Welcome to “Pretty Much Screwed,” our definitive guide to the upcoming NBA season. This team-by-team preview details why it’s probably not your favorite team’s year. Next up: the Denver Nuggets, a team that traded its superstar for parts and now will need to trade its parts for a superstar.
Let’s get two things out of the way: As with all of these previews, the Nuggets are screwed because they’re not good enough to win a championship and everyone knows it. Also, yes, ha ha, you can smoke weed legally in Colorado nowadays. Despite what you may think about JaVale McGee, weed’s legalization has nothing to do with the fact that the Nuggets won’t win a title.
The Nuggets are screwed for the same reason they were screwed last year: They have good players, not great players.
Bonus reason: They lost two of their best defenders and replaced them with J.J. Hickson, Nate Robinson and other inconsequential pieces. That constitutes a massive step backwards.
Throughout the 2012 season, the media were in awe of the fact that the Nuggets were succeeding without an elite player. They were playing team basketball. They had several borderline All-Stars — no actual All-Stars — that complemented each other well. They were fun to watch, and this team success helped Denver surprise the pundits on their way to securing the third seed out west. It was a testament to turning a troubled superstar situation (Carmelo Anthony is now New York’s problem) into a successful team.
Then they got ousted by the Warriors in the first round.
Along with having lost Danilo Gallinari to an ACL injury (which will keep him out until the middle of this year at the earliest), the Nuggets finally came up against the “no great player” wall. It’s the wall that LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant have helped their teams overcome — when the game is on the line, and you need buckets and stops, to whom do you turn? For the Nuggets, that’s been Andre Miller, Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler. All due respect, these guys can’t carry a team. They can certainly help! But they aren’t the guy.
The Nuggets need a guy. The guy. And they’ll only get a guy if they’re willing to give up some of what made them “good” (but not great) and “fun” (but not great) last year.
The Nuggets have pieces that they can trade. Kenneth Faried is a rebounding and hustle beast. Danilo, when healthy, could be a legit number two option. Will anyone be willing to give up their superstar for what the Nuggets have? Denver residents better hope so, because it’s their only chance of turning regular season success into postseason triumph.
And just a comment on that “bonus reason” from up top: the Nuggets let their best on-the-ball defender walk, and they’ll have to hope Nate Robinson’s buckets can overcome that deficit? Good luck with that.
We didn’t even get to replacing George Karl with Brian Shaw. Bad call.
Three things to know about the Nuggets:
1. Not even Andre Miller thinks last year’s success is repeatable.
2. The Manimal is packin’.
3. Apparently some people thought Brian Shaw would bring Phil Jackson to Denver as an assistant coach? Good one.
Actual season prediction: 45-37, 8th in the West.
Photo via Getty