Denver, CO. We all know the situation in the Western Conference of the National Basketball Association. Because of how the Thunder finished this past June, and what the Lakers have done during the offseason, these two teams are the lopsided favorites to face each other for conference supremacy. It only makes sense too, as Oklahoma City is loaded with young talent all over their roster, and L.A. has acquired a couple of stars at point guard and at center. So it is a forgone conclusion that come next spring, it will be Thunder and the Lakers to battle it out in a best of seven game series to see which squad will move on to the Finals. This may seem like a dreary, no-win proposition for anyone else out west, and quite honestly, it could end up being that way. The NBA is a star driven league, and these two teams have the most stars. So for the Denver Nuggets, what do they have to do to even enter the conversation come May and hopefully June? First things first, so the regular season goal has to be something that they have not been able to do in a long time…..Find a way to finish with a top 4 seed come playoff time next April.
Why is ending up with a top 4 seed so important? First of all, it lets everyone across the NBA know that you are a legit team and one that has to be dealt with. For the Nuggets, it is crucial that they accomplish this. Although they have made the playoffs in each of the past nine seasons, they have been bounced out of the post-season in the first round in eight of those years. Why is this? Because they have typically begun the playoffs somewhere in the #5-#8 seed range, which means the Nuggets are beginning the journey on the road. It also means Denver has faced teams that are generally better than they have been, so winning a first round series has only happened once in the last nine years. They truly do have the talent to finish in the top 4 in the west now, and there is absolutely no excuse for them not to. Every single move they made during this offseason was brilliant, from re-signing Andre Miller, to locking up JaVale McGee long-term, to the big trade that landed Andre Iguodala. The Nuggets consolidated their roster, tightened the screws, and got better in the process. Iguodala has every opportunity to flourish in a Denver uniform, and the type of offense that he will be part of should only make him better than he has ever been. This team, which has been put together primarily by Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke, is a terrific blend of crazy athleticism and versatile talent. Ty Lawson is on the verge of becoming a perennial all-star, Kenneth Faried is the bull inside, and guys like Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler offer some nice length on the perimeter. When things get a little hairy, Andre Miller can come in off the bench and calm things down with his veteran presence. If there is any team in this conference that can put a serious scare into Oklahoma City and L.A., it’s Denver. The Spurs and Mavs are fading away, and the Clippers and Grizzlies are missing some key pieces to be taken seriously. The Nuggets have it all. It’s just going to be a question of if they can come together and combine their talents to be a force this season.
Denver may very well lose a few games to the Lakers and Thunder during this upcoming regular season. That’s okay. What they need to be concerned about is not letting a top 4 seed slip away. This team is too talented from top to bottom to not expect that sort of thing at the end of the regular season. On paper, the Nuggets are the third best team in the conference. It’s that simple. They should finish second in the Northwest Division behind Oklahoma City, and win somewhere between 52 and 58 games. Can they even be considered a threat to the top two in the west next spring? Too early and it would be naive to say yes for sure. However, with their talent and hunger heading into this season, it would also be naive to definitely say no.
Denver Sports by J Simp