The Denver Nuggets have finished the regular season at 57-25. Their best regular season record ever. Let that sink in. With all the hoopla surrounding the Lakers offseason acquisitions, the dominance of Miami in the Eastern Conference and the worst season Brandon Knight will ever have, the Nuggets have evaded the public eye and the experts for most of the year. It’s been ignored everywhere outside of Denver, and even by some in Colorado, that this is probably the best basketball team that has ever come out of the Mile High City.
It’s with that in mind, I’d like to say that no matter the outcome in the playoffs, basketball has been blessed to have a team like the Nuggets. In stark contrast to the superstar-laden behemoths that ball in LA, New York, Miami and Oklahoma City, the Nuggets have flipped the basketball script. Executive Masai Ujiri traded away a disgruntled scoring All-Star, brought in an underrated defensive ace and kept only one player on the roster after shuffling the entire roster. All this time, the Nuggets have won, while other teams who lost franchise players (Cleveland, Orlando, Phoenix, Toronto) have resorted to tanking and playing the NBA’s lottery.
What the Nuggets have is a team built to run. A team that leads the NBA in points per game, is 2nd in rebounds per game, and is 3rd in assists per game. The Nuggs have six players who average double figures in points and brandish a rotation that goes 10 deep. George Karl has assembled a basketball purists’ dream team without superstars; one he hopes will buck the notion of one player being more important than the team.
With that said, here are some musings on the League’s playoff prospects:
- Damn the injustice of injuries. The loss of Danilo Gallinari to an ACL tear, coupled with a gimpy Ty Lawson these past few weeks, and the absence of Kenneth Faried to a sprained ankle has put a dampener on the Nuggets’ season and the hopes for any more Italian celebrations on the bench:
- Will Stephen Curry’s ankles hold up? The sharpshooter has always been one of my favorites from his days at Davidson, but his three years in the NBA have been plagued by ankle troubles. No basketball fan wants to see Curry go down, but they can’t ignore that any time he hits the floor or lands awkwardly there’s an underlying fear that his body will give out.
- Grantland’s Zach Lowe is both amused and afraid of the “Wild Child” front court that the Nuggets employ, which is the perfect way to describe it. The Anthony Randolph and Javale McGee combo is something straight out of a retrospective E! News or VH1 special. You know ,”So much talent and potential, but… well, you get the picture.” Personally, I love these players. They give their all every night and have really stepped into their roles and the team well. I’m of the opinion that their potential will be attained with the coaches, mindset and teammates in the Nuggets organization. The two enigmas have a chance to rewrite their NBA careers in Denver, and that all starts with this playoff series. We could be in for an awesome rebounding, dunking, crazy athletic expo with these two, or we could have something equatable to this:
Please, in the name of the Father, Son and Javale McGee and Anthony Randolph… I’m praying for the first.
- The Lakers made the 7th seed in the playoffs. I don’t know who to be more mad at, the Rockets for shooting themselves out of the game against a hobbling Lakers team, or the general ineffectiveness, no… ineptitude, no… just overall “suck” that the Utah Jazz displayed against the Grizzlies. Geez Utah, you have a chance to make the playoffs, put the heat on a crumbling Lakers team to miss the playoffs, lose their lottery pick to Phoenix, and set off a series of munchkin like celebrations in the collective cities of Orlando, Phoenix, and any other basketball city that lost something to the Lakers… And you score 70 points. Go home Utah… Go home. As for Houston, enjoy your buzz saw matchup with the OKC Thunder, you’ve earned it.
- Pau Gasol is doing his best vengeful ignored girlfriend impression with LA. After being benched, being blamed as the cause of chemistry problems and after numerous trade rumors involving his name, he’s averaged 17.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 6.6 assists over the month of April. Well done Pau, time for another team to step in as the “sensitive guy” and rescue him because, you know, he deserves better.
- Wilson Chandler is an important cog to the Nuggets right now. Like I wrote when he first got back into the lineup, Chandler is that glue guy that stretches opponents D, plays great defensively and can initiate contact on the way to the rack. Without Gallo, Wilson is even more important. With occasional matchups against David Lee and with perimeter D being a paramount focus against Golden State, Chandler will have to come up big if the Nuggs want to take care of business.
More musings to come during the course of the playoffs. Go Nuggets!