(This is another in a series of 30 guest columns that will run in October, when optimism reigns supreme across the NBA. The theme will be “Five Reasons to Feel Positive About … ” We encourage you to follow the authors on Twitter and visit their sites. – CS)
In the wake of the Carmelo Anthony trade and the departures of Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith – the ending of the “Thuggets” era – Denver Nuggets vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri and coach George Karl have done a masterful job of assembling a team of character-first players with depth at every position.
Having done so, many are thinking big things for the 2012-13 Nuggets, going as far as comparing them to the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons – the only NBA team since 1980 to win a championship without a bona fide superstar (or superstars) leading the way. And thus, expectations and optimism are more than a Mile High for the Nuggets in Denver this season.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t square with the reality of what’s happening around the Nuggets in the Western Conference. En route to the 2004 title and another NBA Finals appearance in 2005 by way of a weak Eastern Conference, the mid-aughties Pistons never had to face the likes of this season’s Lakers, Thunder or Spurs – or even the quality of this season’s Clippers and Grizzlies, for that matter.
Lest we forget that as soon as Dwyane Wade and LeBron James elevated their games to superstar status, those Pistons never made it back to the NBA Finals.
So we as Nuggets fans need to temper our enthusiasm and be more realistic with our expectations for this team. This fan in particular would be thrilled to see the Nuggets again win 50 games and get into the second round – something that has happened just once during Denver’s current run of nine straight playoff
appearances dating to 2004.
The Nuggets can and should get into the second round in 2013, and here’s five reasons why.
1. Two Starting Fives
While most teams – even the good ones – struggle to field a solid starting five, never mind a decent bench, the Nuggets go 11 deep. That’s right, 11 deep.
After assembling a solid starting five presumed to be Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried at forward, JaVale McGee at center and Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala manning the backcourt, the Nuggets have a backup point guard in Andre Miller that would start on 10 NBA teams, two backup centers in Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos (yes, Kosta Koufos) that might start on 15 NBA teams, and a backup small forward in Wilson Chandler that would start on 20 NBA teams.
Throw in a vastly improved Jordan Hamilton and exciting French rookie Evan Fournier, and the Nuggets will be able to come at opponents in waves – almost like a hockey team that changes lines throughout the game.