Pretty Much Screwed: The Denver Nuggets

  • Joe Levine

Welcome to “Pretty Much Screwed,” our 2012-13 guide to the upcoming NBA season, in which we identify the reasons why your favorite team might have to start looking forward to 2013-2014 — and highlight at least one reason for you to be hopeful. Today: the aptly-named Denver Nuggets.

Top to bottom, there probably isn’t a deeper, more talented team than the Denver Nuggets. I really like their one-two punch at point guard with spark plug Ty Lawson and crafty assist machine Andre Miller. Their shooting guards and small forwards are the most versatile in the league, coming fully-loaded with Corey Brewer, rookie Evan Fournier, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Galinari, and newly-acquired Andre Iguodala. Their big men range from wild (Kenneth Faried, Anthony Randolph), to goofy (Kosta Koufos, Timofey Mozgov), to both (Javale McGee).

And what can you say about George Karl that hasn’t already been said?

So what’s the problem? What’s holding this team back?

There’s only so far a team without a clear-cut number one guy can go.

Sorry, Nuggets fans, but it’s true. When big games were on the line, every NBA champion ever has had a clear-cut go-to guy to bail them. Yes, even the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons. How do you think Chauncey Billups became “Mr. Big Shot”?

Without that clear go-to guy, the Nuggets find themselves in a very strange position; they’re good enough as is to win over 50 games this year and probably good enough to get to the second round of the playoffs depending on a first round matchup. But beyond that? Not likely.

When the going gets tough in the NBA playoffs and the games slow down, you need a horse you can ride to the finish line. That’s why even the 2011 Dallas Mavericks were able to take down the better-on-paper Miami Heat to win a ring. When the going got tough and the Heat were busy taking turns among their Big 3, the Mavs climbed on Dirk Nowitzki’s back and rode him home. And what happened the very next year when Miami stopped messing around and made LeBron James their number one while Oklahoma City was busy trying to figure out whether it was Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook’s turn to shoot? Come on, don’t make me actually say it.

One reason you might not be screwed: The very same depth that should be the Nuggets’ undoing may also prove to be the thing that pushes them over the top. With so many young, talented players, one may emerge to become that go-to guy the Nuggets need. Galinari has shown flashes of brilliance in the past, as has Chandler and Lawson. McGee has turned into a real, solid center in Denver after years of being the NBA’s unofficial jester out in Washington, maybe he’s the one that makes the leap.

Or maybe Denver puts a few of their pieces together and trades for a player who can be “the man.” No idea who that player might be (the nearest candidate I can see is Sacramento guard Tyreke Evans, who is just two years removed from being Rookie Of The Year, but is already somehow on the outs with the Kings), but it’s an option. With a little luck, maybe Russell Westbrook demands a trade?

Actual season prediction: The Nuggets are a good team, and one deep enough to overcome one or more injuries to key players. With their current roster, I anticipate them getting to 50 wins and a late first round/early second round exit in the playoffs. Not a bad season, but not a great one either. Oh well, it’s better than being horrible. Enjoy it while you can, Denver!

Read the rest of our NBA previews here.

Photos via Getty