Playoff Postmortem: Denver Nuggets

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Lawson and Felton: a potent PG combo
(image by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Despite the twists and turns that hounded the Nuggets franchise this season, they still managed to exit on a relatively bright note.

Yes, a first round rejection courtesy of the Oklahoma Thunder might not conjure smiles, but consider what Denver had to go through since the 2010 off-season. Franchise player Carmelo Anthony wanted out, George Karl could hardly utter a word, Nene’s extension was not granted, ownership was given to inexperienced hands, and a new manager was in town. It was hardly stasis, but it all worked out in the end.

Sort of.

They did “get rid” of Melo and received a promising host of young guns. George Karl recovered. Nene was a monster. They had another 50-win season. They were the 5th seeded team in the West. By all indications, Denver had a good run.

Smith and Martin could be headed out for good
(image by Tim Rasmussen/Denver Post)
But even that might not prevent the 2011 off-season from being filled with yet another dose of drama. Not counting the impending lockout, the worst-case scenario for Denver is, well, really bad.

Kenyon Martin and JR Smith are both unrestricted free agents. Martin has explicitly said he wants to sign with a winning team, which has become a euphemism for, “I want to be part of a team with more than one superstar.” Denver is not that team, yet. Smith will surely receive bloated offers from elsewhere, and due to the upswing of Ty Lawson, he’ll probably find more playing time in another squad’s rotation.

Will Nene still dunk for Denver?
(image by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Nene might opt out too, which is a consequence of not granting his extension. Shudder if the Nuggets lose both him and Martin. Wilson Chandler is reportedly being wooed by the team that ditched him, but don’t count on him to run back to the Big Apple.

Denver will probably NOT lose all four of those pieces, but it’s quite realistic to expect they’ll lose maybe two only(Martin and Smith). That being the probable future scenario, George Karl (who’s also not assured of coming back) can still afford to smile.

Gallo could be the new main man
(image by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Having Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson, and Raymund Felton, to go along with Nene, is a good thing for the long haul. They might suffer a dip in wins next season, but don’t forget that these Nuggets went 18-7 post-Melo.  Suppose you translate that into an 82-game slog? That’s 59 wins.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. Counting everything that can change in terms of team composition, the Nuggets are in the strange position of “resurgent rebuilding.” More twists and turns are sure to follow.

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