When Carmelo Anthony was drafted third overall by the Denver Nuggets in 2003, the 19-year-old was going from a Syracuse squad that he had just led to a National Title, to arguably the worst team in the NBA. Before Melo got there, the Nuggets hadn’t made the playoffs since 1995 and during that span had won more than 35 games in a season just once.
In 1998, they won just 11 games, and in 2003 their 17 wins set them up with the lottery pick that would change the franchise’s fortunes. Melo’s arrival signaled a new age for the Nuggets, one where playoff berths would become the norm. During his time in the shadow of Mount Evans, Anthony was an exemplary superstar, racking up four All-Star nods and four All-NBA selections while with the team.
However, he also stayed patient while the Nuggets brass replaced, rethought, and moved the pieces around him, time and time again. Melo was lucky enough to have consistent teammates like Nene and Marcus Camby, as well as legendary point guards like Chauncey Billups and Allen Iverson. But the lack of quality behind the top dogs kept the Nuggets from progressing.
The Nikola Jokic era is the first time the Nuggets have been relevant since Melo left. But even so, while Denver made the playoffs every single season Anthony played there, their run to the Western Conference Finals in 2009 was the only time that they made it past the first round. So, who were the guys starting alongside Carmelo Anthony from 2003 to 2011 that simply weren’t up to snuff?