You may not have known this, but the Nuggets are kicking off their 2017-18 season tonight. They’ll be wearing new uniforms and featuring a new star player, hoping that they actually register on the NBA’s radar this season. They are definitely already on mine.
For the second straight year, I’m predicting that the Nuggets will find themselves back in the playoffs for the first time since George Karl was roaming the Denver bench. But what does making the playoffs even mean in the NBA anymore? I suppose it’s all about perspective.
Oh, and yes that is Nikola Jokic messing around with Paul Millsap in the photo above. If that doesn’t get you excited for this season, I’m not sure anything I can say is going to do the trick. But I’ll try anyway.
About a month ago, I predicted that this would be the year that the Denver Nuggets made it back to the playoffs. That despite their stacked division and the absence of a star, this would be the year that Michael Malone started to make good on the promise of his talented young roster.
About a quarter of the way through the season, you would probably look at the Nuggets’ 8-13 record and guffaw. “Playoffs?! Don’t talk about playoffs, Jesse! Not when it comes to the Nuggets!”
I’ll admit, things haven’t started out as well as I’d hoped they would. Maybe I oversold the Nuggets’ chances or I’m just a supremely bad judge of the sort of components that comprise a winning basketball team (the latter could always be true). However, though the 2016-17 voyage has been rocky thus far for the hometown team, I believe that the flaws that are currently holding them down can be erased sooner rather than later. Let’s go over those and I’ll tell you why.
A few years ago, I bought NBA 2K13 and Kevin and I started an Association Mode with his brother-in-law Josh. We wanted to play as the Denver Nuggets, but even more importantly wanted to have a star player on the team. Unable to swing a trade in the game without the computer completely pilfering all of our talent, I simply changed the rosters so that James Harden was on the Nuggets (2K13 came out just after Harden was dealt to Houston and before the whole world found out that he doesn’t play defense). We embarked on an odyssey that saw our team claim four straight championships and establish a modern day dynasty. Alright, maybe we didn’t change the difficulty until year two or three, but that’s beside the point.
If all of that sounds rather corny, then it was the best kind of corny. When your favorite team doesn’t have a star or even a clue in real life, you know that you’re never going to see them hoist Larry O’Brien. You’re still intrigued by the drama of the playoffs and admire from afar when Lebron James finally gets Cleveland to the promised land, but it’s not your team basking in the champagne and the confetti. It’s just not the same. That’s why playing out the fantasy of the Nuggets actually being relevant in the landscape of the NBA was so satisfying. More than any of my teams, I want them to be the next one to break through that glass ceiling.
And I honestly can’t tell you why I care so much about the Nuggets. Sure, they’ve been around for 50 years but have never even advanced to the NBA Finals. Denver isn’t a particularly lucrative basketball market and the last time it had a star, Carmelo Anthony wanted to leave so bad he was willing to fade into obscurity with the Knicks just so he could get away. Most importantly, to say that I personally lack game is an understatement. The bricks that I put up when I’m foolish enough to take shots are an insult to actual bricks. Much like dating, there is often no rational reason for why you fall in love with a certain team. It just happens.
The point of all this is that the Nuggets start their 2016-17 season tonight and I’m here to make you a promise. Maybe I’m losing my mind (always a possibility) or maybe I have my blinders on, but here it is: I promise that the Nuggets will be back in the playoffs this season. Not only will they be back, but they’ll be well-equipped to be a real nuisance once they get there. You read that right. If you don’t think I’m a complete lunatic, hit the jump and I’ll explain.
The Nuggets’ courtship of disgruntled and declining superstar Dwyane Wade was curious, to say the least. Not only did Wade represent an odd fit into a crowded and youthful backcourt, but it was pretty obvious to everyone, including Kevin and I, that Wade never had any intention of taking what’s left of his knees to Denver. He simply used the Nuggets as leverage to land a better deal with the team he really wanted to go to, which most of us thought was the Heat but actually turned out to be the Bulls.
Just to make sure that there were no hard feelings, Wade did send out this tweet to show his gratitude for the Nuggets’ interest in him. “Sorry guys, but I only want to be friends with you.”
On the other hand, I can’t remember the last time that a top free agent even agreed to sit down with the Nuggets brass, much less entertain an offer from them. So should we be upset that D-Wade spurned us to play for his hometown team?
Eh, not really. Hit the jump and I’ll tell you why.