You’d be kidding yourself if you think the Nuggets have played solid basketball this season on a regular basis.
This was supposed to be a team built on defense, effort and attention to detail. Instead, the Nuggets are forced to score at least 105 points to win.
Doesn’t that sound familiar?
George Karl put little emphasis on defense during his years with the Nuggets. But he got every ounce of offensive capability from his team most nights.
Karl had no problem beating teams 120-115. As long as Denver dominated at home and made a habit of beating inferior teams, they were assured a playoff spot.
Brian Shaw’s 2013-14 squad could be the worst we’ve seen since the early 2000s, when Denver basketball fans had little to cheer about.
Granted, the Nuggets have been without Danilo Gallinari and Javale McGee. The loss of Nate Robinson and conflict with Andre Miller made matters worse.
But it’s not like the remaining players are all scrubs.
Before a recent rib injury, Ty Lawson averaged 18 points and nine assists. Wilson Chandler puts up 14 points and five rebounds. Randy Foye shoots 37 percent from three point range.
The duo of Kenneth Faried and J.J. Hickson can be counted on for double doubles nearly every game.
Considering the output of those six players, it’d be a given that the Nuggets would be in playoff contention again.
After all, they’ve had nice wins against the Mavericks, Thunder, Warriors, Pacers and Clippers.
But the Nuggets have had more bad losses than good wins, a characteristic of a team that misses the playoffs.
The Kings, Cavaliers, Knicks, Pistons, 76ers, Celtics, Jazz, Hornets and Bobcats have all beaten Denver at least once.
If the Nuggets took care of business and defeated these lowly teams, they’d be 33-18. As of today, that would be good for the sixth seed in the western conference.
Since January 17, they’re 4-9. At this rate, winning 40 games will be an accomplishment for the Nugs.
What’s sad is that the front office will probably be thrilled with a 40-42 record. At the end of the season, we’ll hear how the team exceeded expectations considering they were led by a rookie head coach and derailed by injuries.
I don’t buy the notion that in order for the Nuggets to be better in the next few years, they had to regress this year.
Sure, Karl couldn’t get this team to the second round of the playoffs. But after last season, I thought Denver was one or two players away from being a top four team in the West for years to come.
Now, the Nuggets are in a terrible position.
They aren’t good enough to be labeled a contender. But they aren’t bad enough to earn a top draft pick.
That’s why the success of this season hinges on the record of another team.
The Nuggets own the rights to the Knicks’ first round draft pick this year. As long as the Knicks continue to be one of the worst teams in the league, the Nugs have an outside shot at a lottery selection.
That could translate to heralded prospects Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins wearing powder blue for the next decade.
I’m holding out hope Denver can make a post-All Star break run and somehow snag the eighth and final playoff spot.
But the tanking has already started.
And I’ll be more inclined to root against Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks.