That was the question that many among the Denver Nuggets were asking this offseason after the team was ousted in the Western Conference Finals by the Lakers.
Some will say Denver was two inbound passes away from winning the series and others will say the Lakers have arguably the best coach of all-time in Phil Jackson and the best player in the league in Kobe Bryant. Oh and don’t forget the bigs up front – Andrew Bynum, All-Star Pau Gasol and Ron Artest and arguably the best sixth man in Lamar Odom.
And after an offseason of standing pat, have the Nuggets shortened the distance between the two teams and can they stay with the Lakers in a seven-game series?
- KOBE – There is only one Kobe in the league and needless to say the Lakers have him. Bryant is about as stoppable as there is in the league and he also plays hurt.
- ZEN MASTER – Phil Jackson has 10 titles to his name, six with the Bulls and four with the Lakers. Hard to name a better coach in the league.
- LENGTH- One thing the Lakers have to their advantage over the Nuggets is their size. In fact no other teams have a more-talented 7-footer duo. Pau’s length and offensive and defensive repertoire has been huge, same for Bynum. Not to mention Odom, who is a versatile 6-foot-10 player that can play numerous positions.
- NO DAHNTAY – Dahntay Jones was a nice role player for the Nuggets. Starting the game, Jones would frustrate opposing teams’ players like Chris Paul, Kobe and even D-Wade. However, this year Arron Afflalo has overtaken Jones’s place in the lineup but he doesn’t have Dahntay’s fiery attitude that got under opposing players skin.
- THAT’S THE LAW, SON – Despite a smallish 6-foot frame, Ty Lawson may be the big man to get the Nuggets past the Lakers. Can anybody on the Lakers stay with the speedster, definitely not ancient Derek Fisher. But can Jordan Farmar or Shannon Brown? Or even Sasha Vujacic?
- 1-0 – Denver won the lone matchup between the two squads with a 105-79 shellacking. Kobe Bryant struggled with only 19 points in the contest and the Lakers were without Pau Gasol.
- K-MART – Kenyon Martin is having his best season in a Nuggets jersey. K-Mart has shown added toughness, ripping down at least eight boards in 20 of the previous 21 games. He also has more adapt offensive repertoire and is hitting a consistent range to go with his aggressive defense.
- MR. BIG SHOT – Chauncey Billups has been playing out of his mind over the previous month and his winning attitude continues to radient through the Nuggets locker room.
- AAA- Afflalo has settled into his role on the Nuggets, a nice spot-up shooter that works well off of Melo and Billups. He also plays tough defense and works hard on the glass.
- MELOMAN – While Carmelo Anthony has dealt with injuries this season, he is also posting his best season of his career with 29.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
The scouting reports are out
- LOST IN THE FLOCK – Chris Andersen caught the league by surprise last season, however, this year is different as team’s have a scouting report on the Birdman. And at the top of the list is he falls for pump fakes and upfakes (see Manu Ginobili, Brandon Bass and Craig Smith). He also doesn’t run out on three-point shooters (Andres Nocioni and Channing Frye).
- BIG SOFTIE – No doubt, ‘The Brazilian Hammer’ has been through a lot as he fought through testicular cancer. Last season he surprised many with his play and while he may be the best passing big man in the league he also is one of the softests refusing to dunk on most big guys.
- SWISH – It seems like it has been a long time since JR has been the unstoppable player off the bench, as Smith’s head has bounced around from scoring 41 points one night with seven treys or drawing blanks from behind the arc.
- MR. KOOL – Renaldo Balkman was a fan favorite last season with his attitude, hustle and play on the court, but off the court the Nuggets’ coaches questioned his work ethic and intelligence. Balkman hasn’t seen the court in over three months and most likely won’t seen the floor anytime soon.