The Billups for AI trade was not the only critical change to shape Denver’s run, and the NYT ran a story on the how the "Revamped Nuggets Have Room for Hope" that chronicled the roster changes that seemingly weakened the team on paper yet left them strong enough to contend for the WC. In that story, we may find some solace – even some hope for our own woebegone Warriors.
Last summer Denver traded Marcus Camby in what was widely described as a salary dump that weakened their team. But waiting in the wings were Nene and Anderson – who both just completed the best seasons in their career and would seem to have several very productive seasons in front of them. Could we dare to hope that the opportunity for both Wright and Randolph to shine similarly will transpire for GSW?
The Nuggets’ shelves were not barren – obviously Carmelo is a dynamic if over-hyped scorer, KMart is still an effective albeit not as explosive PF as he once was. Monta is our dynamic scorer, Jackson our effective though not as explosive veteran. JR Smith refined his game just a bit to be a most effective 6th man during the portions of the WCF – could not Crawford or Maggette serve that purpose for us? Our self isn’t empty, but some reorganization is in order. Moving Monta to the PG is a gamble – but any less of a gamble than sending AI out for Billups?
Will a Monta-Jackson-Maggette lineup be able to handle defensive pressure? We have depth behind them if all three can play 30-35 a night for most of the season. If JR Smith can tone down his act a bit and become a force off the bench, might not Crawford – who’s uniformly described as a good teammate and class act – similarly be able to come off the bench for firepower? KAz has more than proven his worth, and Morrow and Marco have shown flashes – either might contribute more off the bench next year.
Even without Camby, the Denver frontline battled admirably against LAL – will a frontline of AB, Turiaf, Wright, and Randolph be able to do likewise? Do we add one more capable veteran to deepen that position – yes. We still need more beef up front to hope to compete in the West.
And of course AI was sent out for Billups – giving up some scoring for leadership, defense and the all too often cited but impossible to quantify – chemistry. Though hard to quantify the attitude change on the Nuggets after that trade was hard to miss and well documented both in the Colorado press and noticed nationally. Where does that change come from for our club? An new, veteran PF? A new Coach?? The latter is coming around the corner – a season away perhaps, but coming.
I’ve been a glass is half empty fan for a long time, annoyingly so to be sure, and advocated for trading Ellis or Randolph for a chance to land Bosh or another quality big. But the WC is not going to remain the juggernaut it currently is forever and maybe not for long. Last season New Orleans was at the top, only to drop precipitously; San Antonio is aging, Phoenix was not reborn despite a roster that on paper looked potent, Dallas is in flux, Portland is going through growing pains, and Utah could be severely weakened this offseason. As for LAL, Odom may return but they could lose Ariza and at some point Jackson will crawl into a Buddhist cave somewhere and align with the Zen masters who levitate into a celestial plane. Anyway, after watching the Nuggets emerge as a force to be reckoned with I began to think maybe ….
Obviously the Warriors and Nuggets benefited from their momentum and caught teams by surprise in their respective recent playoff runs. Maybe Denver comes crashing back to earth the way GSW did after it’s two years prior to this past one. But we have some pieces, the cupboard is not bare. A tweak that works to put every one into a better position (Monta to PG?), a trade (for a vet PF? PG?), some attitude adjustment (defense?) and talented young players taking advantage of the opportunity (Wright? Randolph? Morrow?) all could mean we might just have some hope. See ya around the draft.