Last week, we revisited an article I wrote in the wake of the “Melo to the Knicks” trade, one which focused on the new-look that the Denver Nuggets had and how I was a fan. Needless to say, they’ve easily exceeded everyone’s expectations.
As of this writing, they’re 14-5, firmly positioned as the 2nd best team in the Western Conference, and riding on a 6-game winning streak as January draws to a close. Furthermore, the team continues to play an exciting style, leading the league in total scoring and demonstrating stellar consistency both at home and on the road.
Of course, this is all the result of the design and the individuals who put that all together. The schematic that Denver has drawn up and followed is simple: shun the league’s top ego-maniacs, acquire good-to-very good talent at every position, do that again, and then proceed to play unselfish basketball while running everyone else in the league out of the gym. The result is depth and versatility. Put a coach like George Karl (who has the highly-desired combination of basketball acumen and an ability to connect with players on a human level) out in charge of a group like that, and you’re in business.
With that in mind, it’s somewhat amazing that Denver was able to effectively keep that model intact in the always-fluctuating NBA scene. What’s even more amazing is that they’ve actually improved upon it. That’s right – they’re deeper. Additionally, they stand to regain the services of at least one of the three ex-Nuggets who are currently trapped in China (Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin, and Earl “J.R.” Smith). It’s incredible, really. It’s the type of planning, structure, and management that gets me legitimately excited (no, seriously).
The aforementioned machine is the result of the approach and collective mindset of the organization’s brain trust. Masai Ujiri (GM) and Josh Kroenke (president) have proven themselves to be a formidable combination, putting together well-thought out deals and making smart decisions seemingly over and over again. Instead of being left with nothing, they shipped Anthony off to New York and snatched up a bevy of talented players in the process (which, to be fair, is partially a testament to the idiocy that is the New York Knicks right now, but we know all about that). They got Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer for essentially nothing. They’ve signed everyone they’ve need to sign. If you want a thrill, have a gander at the link below (sent to me late one evening by none other than Hathwell himself):
It’s like the thinking man’s basketball fan’s pornography. Hell, as of now, that grid hasn’t even been updated to reflect the latest extensions signed by Danilo Gallinari and Kosta Koufus. The only major name not locked up through at least next year is Andre Miller, which is quite clever if you break it down. Miller is still a rock-solid and valuable veteran, but he’s 35 and he’s already indicated he doesn’t want to come back. So, just drop Miller from the list, add Chandler (who was emerging as a pretty damn effective scoring threat), and then entertain fantasies of the Nuggets picking up another PG. Of course, it’s not worth speculating who that could be, but if recent history is any indication, it’ll be a move that’ll make you go, “… man… that’s PERFECT.”
This year, the NBA chose to follow the Nuggets for their “The Association” series. It’s a departure from chronicling teams like the Celtics or the Lakers, who were both loaded with household names and in the mix for championships. However, if given the right amount of attention and focus, this season could be the most entertaining of them all. A seemingly inadvertent by-product of the team’s strategy for assembling personnel is the eclectic mix of personalities featured from “1-12,” so to speak…
– As an aside, I’d actually argue that said personalities are possibly taken into consideration when deciding who to sign, and that the lack of hero-worship and/or yes-men as it pertains to the lives of someone not on the level of, say, Carmelo Anthony, makes for a more dynamic individual… but that’s just some personal, psychoanalytic-theory shit from yours truly. –
… anyway, the group is loaded with international flavor, charismatic dudes like Al Harrington, and whatever or however you want to classify someone like “Birdman” Andersen (he sure as hell isn’t boring). As alluded to, George Karl is a man with an immense amount of life experience and perspective, so it’s almost natural that he leads this group. To me, it’s, like, a beautiful thing. Hell, they even have a great mascot in Rocky (the mountain lion), working around the fact that you can’t really personify or animalize nuggets of gold. Just look at this cat:
… tremendous! Probably only second to that Utah Jazz bear, simply because that motherfucker is legitimately crazy.
I wouldn’t go so far as to predict that the group is going to win it all or anything like that. Not this year, at least. However, when you take into consideration all of the variables and look at how young the team is, I really like them in the long-term. Remember, this ball is really just getting rolling here. Safe to say, I’m diggin’ Denver…
… although the sting of 1994 will never fully fade.
– Wes Lilliman
– “Like” the Sons on Facebook here. Also, Heidi, I know you’re interested, but I can’t be the man that Seal is. I’m sorry.