By Dave Bruning
Not quite a year ago I wrote a blog detailing my excitement for the future of the Denver Nuggets. They featured an insanely athletic roster that was thriving in coach George Karl’s up tempo system. There were whispers around the league that Denver was a sleeper contender for an NBA title. Things can change in the blink of an eye. Denver blinked, and my, oh my, how things have changed.
Since those wonderfully optimistic and well written words flowed off my keyboard, the Nuggets have seen more change than a chameleon. Reigning coach of the year George Karl was fired after another 1st round playoff elimination. Reigning General Manager of the year Masai Ujiri took the same position with the Toronto Raptors. And that was just the beginning.
The team the Nuggets actually put on the court looks a lot different as well. Andre Iguodala was perhaps their best all-around player. Iggy signed with Golden State, accepting less money to play with the team that eliminated Denver last year. Corey Brewer signed with Minnesota. Danilo Galinari tore his ACL late last year and is still in recovery with no definitive timetable for his return. New starting center JaVale McGee has a stress fracture in his left tibia and is out indefinitely. McGee is raw at best offensively and his basketball IQ lags. The 4-year, $44 million contract was a poor decision by the Nuggets. With all the upheaval, it’s a good thing they wear their names on the back of their uniforms.
Change is a constant in sports as well as life. Brian Shaw is the Nuggets new head coach and Tim Connolly is the new general manager. Both men are respected around the league, but are raw in terms of experience. The Nuggets won 57 games last year. They will be hard pressed to make the playoffs in the ridiculously stacked Western Conference.
I believe more change is on the way. Denver has explored trading the Manimal, Kenneth Faried. I am confident this will happen. The market for Faried will be strong. If he could add a consistent mid-range jump shot to his game, Faried would truly become a Manimal on the court. I believe Denver feels he has reached his ceiling as a player and therefore will trade him and perhaps others before the season ends.
Motivating these decisions is the 2014 NBA draft class, which has the entire league drooling. The 2014 draft class is thought to be the best since the 2003 draft of LeBron, Melo, D-Wade and Bosh. It seems this occurs every 10 years or so and teams are positioning themselves to cash in on the bevy of talent that will be available.
The Denver Nuggets are at a crossroads. The team has been overhauled both on and off the court. You usually must hit bottom before you can rebound and rebuild in the NBA. I fear the Nuggets are headed for lean times. Don’t blink though, things change quickly.