Revisiting the last seven years

The Nuggets have a streak of seven straight playoff appearances, going back to the 2003-04 season. However, during that tenure they have only made it out of the first round once. Over those seven years the Nuggets have posted a 16-30 postseason record, with 10 of those wins coming in the 2009 playoffs. And for a franchise that was on a 10-year playoff drought,  it was refreshing to take the next step in 2004.

  • 2004 Playoffs: OPPONENT: Minnesota Timberwolves. REGULAR SEASON RECORD: 43-39, eighth place. KEY PLAYERS: Marcus Camby, Nene, Carmelo Anthony, Voshon Lenard, Andre Miller, Francisco Elson, Chris Andersen, Rodney White, Jon Barry, Earl Boykins.  PLAYOFF RESULT: 1-4. REGULAR SEASON SUMMARY: In Jeff Bzdelik’s second season as coach, he not only got to coach one of the top rookies but also a veteran point guard duo. Melo made all the hype worth it as he averaged 21 points a game and over six rebounds a contest to lead the new revamped Nuggets to the playoffs. POSTSEASON SUMMARY: Nobody expected the young eighth-seeded Nuggets to upset the top-seeded T-Wolves. Denver dropped the first two games of the series, but won the third big time before losing Game 4 in a heartbreaker and getting knocked out in Game 5 in Minnesota. While a 4-1 exit was disappointing, it wasn’t a bad return to the playoffs for the Nuggets – especially considering it was the start of a new beginning for this frachise.  OFF-SEASON MOVES:  BEST: Adding a veteran like Byron Russell to a young squad and signing Dermarr Johnson cheap were two helpful moves. WORST: Part A) Offering Kenyon Martin the max Part B) Drafting Jameer Nelson and than trading him for a future pick. While the Nuggets didn’t need Nelson, Anderson Varajeo, Kevin Martin and Trevor Ariza were each available and could help the team now.
  • 2005 Playoffs: OPPONENT: San Antonio Spurs. REGULAR SEASON: 49-33, seventh seed. KEY PLAYERS: Camby, Martin, Anthony, Johnson, Miller, Nene, Eduardo Najera, Russell, Wesley Person, Boykins. PLAYOFF RESULTS: 1-4.  REGULAR SEASON RECORD: While the Nuggets lack of success stretches over the last seven years, it should be cut off at six because that was when this Denver squad started to take shape. The team struggled early, partly due to new players having new roles and also ‘Melo’s struggles with maturity. Bzdelik was fired early in the season, Michael Cooper stepped in and was just as unsuccessful before George Karl was signed as coach and guided the Nuggets to win 25 of their final 29 games. The season also saw Lenard go down early and the Nuggets traded for Najera to bring an energy player. Despite all the ups and downs, the Nuggets won five more games than the year before. POSTSEASON: While it was a year of transformation, Denver was also the last team anybody wanted to face in the playoffs. The Nuggets proved that by beating the Spurs in Game 1 in San Antonio to open the series. But the Spurs, who went on to win the NBA title, won the next two games and needed overtime to win Game 4 before closing the series with a Game 5 win. It wasn’t the ideal end to a very promising season as Martin questioned Coach Karl’s moves and got into with some of the media in the locker room. OFF-SEASON MOVES: This was a summer of WTFs and all of the Nuggets were questioned and rightfully so. What could have been blamed was the transformation in the front office. Kiki Vandeweghe was fired, replaced by Mark Warkentien and Rex Chapman. The Nuggets biggest need was shooting and Denver missed out in numerous attempts to get one. Denver selected first-round bust Julius Hodge (Hodge’s biggest weakness was shooting) over Francisco Garcia and Monta Ellis. They than traded Jarrett Jack (who they drafted with the 22nd pick) for Kleiza (28th) and Ricky Sanchez (35th pick). Kleiza at the time was considered a second rounder and Sanchez shouldn’t have been drafted. Andray Blatche, David Lee, Jason Maxiell and Ronny Turiaf were all available. When they got into the free agent market they signed Earl Watson, who was the third point guard, with the mid-level exception. And yet no shooter was on the roster.
  • 2006 Playoffs: OPPONENT: Los Angeles Clippers. REGULAR SEASON RECORD: 44-38, third seed. KEY PLAYERS: Camby, Martin, Anthony, Buckner, Miller, Reggie Evans, Eduardo Najera, Ruben Patterson, Boykins. PLAYOFF RESULTS: 1-4.  SEASON SUMMARY: This was arguably the worst season of the seven playoff runs. The Nuggets won the Northwestern Conference, but were still one of the worst teams in the playoffs. They lost Nene a game into the season and traded Earl Watson and Voshon Lenard for Reggie Evans and Ruben Patterson, but still didn’t fill their need for a shooter. They lost five more games the previous year and was arguably the weakest team in the playoffs. POSTSEASON SUMMARY: The Clippers took advantage of the Nuggets lack of shoter in the first round. As they doubled and tripled teamed Anthony and his frustration showed throughout the series. Buckner was brought in as a defensive-stopper and was the Nuggets best shooter, but he couldn’t hit the trey consistently or stop the opposing team. Again there was tension in the locker room as Patterson got into it with Coach Karl and Boykins questioned Anthony’s play. OFF-SEASON MOVES: GOOD MOVES: GOOD:  This may have been the Nuggets best offseason because they worked to improve their weaknesses, they first added their shooter and they did it cheap, trading the rights to Howard Eisley and a couple second round pick for the young and talented JR Smith. They also traded Patterson, who had run-ins with Coach Karl for a former top pick and a true professional Joe Smith. Denver also added defensive stopper Yakhouba Diawara. BAD: Once again Denver made questionable moves in the draft. They drafted injury-prone Leon Powe, but yet traded him away to the Boston Celtics where he was a key part of helping the Celtics win the title. The Nuggets also overpaid Evans.
  • 2007 Playoffs: OPPONENT: San Antonio Spurs. REGULAR SEASON RECORD: 45-37, sixth seed. KEY PLAYERS: Camby, Nene, Anthony, Allen Iverson, Steve Blake, Najera, Linas Kleiza, JR Smith. PLAYOFF  RESULTS: 1-4. REGULAR SEASON SUMMARY: It was an up and down season for the Nuggets, they were exciting to watch but still were wreckless. First off the bad, Martin went down with a season-ending injury two games into the season and than the Nuggets got involved in a brawl in December with the Knicks – which resulted in Anthony being suspended for 15 games for throwing a punch, Smith was suspended for 10 for his part in the altercation and Nene was out for one game for leaving the bench. With Smith and Anthony suspended the Nuggets made a blockbuster trade for Iverson (dealing away Miller and Joe Smith and a few draft picks) and than dealt Boykins for Blake. With Iverson and Anthony in the lineup the Nuggets went 25-20 to place sixth. The team won one more game than the previous year. POSTSEASON: The Nuggets finally started to click into the playoffs and once again they beat the Spurs to open the playoffs, but once again San Antonio went on to win the next four games. However, unlike before the Nuggets were in each game. Nene made life tough on Tim Duncan in the series and went head-to-head with the All-Star. But their lack of bench hurt. The Nuggets lost Game 2 by nine points, but their second unit was outscored 30-7. They lost Game 3 by five points but the bench was outscored by 21 points. Game 4 was very similar as Denver was outscored by 18.  Game 5, JR Smith was suspended which pretty much ended the Nuggets chance at rallying. Iverson had his worst playoff series, missing open layups and struggling against the Spurs’ defensive-stopper Bruce Bowen. OFF-SEASON MOVES: The Nuggets were fairly quiet going into the offseason, their big move was signing Chucky Atkins to replace Blake which was another questionable move by the Nuggets considering the 5-foor-11 Atkins was considered the starting point guard to play next to Allen Iverson and his mighty 6-foot size. They than traded Evans in a salary dumping move for Steven Hunter and Bobby Jones.
  • 2008 Playoffs: OPPONENT: Los Angeles Lakers. REGULAR SEASON RECORD: 50-32, eighth seed. KEY PLAYERS: Marcus Camby, Kenyon Martin, Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, Anthony Carter, Eduardo Najera, Linas Kleiza, JR Smith. PLAYOFF RESULTS: 1-4. REGULAR SEASON SUMMARY: It was another up and down season for the Nuggets. They had to deal with injuries to Chucky Atkins and Nene, but Smith and Kleiza were each surprising players each giving the Nuggets a 40-plus game. The team’s talent helped the Nuggets win their most games (50-32) since 1984 and they were able to win three of the final four games to seal the eighth spot.  But it was a short celebration as the Nuggets had to face top-seeded Lakers in the opening round. POSTSEASON: It was a short and very disappointing first round for the Nuggets. They couldn’t find a way to stop Kobe Bryant, they started the series with the 6-foot-2 Carter on the MVP but Kobe just shot over him. Than the Nuggets moved K-Mart to guard Kobe, but that put AC in the post to guard Gasol and the Lakers took advantage of the size advantage. The only player that really shinned in the playoffs was Smith, who went head-to-head with Kobe in Game 4, which was the closest the Nuggets played the Lakers. OFF-SEASON MOVES: The Nuggets made yet, again some questionable moves to start the summer, but in the long run it paid off. First, they dealt Camby for $10 million trade exception and made a minor trade to get Renaldo Balkman. They also brought in Chris Andersen and Dahntay Jones as street free agents and two games into the season the Nuggets made the move of the season when they dealt AI for Chauncey Billups.
  • 2009 PLAYOFFS: OPPONENTS: Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Hornets and Lakers. REGULAR SEASON RECORD: 54-28, second seed. KEY PLAYERS: Nene, Martin, Anthony, Jones, Billups, Andersen, Kleiza, Smith, Carter. PLAYOFF RECORD: 10-6. REGULAR SEASON SUMMARY: Denver wasn’t even suppose to make the playoffs, but the Nuggets not only fought off the doubters but also their opponents. Most of the credit was given to Billups, rightfully so. But it was also the inspired pay of Nene, who returned from his bout with testicular cancer; Andersen, who returned from a 2-year suspension for violating the NBA’s league drug policy and Jones, who was still struggling to find a spot in the league. Anthony also gave the Nuggets early highlights by setting a NBA record for points in a quarter (32) against the Timberwolves. In the end the Nuggets set their franchise-best regular season record at 54-28. POSTSEASON: The Nuggets shook off their previous lack of success in the playoffs by controlling each series. In fact, they were the more aggressive team in each round, Jones frustrated Chris Paul in the opening round and the Nuggets went on to win the series 4-1 and than K-Mart bullied Dirk Nowitzki and Melo was at the top of his game as Denver cruised to a beat the Mavericks in five games. The Nuggets aggressive style let the Nuggets come within two points of taking Game 1 from the Lakers, but misfired inbound pass from Carter helped the Lakers squeak by with the win. Nuggets did steal Game 2, but the teams traded games in Denver but the Nuggets legs wore out after that.  OFF-SEASON MOVES: The Nuggets made some small moves, but some key ones as well. First, Denver traded into the draft to take Ty Lawson and than they traded for Arron Afflalo and finally resigned Chris Andersen. While all three were minor moves, they were big for this cost-cutting squad. The Nuggets also traded for Malik Allen.

We all know how the 2010 season played out (if not look below), but not all the seasons were bad and something to keep in mind:

  • 4- The Nuggets were knocked out by teams that went on to win the NBA Finals (Spurs twice, Lakers twice)

But the most constant thing over the last seven years was the Nuggets lack of success in the offseason and not filling a need (outside of 2006, 2008 and 2009). In 2004, Nuggets needed another scorer and brought K-Mart. 2005, Denver needed a shooter and they drafted Julius Hodge and signed Earl Watson. 2007, they needed a bigger point guard to play next to Allen Iverson and they signed Chucky Atkins. Hopefully this season the Nuggets don’t ignore their needs and find a replacement for JR Smith and get a big somehow.

  • 2010 PLAYOFFS: OPPONENT: Utah Jazz. REGULAR-SEASON RECORD: 53-29, fourth seed. KEY PLAYERS: Nene, Martin, Anthony, Afflalo, Billups, Andersen, Smith, Lawson. PLAYOFF RECORD: 2-4. REGULAR SEASON SUMMARY: The Nuggets started out hot, winning their first five games. And they were a force to be reckoned with, dominating some of the top teams in the League. Sweeping the series with the Cavaliers (2-0), winning the series with the Lakers (3-1) and cruising by the Jazz (3-1). But Denver struggled against some of the worst teams in the League at the same time. losing at the Clippers, Pistons, Kings (twice) and Wizards. They also lost to the Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers in Denver. The Nuggets were also hit hard with injures, losing K-Mart for 24 games, ‘Melo for 13 and Billups for nine. The worst injury of it all came at the end of February when Coach Karl said he was diagnosed with throat cancer and had to have radiation therapy.  Without Karl at the wheel the Nuggets coasted into the playoffs and got lucky when the Jazz lost to the Suns in the season finale and Denver got to host the first round, again. POSTSEASON: Nuggets held home-court advantage for the second season, but Adrian Dantley was in over his head against a veteran coach like Jerry Sloan, who took complete control of the series. Denver did win Game 1 and 4, but gave away Game 2 and got killed in Utah in Games 3 and 4.

Tags: Allen Iverson Carmelo Anthony Chauncey Billups Denver Nuggets George Karl Jeff Bzdelik JR Smith Nene Nuggets Playoffs

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