As new rumors swirl every day about the Denver Nuggets and Carmelo Anthony, the word rebuilding almost always leak into the article. And along with that comes the idea that the Nuggets are going to trade veteran leader Chauncey Billups.
However, many of the rumors have been premature as sources close to Denver’s organization recently told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports that the Nuggets would be more inclined to keep Billups. It still didn’t stop Wojnarowski from taking a shot at the Nuggets and their front office. He has been the frontrunner (slightly in front of Ric Bucher and Ken Berger) in predicting Denver’s demise. He highlighted points that Kenyon Martin (who has missed 40 games in the last two season) and Chris Andersen (who reportedly is healthy enough to play in the opener) will be hurt to start the season. Even though Al Harrington is the best reserve big man the Nuggets have had since they Camby, Nene and Martin were all healthy. And Shelden Williams is a better player utilized to replace Martin than any of backups last season.
He did bring up a good point about the Nuggets core all playing in their last season (even though it is doubtful Nene will opt out of his contract and Denver will probably work on extensions for Arron Afflalo and Billups) and George Karl’s health. One thing lots of fans tend to forget that while Mark Warkentien was a very good general manager, he also was very friendly and open with the media – which won a lot of journalists over and many were unhappy when he was let go. Warkentien did also have his flaws, building a talented team with inconsistent effort as the Nuggets showed last season that is very rarely pointed out by the media.
Smart move or not, it’s not hard to see why keeping Billups is important to the Nuggets. He has been the MVP for the squad the previous two seasons. Does he have the statistics that Anthony has? No, but he proves he knows how to win. It wasn’t a coincidence that as soon as Billups was acquired Denver advanced out of the first round and into the Western Conference Finals. Not to mention the win-loss difference when he is on the floor and when he isn’t:
- 65 percent – The Nuggets have won 65 percent of their games over the last two seasons
- 80 percent – Since Billups joined Denver, the Nuggets have won 80 percent of the games that he has played in
- 35 percent – Denver has won only 35 percent of the games that he has missed
- 66 percent - The Nuggets won 66 percent of their games with Melo on the floor
- 62 percent – Without Anthony, Denver has still found a way to win. Winning 18 of 29 games.
Now keeping Billups is not a foregone conclusion, because it depends a lot on what the Nuggets get in return for Anthony – if they trade him and to who. But looking at the roster, adding potential players to replace Anthony and with Billups in charge don’t count on the Nuggets not being a competitive team.
He did wear down last season, but it was partly to blame with how Denver’s assistant coach Adrian Dantley used him. Instead of letting Billups rest throughout the game Dantley was prone to use him more since he trusted him, but with Ty Lawson in his second season expect Billups to play similar minutes to Steve Nash and a few more minutes off the ball with Lawson beside him.