If we learned anything from the NBA Finals, other than the fact that the Warriors won the championship the minute that Kevin Durant signed on the dotted line, it’s that the way that teams are constructed has fundamentally changed. After years of Lebron James recruiting his all-star friends to South Beach and Cleveland, and then the Warriors following suit, it’s pretty obvious that the era of the superteam is not going away anytime soon.
The top players in the NBA know that they can’t hope to take down Golden State without a star-studded supporting cast. That gives guys like Chris Paul a lot of leverage when they hit free agency, because the team they choose to sign with will look a lot more attractive down the line to future free agents.
And that’s tricky for the Nuggets, because they’ve always had a difficult time convincing marquee players to break bread with them. While the rumored meeting with Paul this summer and the actual meeting with Dwyane Wade last summer is a sign that things could be changing on that front, there’s no way the Nuggets will ever sell any big time free agents on Denver, right? Building a superteam here is a pipe dream. Or is it…
I’ve been pestering Kevin lately with a variety of ways that the Nuggets can do just that. And while some paths are more viable than others, I enjoy presenting him with as many of them as possible. If you can’t text your friend in the middle of the workday about your next idea for turning the Nuggets into a superpower, then why have friends or run a blog with one of them?
And it turns out we have enough material for a column. Take a look at all my clever plots, followed by Kevin’s reactions.
Path 1 – Grow your very own superteam right at home (just add water)
Jesse: Wait a second, this plan doesn’t involve any free agents. Is this really necessary? Why, yes. Yes it is.
The long road to constructing a championship team is always the most difficult one, but often times it’s also the right one. As it stands, the Nuggets’ roster features a very promising young core, centered around breakout star Nikola Jokic. The Serbian Sensation was a force to be reckoned with last season and is a finalist for the Most Improved Player Award. Gary Harris has grown into a very solid two-way player and Jamal Murray flashed his playmaking ability more and more as the season wore on (despite being hurt during part of it).
Given time and proper growth, those three could turn the Nuggets into an exciting playoff team, and if Juancho Hernangomez continues to look like a keeper, maybe Tim Connolly doesn’t need to do anything other than sit back and let all his draft choices show the rest of the league how smart he is. So what do you think, Kevin? Is a superteam brewing over in LoDo as we speak?!!
Kevin: So I guess we are starting the “how do we beat the Warriors” column with the “copy the Warriors” answer? Except the “water” they added after growing their team through the draft was the tall glass of water that is Kevin Durant. I mean the Nuggets are drinking tap water and the Warriors decided to go out and get some reverse osmosis water.
Anyway, I love the idea of this path. I really do. Like, I’m down on one knee right now, sweating profusely hoping this path says yes and we go on to have little baby NBA championships but…
Well I think you know the answer here. This path is incredibly difficult. Ask the 76ers how hard it is to build through the draft. Sure the Spurs have had incredible success but even then they’ve had to woo marquee agents like LaMarcus Aldridge and possibly Chris Paul to stay afloat.
In fact the best example for how difficult this is to do is the Warriors. Do you realize how lucky they got? They needed the Minnesota Timberwolves to take two point guards not named Stephen Curry (Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn) back-to-back in 2009 to have Curry fall in their lap. And even then they had to go through a few tough years of wondering if his ankle was going to hold up during his career.
Fast forward to 2011 and who gets drafted the pick before Klay Thompson? Jimmer. A guy with such a stupid first name that I don’t even need to write out his last name for you to realize how dumb of a pick that was.
And then in 2012 Draymond Green goes at pick 35. Do you know how many 35th picks have gone on to have a kick to the nuts impact that Green has had? It’s probably closer to zero than it is to five.
And even on top of all that luck they needed their homegrown players to revolutionize the three point shot, two Cavs superstars to get injured in the Finals, and a Kevin Durant to win their two championships. So to say that this path is unlikely is understating it.
“But Kevin”, you say in a whiny voice, “I’m saying we already have the pieces in place and we just need a few more breaks to hit the big time.” To which I reply with, “Maybe you’re right but the rest of the NBA is having an arms race with superstars and we need to boost the core we’ve built to maximize our chances.”
Path 2 – Sign Paul Millsap to be the big brother of the team
Jesse: Alright, well how about this plan? I’ll concede that Millsap is not the sexiest free agent out there. His brand is nowhere near the likes of CP3 or Blake Griffin, so he probably wouldn’t put many butts in the seats at the Can. And I doubt that he’d convince our friend Ryan, who hasn’t watched the Nuggets much since George Karl was fired, to start tuning in to mile high basketball again. But Millsap would do so much to improve this team and may be exactly what they need.
For starters, Millsap would be instantly inserted as the leader of the team and the big brother to all the kids. He has playoff experience and could tell all his young brothers, “Yes the playoffs are a real thing and I’ve been there a bunch of times, so I’ll show you the way.” And he’s a legitimate stretch four that would provide a big boost to the Nuggets on both ends of the floor. I don’t care that Millsap is 32-years-old and that his play would probably be falling off at the end of his contract. The Nuggets need a guy like that on their team and in their locker room.
Come on, Kevin. Millsap has to be the missing piece on this budding superteam, right?
Kevin: I would like to point out that Cleveland is dreaming of Paul George, the Warriors are banging the hottest girl in Kevin Durant still, and the Spurs are wining and dining Chris Paul right now. Meanwhile the Nuggets’ final piece is 32-year-old Paul Millsap? I mean, even his name depresses me.
To be serious my only question to you is, is he the final step? Or is it sign Millsap and then LeBron James next summer? Millsap can’t be the final answer right? He’ll be 35 by the time the Nuggets are competing against the Warriors according to the title of this article. I don’t see it.
Path 3 – Bust out the ol’ De’Andre Jordan booby trap
Jesse: Alright, it’s time to turn to the big guns. The Nuggets are going to get a meeting with Chris Paul, right? So all they have to do is hold him hostage until he agrees to sign. If Blake Griffin shows up to try and break in and save him, then the Nuggets brass should say they won’t let CP3 go unless Blake signs too. It’s foolproof! A team of CP3, Harris, Griffin, Jokic and Murray off the bench is good enough to take down the Warriors, right Kevin?
Kevin: In this hypothetical did Steph Curry hurt his ankle before Blake Griffin hurt his whole body? Because that’s basically what would decide the Western Conference Finals in three years with these two teams.
“Welcome back to TNT this is Kevin Harlan here with Reggie Miller. Reggie what is the key to this series?”
“The way I see it Kev is, it’s a survival of the fittest. Literally, who will break first, Steph or Griffin?”
“Fascinating stuff, let’s see it play out.”
You know, I’ll take a CP3 and a real life glass replica of Blake Griffin. It’ll be a fun four years of early playoff disappointments. Back to the George Karl days! #Nostalgia
Path 4 – But seriously, make a big effort to sign Chris Paul
Jesse: Whether the Nuggets go with the booby trap or bring in Von Miller to meet with CP3 and tell him how great Denver is, they need to do whatever they can to add him to their roster. Offer him the max. Throw in priority seating at Snooze. Tell him that Jokic will gladly star in any State Farm commercials. Whatever it takes.
Would Paul stunt the growth of Jamal Murray and take the ball out of Jokic’s hands a little bit? Perhaps, but the value he’d bring to this team would far outweigh any negatives. He’s a legitimate superstar that would instantly elevate the Nuggets up in the Western Conference and bring them closer to the Warriors level. Butts would most definitely be in the seats at the Pepsi Center to watch him play. And who knows who else would want to fly into DIA for a visit if CP3 chose Denver as the base of operations for his own superteam. Blake Griffin or Paul Millsap this year? Lebron or Paul George next year? You can laugh if you want, but CP3, Jokic and that young core would look mighty appealing to anyone that wants to stand up to the Warriors and win a ring.
I have a feeling that CP3 would even catch Ryan’s attention. What about you, Kevin? Would you be on board for a Chris Paul-led superteam in Denver?
Kevin: All the yes’s please. This is the ideal, and somehow, most realistic plan. CP3 to Denver immediately puts us on the map and makes us a force to be reckoned with. At the very least a tough team to face in the playoffs. But…yes there is a but…do you really believe CP3 is willing to be the first piece in this jigsaw?
He would be leaving a mini superstar team and he would be ignoring the consistently good Spurs on his way over. Plus he would be responsible for convincing other superstars to sign here in order to make his time in Denver worth it.
Look, I love this idea and I think it could be mutually beneficial, but I don’t see what we have that the Spurs or Clippers don’t. Other than legal pot and Snooze.
Path 5 – Banana Boat: AKA the 124D Chess Plan
Jesse: When Tim Connolly and Mike Malone sat down with Dwyane Wade last year, maybe the plan all along was just to convince everyone that they wanted to sign Wade right away, but in reality they wanted to wait. “Go sign with the Bulls,” they told him. “We’ll get CP3 next year, then you, Melo and Lebron all come over in 2018. Banana Boat!”
And maybe Chris Paul is meeting with the Nuggets purely to see if Banana Boat is still on for next year. It sounds ridiculous, but Lebron has always said that he wants to be on the same team with those guys at some point during his career. Denver is one of the few places that could actually make that happen, hypothetically speaking.
I have no clue how the money would work. At least one guy would have to take a paycut (we’re looking at you Melo). Probably two. And man that would be an old team. So old that I’m not even sure that Wade should be starting on it, or on any superteam for that matter. But if the Nuggets can support the Banana Boat squad with Jokic and their young core, then perhaps that’s the best chance any team will have at taking the title back from the Warriors. A lot of people probably wouldn’t be thrilled with Lebron being back on top, but we wouldn’t mind one bit if it happened in Denver. And Ryan would definitely be watching.
So what say you, Kevin? Is it Banana Boat or bust for our beloved Nuggets?
Kevin: As someone who firmly believes in the “Andre Iguodala was a mole for the Warriors while he was in Denver” conspiracy theory, I wholeheartedly stand behind any wild and crazy theories you might have.
There’s only one tiny, sticky issue in this wildly imaginative plan. Melo.
First of all having Melo return to Denver is not going to inspire any sappy montages set to P. Diddy’s Coming Home. In fact it would probably spark some protests set to Jojo’s Leave (Get Out) song. I mean Cleveland needed LeBron to come back and make things right. Denver? Well Denver might be a bit more sensitive to such things.
Second of all, not only do we convince Melo to come back to the 303 but we also convince him that he’s the one who needs to take a pay cut? Is Tony Reali around? Can I use his mute button on you for a minute?
Besides that if we were able to woo Chris Paul over would we even need Dwyane Wade? Do we give him a spot just to make LeBron and Melo happy? Won’t Jokic, Murray, and Harris get pushed aside? The one thing we know about LeBron’s super teams are, it’s his way or the highway. The teams only go as far as he does and at this point he would be dragging an old Melo and Dwyane Wade along with the help of Chris Paul. Why wouldn’t he just stay in Cleveland and drag those teammates along with a younger Kyrie Irving? Is Snooze that good of a place to convince LeBron to play the end of his career here? I mean, yes Snooze is damn good so maybe you are onto something.
Anyway as crazy as it is to say I think a route with Jokic and Murray is more likely leading to title town than a star studded route with a banana boat and four players who, at that point in their career, might be playing like the nerdlucks absorbed their basketball skills for Space Jam 2.
With all that said I would say the ideal route for the Nuggets to take would be path 4/3, path 2, path 1, and then, in last place, banana boat.
Since you were the mastermind behind these paths Jesse, what say you? What path are you rooting for? And what path will most likely come true?
Jesse: With all due respect to Lebron’s dream of making the Banana Boat team a reality, the ideal scenario for me would be a combination of plans 1, 2 and 4. It keeps the Nuggets’ young core intact, brings in the big brother in Millsap and provides the franchise with a superstar to pair with Jokic in CP3. And when one star is willing to throw in his hat with Denver, it’s a signal to all the other top players in the NBA that they should do the same.
That being said, there is about a 1 percent chance it will actually come to fruition. As you said, Denver has less to offer to CP3 than Houston and San Antonio. Although he thinks highly of Jokic, I don’t like the odds of the Nuggets luring him away just for that.
So here’s my best guess as to what will actually go down: Path 1 will continue to be traversed and the Nuggets can absolutely take a brief detour down Path 2 for Millsap (they already flirted with bringing him in last year). Meanwhile, if the dream of Path 4 isn’t realized this summer, the Nuggets can always revisit it in the future. I don’t think CP3 will be the one to take a chance on the Nuggets, but only one top free agent has to say yes to make beating the Warriors a reachable goal by 2020.
Keep the young core together, get Millsap if you can and don’t give up on Path 4. Ever.
***Crazy, Special, Bonus Path 6 by Kevin- Championship Caliber through Osmosis:
Kevin: Muhahaha Jesse, the tables have turned and now you have to sit through my totally insane but technically viable path for the Nuggets. Are you ready for this? I promise you, you are not.
Okay the premise behind this path is we reacquire any former Nugget that has played for either the Cavs or the Warriors in the past three finals. Since they have been to the promised land and have either defeated greatness, been defeated by greatness or both, they have absorbed all of the tricks and talents of those they have played with and against. It’s flawless logic. You’re only as good as those who you surround yourself with and these guys have been surrounded by greatness. It’s now their turn to pass the torch. I’ve laid out the perfect team:
Step 1: Keep Mike Miller on the team. This one is a bonus because we don’t need to give anything up for him and he’s been on four teams that made the Finals. 2010-2013 with the Heat and 2015 with the Cavs. This man is the center piece and we already have him. (That cunning Kroenke must already have this planned!)
Step 2: Trade Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and Darrell Arthur to the Warriors, Cavaliers, and Lakers, respectively, and get back Andre Iguodala, JaVale McGee, J.R. Smith, Dahntay Jones, and Timofey Mozgov.
Simply put the haul we get back has six championships and eleven (ish) Finals appearances between them. That’s championship caliber leadership right there.
And before you say it wouldn’t work, check the NBA Trade Machine.
Step 3: Apologize to Mo Williams and resign him back. Look the largest flaw to this idea is that we now have three shooting guards who we don’t want running the point in Miller, Smith, and Jones. So go tell Mo we’re sorry for jerking him around this season and sign his ass.
Step 4: You may have noticed the above trade causes the Nuggets to lose five wins they otherwise would have had. Well here is where I bring in the big difference maker to put us over the top. He’s a man who once started all 82 games for us, he’s a Cleveland native who has been an assistant coach for all three of their trips to the Finals, he’s a man with a section of his Wikipedia page dedicated to his hatred of the Chicago Bulls, yes I’m talking about the one, the only, and you’re next coach of the Denver Nuggets, the great James Posey!
So there you have it Jesse, now every position, including coach, has a championship experienced player. With the lone exception of power forward but we still have Jokic and Faried filling that role. Plus we keep our core that we have drafted and we get some butts in the seats filled with people who never threw away that free JR Swish jersey/shirt they got that one time in the mid 2000s. Might as well start clearing the Pepsi Center rafters for all of the championship banners we have coming our way.
What do you think Jesse? Did I miss any former Nuggets who have achieved greatness since leaving Denver? And how did you not think of this obvious path before I did?
Jesse: Ah, and here I thought the bonus plan would center around brainwashing Paul George into thinking that he prefers the Nuggets over the Lakers. Does this trade come complete with its own reality show? Or will the antics on the court fit that description on its own? Actually, I think I answered my question already.
Good thing Posey is coming over to run this circus, because it would almost certainly result in Mike Malone’s resignation. But here’s the funny thing: the Warriors may be so distracted by what’s happening in Denver that it could detract from their efficiency and concentration. Plus Iggy would be chasing them around the court begging to come back, which would also be distracting.
So oddly enough, this is one way to beat the Warriors now and in the future. Would the Nuggets beat many other teams? Probably not, but that wasn’t the point of this article, so I concede.
And that does it for us. How do you think the Nuggets can dismantle the NBA superpower known as the Golden State Warriors within the next few years? Let us know!