Well once again the City of Denver is saying the same old thing… “Better Look Next Year!”
The Denver Nuggets finished 11th in the Western Conference 40 games behind the Golden State Warriors. The team finished with a record of 33 wins and 49 losses going 3-7 in their last 10 games. This is the third year in a row the Nuggets have missed the playoffs. Honestly speaking, it doesn’t hurt too bad because the city is still buzzing because the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl. How can a decent team finish so poorly? What happened to all of the promises and predictions that was shared by upper management saying that the team would make a run in this year’s playoffs. The final game was played on April 13 in a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers by eight points. Let’s take a look at the Nuggets past season and break down what really happened.
577,898 was total for the 41 games the Nuggets counted for the home games for the team. Hotdogs, booblehead dolls, free jersey and family night packages starting at $35.00 for a family of four couldn’t fill the seats at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets had the worst attendance record in the NBA with an average of 14,095 at each home game. The Colorado Rockies, Buffaloes (athletics and a few high schools) had better season attendance than the Nuggets.
If you take a look at this roster, the team has so many bright spots but confronting key issues were never addressed. Believe it or not, the team raised it’s win total from the 2014-15 season but the feel and play was all too familiar. Defense, bad shots and finding the identity of the team was the problem. Danilo Gallinari was the team’s leader in scoring. He had the ball in his hands during clutch time. He became the man when Denver traded Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks for him in 2011. Gallinari was deemed the face of the Nuggets upon his arrival. After his injury 23 games ago the Nuggets began to play a little better and guys began to get a better feel of the offense because the ball was being shared more. Other players stepped up and became leaders like, Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris and Will Barton. The addition of D. J. Augustin made guard play better and the emergence of Darrell Arthur and Nikola Jokic on the blocks. Now the question is whose team is it?
Salary Cap Issues
The Nuggets have at least $20 million in cap space in the summer, but might have $28 million with the salary being raised. Who do they pay? Do they pick up a player in free agency or pay the guys they already have? They have the space to max out a veteran with at least a 9-year career (proven player). But who wants to play in Denver? Look at the list of free agents on the wire: Kevin Durant, Mike Conley, Nicolas Batum, Andre Drummond, Harrison Barnes, Bradley Beal, Ryan Anderson, Rajon Rondo and Jordan Clarkson just to name a few. You have a few guys that can opt out of their contracts: LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki and Arron Afflao.
The Nuggets had one of the youngest starting lineups in the league this past season. That was one of the main reasons the team struggled. There’s a big difference between being talented and knowing how to play the NBA game. The Nuggets have five draft picks this year with three in the first round. They can select some talented players and rebuild the team. But why grab a bunch of kids when you can trade a few picks for some proven 3-year players. Adding more young players to a young roster will be challenging for head coach Mike Malone.
Selecting A Quality Player
A lot of teams will be making a play for player(s) that can help them on get wins on the court, but what about the community. Your new star(s) should be one for community and having a relationship with the city. Denver needs a face for the franchise. Emmanuel Mudiay is currently the team’s choice. But look around the city, who do you see? No one! The team needs a marketable player that identifies with the town on every level.
Mike Malone needs to scrap his system and design a system for more ball control and leadership from the floor. Translation: A more “ball free” offense. Watch Gallinari pound the ball and take ill advised jump shots hurt the team. He became a babysitter and allowed the guys to play street ball which helped the opposing team shoot layups on long shots. More defensive flow than offense because of the final two quarters this season. The team lost 29 games during the final 18 minutes of the games after leading at the half way point. It’s amazing to see a good team crash and burn like it was the thing to do.
I can say I truly agree with the Nuggets signing Darrell Arthur to a two year contract. He deserves it by playing tough defense and rebounding on the defensive end. Pay D.J. Augustin and Joffrey Lauvergne their money. Mike Miller should be at least given a chance, but Mike Malone won’t play him. I can`t really say what to do with a proven vet that’s not seeing any playing time. Danilo Gallinari is an unrestricted free agent. I’m on the fence with him because he plays no defense! Save some money and trade what you’re not using. I don’t believe in having players riding the bench making millions of dollars.
What can I say? When in doubt… Make it better! Trade the dead weight, make changes in the system (because it isn’t working), trade for good players and rebuild the relationship with the city and then the team will see changes in this once decent franchise.