Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Nuggets Year in Review

That Spurs series made me sick. Literally. I got the flu during the Nuggets collapse Game 5. What happened? How could we only score 11 points in one quarter? In short, AI happened. The Answer, from the old Philly days, showed up to lead Denver to another first round playoff loss. AI couldn't figure out what was wrong, how he could miss so many "easy" shots. It was obvious to everyone but him. Denver (or should I say AI) abandoned any semblance of an offense. They resorted to simply watching Iverson pound the rock for 21 seconds, followed by him attempting get off an impossible layup before the shot clock expired with Horry, Duncan, and Bowen all trying to block his shot. These were the "easy" shots that Ivo was missing.

So now that this crazy little season for the Nuggets is a wrap. Let's have a look back at the year.


Things look good for the defending Midwest Division Champs. Melo had a huge summer, shining in the World Championships for the mighty US of A. Camby was healthy. Nene was very healthy, as in about 40 pounds too healthy (plus he was also sporting a fantastic afro / beard combo in training camp. I don't know how many of you saw this, but picture Josh Childress' fro with Baron Davis' beard. Yep, it was that awesome). K-Mart was back from his injury and by all accounts had done a complete 180 in his attitude. That is to say, Pepsi Center employees didn't run in terror at the mere sight of him anymore. We also picked up superfreak athlete JR Smith for next to nothing, and he can shoot. We finally had an outside shooter! The team looked ripe for improvement.

Regular Season-

Highlights -

Melo's continued emergence -

I know people still want to hate on Melo about his attitude and the Slapfight at MSG. But they are wrong. His attitude is outstanding. He is a hard worker who wants to get better, and wants to win. And let's be honest about the slapfight.... it was just a slapfight. I don't know what it is about NBA players that scares the majority of America, but apparently them fighting is one step below terrorism and one step above Mike Tyson on the national terror scale. That fight was definitely not as bad as the media played it out to be, and certainly not worthy of the 6th longest suspension in NBA history for Melo. Vernon Maxwell ran into the stands and punched a guy, he only got a 10 game suspension. Allen Houston is the second highest paid player in the NBA right now.... I don't know what that has to do with this, but I feel like someone should be suspended for those types of actions.

On the court Melo raised his averages in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and kept up his shooting %'s from last season. He made the All-Star team finally and finished second in the league in scoring. Yet he still received criticism from local media. I don't get it. If Melo can develop a consistent 3 point shot, he will be pretty much unstoppable.

AI coming to Denver -

This was one of the most exciting trades in Denver sports in a long time. Probably since the Avalanche traded for Patrick Roy (except in that case it was the Avs first year in Colorado, and no one even knew how to correctly pronounce Roy's name, let alone that he was the greatest goalie alive). It created national buzz for the Nuggets, gave us one of the top 20 players of all-time for probably half of what he was worth, and with AI and Melo together, I think it instantly made the Nuggets the favorite team of about 90% of all rappers alive. Plus AI and Melo became the 2nd coolest duo of all time. Who's the coolest you ask?

Nene's development -

It took about 2/3 of a season, but Nene finally started living up to the potential that all of us Nuggets fans had seen over the last few seasons. If Nene can continue to improve at the level he was this season, he could be an All-Star caliber player in the next few years. He's only 24 years old. He's big, athletic, physical, and if he can create a flow of hot Brazilian immigrant girls to the Denver Metro Area, that is definitely not a bad thing.

Camby's DPOY -

Marcus Camby finally got some recognition for his outstanding defensive play the last few years. Here is the trade that brought us Marcus back in June of '02. We traded Antonio McDyess, the rights to Frank Williams, and a 2nd round pick in '03 for Marcus Camby, Mark Jackson, and the rights to Nene. Wow. The funny thing was that the Knicks felt like they got the better end of that trade at the time. If only we could always trade with the Knicks....

Marcus was outstanding again this year. He stayed healthy for the most part, led the league in blocks, and was tied for 4th in rebounding, and finished the year voted to the NBA's All Defensive Team, and the Defensive Player of the Year, and also kept the absolute thinnest mustache in the history of mankind. It's hard to ask for more than that from your starting center.

JR Smith -

A lot of people are down on JR right now. But let's remember the positives from him this year. He averaged 13 ppg, made 149 threes on the season while shooting 39%, and we only had to give up 2 second round picks and Howard Eisley to get him. For years we have desperately needed a shooter, and when he was playing and shooting well, the Nuggets we're just about unstoppable.

Lowlights -

The Brawl -

I already talked about the absurdity of the reaction to this fight. But it did drastically effect our season. First of all our best player was suspended for nearly 1/5th of the season. I think that JR Smith's development and confidence took a serious blow during his 10 game suspension too. On a positive note, the suspensions pretty much forced the Iverson trade to go down though. So it wasn't completely bad. That said, Iverson played his first 13 games as a Nugget without Carmelo. Who would have thought that one little slap could cause such problems for a whole team and it's season. But as both Charlie Murphy and Rick James know.... you don't just slap a man without some consequences.

The Injuries -

Once again the Nuggets had a ton of injuries. We lost K-Mart for the season after the 2nd game, we lost Iverson for a long stretch mid-year, Camby missed 12 games (which is actually pretty good for him), Najera and Smith both missed stretches of games, Nene missed games, and even Carmelo missed a few. It would be nice to see what the Nuggets could do if things actually went well for once and we were healthy and suspension free for an entire year. It would also be nice to see Jessica Alba naked in my shower.... but some things just aren't likely to happen.

The Playoffs -

After winning the first game people across this great nation thought the Nuggets would pull off the upset. Or at the very least we would produce an epic series that would go to 6 or 7 games. But in the end the Spurs made us play their game, controlled the tempo, and wore us down for another 5 game series win. On a positive note, any of the first four games could have gone to the Nuggets. But this isn't soccer or hockey, and there are no points for almost winning games. I do think the Nuggets learned some valuable lessons. We are edging ever closer to that elusive playoff series win. But the bottom line is that to win in the West you almost have to get a top 4 seed. So that means more wins in November - March = more wins in April - June. Unless you play the Mavericks.

JR Smith -

Such a promising start of the year. Remember back before the suspensions when JR was averaging over 16ppg and Melo was getting 32. At any time you could see JR go off for 27, 31, even 33 points. And that was before halftime. I was at the Heat game early in the year when he was absolutely unstoppable. I think he had seven 3's in the first half alone, scored about 20 in the second quarter, he was almost exploding with confidence. Then he was suspended. Then he gets back and is trying to fit in with AI and tears his knee up. By the end of the year he was a shadow of his early season self, culminating in the spectacularly awful display against the Spurs. He's only 21 though, and hopefully he can get that swagger back. Because with him, Nene, and Carmelo we have a pretty amazing core that is all under the age of 24.

Next Season -

Rule #1 for next year. No fighting. At least not with Darth Stern watching.

I think that Iverson is going to have to change his game as he gets older. He is still one of the quickest players in the league, but eventually he's going to lose a step. He has to learn how to create for teammates a little better. His ideal stats for Denver would be 22 ppg, 9+ assists, and under 18 shots per game. If he's doing that every night then we will be tough to beat.

We have to make a decision about Steve Blake. I'm sure we'd like to resign the guy but I don't know if we are going to be willing to pay what some other teams will. And it didn't help that Anthony Carter looked better than Blake in game 5 against the Spurs. We can get AC on the cheap and not lose much from what Steve Blake gives us. That said, if we can resign Blake for a reasonable amount I think we should do it.

Obviously something has to be done with the salary cap. We are already over the luxury tax threshold for next year. A popular opinion has been to move Camby for another shooter and perhaps some draft picks or a backup big. Some names I've heard are Matt Carroll, Charlie Bell, and Mo Pete to name a few. I'd love to have Carroll. He's a legit shooter who's probably a below average defender, but who cares about defense right. We definitely need a reliable outside threat who can alleviate some of the pressure from AI, Melo and Nene though. Maybe we could fish JJ Redick out of Orlando. It would have to be some kind of a 3 way trade since the Magic don't need a big man, but I doubt that it would be JJ's first 3 way.

I honestly think this team is close. We started to gel the last 20 games of the year and I really felt like we could have handled any team but the Spurs in the first round. I'd like to see the team they have play a whole season together and see how good they can be.

So ideally here's what I'd like to see happen. I think the Nuggets should trade Reggie Evans and a 2nd round pick for Matt Carroll, resign Steve Blake, keep Camby and pay the luxury tax. Screw you if you think it's unrealistic! Kroenke's out there trying to buy one of the largest soccer clubs in the world, he can obviously handle a little extra tax. Just sell some Walmart stock and handle it Stan.


JD said...

Your season review is incomplete without mentioning the continuing emergence of George Karl as a) highly overrated and b) the wrong man to lead this team.

GK got completely pantsed by Popovich in the playoffs. While Pop was making in-game moves (like going small when Melo got his 4th foul in the third quarter of game 4, leading to a quick 7-0 Spurs run--and the lead), Karl was sticking to the forumla that got the team on a hot streak at the end of the year....even though it was clearly NO LONGER WORKING. Why? Because Popovich *adjusted* after Game 1, something GK seems incapable of.

Prime playoff example--his insistence on sticking with his 8-man rotation, despite the fact that Kleiza and JR were clearly not ready for prime-time. How about rotating in Reggie Evans--leading rebounder per minute in the NBA--for 15 minutes of post defense, rebound gobbling, and 6 physical fouls to harass Duncan? How about giving Diawara--alleged defensive specialist--a shot in containing Ginobli? As soon as JR Smith entered the game, Pop ran the offense through Ginobli, who repeatedly undressed JR. GK's reaction? More of the same. Then he scapegoats JR in the media--way to throw one of the bright young talents on our team under the bus, George. HORRIBLE leadership, and Melo commented in the press that it was b.s.

Iverson had a bad series, indeed, but our 5 was clearly better than their 5. The series was lost on the bench--theirs killed ours....the players, yes, but especially the coach.

Commish CH said...

I'd say let Blake leave, sign some dude from Europe or keep Anthony Carter. One thing that is concerning is Melo has another round with USA basketball this summer. I love me some Team USA, but you have to wonder if Melo gets worn down.

Watch out for ol' Kroenke. Rumor was the Rapids were this close to changing the name to 'Arsenal Colorado' when he bought into English team. Would hate to see the Nugs become Denver United or some sh*t.

JT said...


I agree that Karl was awful in the playoffs. I mentioned last week about him getting his ass handed to him by Popavich. He was definitely wrong in the way he handled JR also. There was no reason to let everyone in the world know he was benching him. Karl has a history of building up teams and then underachieving with them (see Seattle and Milwaukee).

But who would you want in place of Karl? I doubt Phoenix will let us have D'Antoni back. Who else is out there that you would rather have coaching the Nuggs?

Hallux Valgus said...

Commish- Denver Basket Racing, perhaps?

Speaking of foreigners, Jasikevicius can opt out of his contract this year, and he's happier sitting on the bench for a running team (GS) than playing for a boring team (Indy). And he can shoot, supposedly. I say we replace Blake with him, so at least we maintain our white guy ratio.

Darkness into Light, Kyle and Stef said...

Nice post. Sorry about the Spurs and the flu...

The San Antonio Express-News linked to your blog to let us know all about it...

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