The Denver Nuggets wacky and wild 2011 season had to end some time.
The Nuggets had their fair share of highs and lows, and along the way they got better, bigger and younger.
If we want to recap the season, the fiasco started in June when the Nuggets offered Carmelo Anthony a contract extension (which he was hesitant to sign) and a month later rumors were leaked at his wedding about him joining Amar’e Stoudemire in New York. Denver made an effort to trade him to New Jersey before the season started, but the trade fell apart just days before training camp was to start.
The Nuggets battled to a 32-25 start and it became apparent during All-Star weekend that they will have to trade their superstar to New York. And behind the hard work Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke the duo milked everything they could from the Knicks and added young and competitive players that would help them in the near future as well as in the future.
The crew finished the season 18-7, but was slated against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were arguably the worst team it could face.
The Thunder play the same up and down style as the Nuggets, but only better. They proved that in Game 5 when they overcame a nine-point deficit to rally to victory. Couple things that stood out Wednesday night:
- Serge Ibaka had nine blocks and really dominated the paint.
- Durant scored 14 of his 41 points in the final four minutes of the game.
- Arron Afflalo did a great job of defense on Westbrook and held him to only 14 points.
Now Denver must find a way to keep its team together and to get better. To start with the Nuggets need to find what to do with their seven free agents, including three starters. Nene and Arron Afflalo are at the top of list.
- Nene, who has a player option and will most likely opt for free agency, is at the top of the Nuggets priority. For all of his flaws, there are few big man as skilled as him and Denver will be better with him than without him.
- Kenyon Martin was the anchor of the Nuggets defense, but he also is getting up there in age and there is always concerns for his health (he has missed 203 games in six seasons). No doubt Denver wants to bring him back, but at what price?
- Afflalo has improved more than any player during his two seasons in Denver. He was always a great defender, but he improved his offensive game this last year. Since Afflalo is a restricted free agents the Nuggets can match any offer for him and expect them to.
- J.R. Smith is probably the streakiest player in the League and has said some controversial things during the playoffs. But if he is hot he is the most dangerous player in the League. He will more than likely sign somewhere else partly because of his and George Karl’s patchy relationship.
- Wilson Chandler, who was one of the castoffs from the Knicks, struggled down the stretch but he was also a favorite of Karl. His versatility is valuable, especially on defense where he can guard power forwards to point guards. He is also a restricted free agent so Denver should match most offers if they don’t get too outrageous, which is possible. New York has expressed interest in bringing him back.
- Gary Forbes went from being an unrestricted free agent to earning times due to his defense and energy. The Nuggets will probably try to bring him back, but at a reasonable price.
- Melvin Ely gave the Nuggets some quality minutes, but with the addition of Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos his minutes dropped. If he comes back, he will be one of the last players off the bench and probably won’t see any minutes.
Tags: Amare Stoudemire Arron Afflalo Carmelo Anthony Denver Nuggets Gary Forbes George Karl J.R. Smith JR Smith Kenyon Martin Kevin Durant Kosta Koufos Melvin Ely Nene New York Knicks Oklahoma City Thunder Serge Ibaka Timofey Mozgov Wilson Chandler