotlight on them. In the East, it’s the typical teams who fans expect to be the cream of the crop. Miami, of course, will begin the defense of their championship. Boston will once again be in the mix. New York will get plenty of attention, because Carmelo will demand that like he always does. Chicago should get Derrick Rose back at some point to potentially be a factor as well. In the West though, it’s kind of already been narrowed down to two teams….Oklahoma City and the Lakers. The Thunder showed last year that they are just about ready to take that next step and maybe become a champion. The experience of playing Miami in the NBA Finals may prove to have been a necessary step in their journey to gold. They will be bringing every relevant player back this year, and should have the hunger to win their first championship. The Lakers on the other hand, saw exactly this, and did what they always seem to do….find a way to crash the party. Oklahoma City dominated L.A. in the playoffs last year, and it was obvious to everyone that the Lakers had to do something before becoming yesterday’s news. Early in the summer, they landed Steve Nash, which was a nice move and improved their point guard situation. Nash is an aging guard, but his smarts and passing ability are still some of the NBA’s best. Acquiring Steve from Phoenix improved the Lakers slightly. The next move is the one that shook the NBA world, and may do so for years to come. Dwight Howard becoming a Laker elevated L.A. to championship caliber status, and told everyone in the league that they want to win right now. We have all seen the probable starting lineup for this coming season. Kobe, Nash, Howard, Gasol, and Metta World Peace. Frigh…ten…ing…….you, me, and three other guys at the rec center could be their bench players and the Lakers should still win 60 games. The bottom line is, it appears that the Thunder and Lakers have positioned themselves to be the two teams to wage war and see which one ends up in the NBA Finals. So where does that leave the Denver Nuggets?
The Denver Nuggets are in a bad position, and potentially a great one, all at the same time. They do lack the star power that the big market teams do have, as the NBA has proven to be a star driven league. However, they seem to have several players who are young and getting better. Ty Lawson is a budding star and should be an all-star this year. Young pups like Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried have the look of a couple of players who should just get better as they get older. Wilson Chandler is still young, and coming back from an injury-riddled year, should show his overall versatility. JaVale McGee, who is now signed long-term, has been working on his offensive game this summer. The sky is the limit as to how good he can become. Don’t know if you noticed, but Timofey Mozgov had an outstanding Olympics, and will hopefully bring that newfound game to Denver this year. The trade that made Andre Iguodala a Nugget will be extremely interesting to see develop. An all-star in Philadelphia, Iguodala has improved every year he has been in the NBA. He is one of the most complete players the league has to offer, and is still under 30 years of age. Iguodala has the talent to make this Denver Nuggets team a scary one to face. In Denver, he will have the chance to be the premier scorer, and the go-to guy, which is something this team has lacked for quite some time. GM Masai Ujiri has loaded this Nuggets roster with athletic, versatile players, who can be matchup nightmares for opposing teams. This team will not have much of a spotlight on them as the NBA season begins, which should allow them to grow together and be very dangerous as the year progresses.
Realistically, can this Denver Nuggets team challenge the likes of L.A. and Oklahoma City? Most experts would say no. They have no superstars, and they lack big-time experience deep in the playoffs that those other teams have. But there is a reason they play the games, and decide things on the court, and not on paper. In a seven game series, the Nuggets may not end up knocking off either of those teams in the West, but can they make it interesting and put a real scare into them? It’s a long season, and Denver has the potential and the talent to be a surprise force in the Western Conference.
Denver Sports by J Simp