Blogtable: Just How Good Is Denver?

George Karl (by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

George Karl (by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Week 20: Spurs’ win over OKC | Missing Amar’e | How good are the Nuggets?

On the red-hot Nuggets: Are they where they should be, are they playing over their heads or is the best yet to come?

Steve Aschburner: The Nuggets, so fun to watch and easy to root for, are shaping up as the next high-octane team — like Phoenix and Orlando before them — whose philosophy will get tested and whose chances for postseason success will get discounted. As coach George Karl said the other day, “We want to play early. We want to play before the defense sets.” He and his staff have their guys in attack mode, but playoff basketball traditionally reverts to react mode. When the Nuggets play in an attack mode in the regular season, their change of pace is a competitive advantage. But doing it up to seven times against the same opponent, one who has had time between games to adjust, is a taller order. So to answer the question, they’re about where they should be. But everything gets harder in five weeks, maybe more so for Denver.

Fran Blinebury: I think at the outset of the season most of us had the Nuggets slotted as a 4-5 seed with the potential to win 50-plus and reach up to No. 3. That’s exactly where they are. It’s the way they’ve gotten there that has made everyone sit up and take notice. The Nuggets had to overcome the a ridiculous schedule that had them playing 17 of their first 23 games on the road. It is a credit to coach George Karl and his team that they survived the challenge and now it’s put them in position to finish strong and take a run at the Clippers for the third seed.  I’m looking at the Nuggets as the potential twister in the trailer park of the West playoff bracket.

Jeff Caplan: I really, really like George Karl‘s team. I’m not sure they can play much better than they currently are so I’m a bit reluctant to say the best is yet to come. However, with 10 of their last 17 games on their hugely advantageous home floor where they’re 28-3, the fastest show in the NBA could be the hottest one in the West once the playoffs roll around next month. I do believe the Nuggets can give any team in the West a real fight, yet at the same time they won’t be odds-on favorites to beat any team in the first round. Take their first-round opponent as of today, the Memphis Grizzlies. It’s a clash of styles and the Nuggets could be in trouble if they don’t leapfrog the burly Grizz in the standings and secure that homecourt edge. Denver is 15-19 on the road, the only losing road record among the top five teams in the West. They’ve won four consecutive road games at Charlotte, Portland, Sacramento and Phoenix, but before that they lost four in a row at Boston, Toronto, Brooklyn and Washington. Since Jan. 1, the Nuggets are 6-5 on the road.

Scott Howard-CooperWhere they should be. Not in terms of the winning percentage the last six or eight weeks, which has helped even the disappointing start of the season — the streak they’re on is unrealistic to maintain the entire way — but it can’t be a surprise that the Nuggets are fifth in the West and challenging for fourth. That was realistic from the beginning.

John Schuhmann: The Nuggets are hard to judge, because they play like no other team and they’re so much better at home than on the road. Generally, I think they’re right there with the Clippers and Grizzlies in the second tier of the Western Conference, and how they do in the playoffs will depend on their first round matchup and whether or not they have home-court advantage. Three things will likely hurt them in the postseason either way: A slower pace (the playoffs are typically three possessions per team slower than the regular season), their inability to shoot from beyond a few feet from the basket (they rank 29th in field-goal percentage from five feet and out) and the fact that their opponent will have some time to adjust to the Denver altitude.

Sekou SmithThey are just about where they should be. I never saw the Nuggets as a top two or three team in the Western Conference this season, but a top four or five team? Certainly. And they are also one of those teams that no one will be interested in dealing with in the first round, especially if they have home-court advantage. As far as what they can do in the postseason, so much of that is predicated on matchups and whether or not they have the Pepsi Center advantage on their side. Like most all of the top teams in the West, they have the roster matrix (quality depth up front, wing defenders and scorers and elite point guard play) covered. And in George Karl, they have one of the league’s best handling things on the sideline. What’s still not clear to me, though, is who serves as the Nuggets’ go-to-player when things tighten up in a playoff series?


  1. Russell Eastbrook says:

    give us a break with your go-to guy. ok so kobe is a go-to guy. he’s made about 100 shots in the last 30 secs of games in his career and….also missed 450. i’ll take executing to find an open player in last minutes to isolating one superstar and crossing your fingers. nuggets are the new run n gunners, only the spurs are way older now and they ain’t playing stifling defense anymore. OKC-nuggets in the conference finals and from there on let’s just enjoy.

  2. Stew says:

    What is Ty Lawson considered? Playing as a top 5 PG and hit a game winner against OKC… being a ‘star’ is partly due to a popularity vote. Also saw him added to the MVP race #9, obviously not going to win, but just being in the discussion is a major accomplishment. The go-to-guy arguement as well as the not having all-stars on the roster is just beating a dead horse at this point in my opinion.

  3. sports fan says:

    I can see Denver winning in the first round but I don’t think they’ll make it past the second. This team is similar to the Portland team that lost to Shaq’s Lakers. That Portland team had no big name stars, played great as a team, & made it to the playoffs. They then knew they had to get some star power. They signed Scottie Pippen & a few other players & lost to the Lakers in the conference finals, which can be argued they were robbed in that series. Eventually Denver has to get at least one star player that can fit in with Karl’s system if they want a chance at the finals.

  4. qimba says:

    “the relentless pursuit of the paint” It starts at one end and goes and goes and goes fullcourt offense against 1/2 court boredom’s ville that all the rest of the league has the gall to call basketball…

  5. stinkydink says:

    the nuggets will become the first team in nba history this yr to win an nba championship without having a player named to the all star team , nuggets vs pacers in finals , nugs in 6 , party time in denver

    • ohhh noo please says:

      when are you going to wake up and stop dreaming? this is more then dream … its like a delusion…

  6. Than says:

    The Nuggets need to get more serious and efficient. They are no contenders but they can really do some serious damage, reach the West-semis and even challenge a spot on the Conference Finals. We love Denver, but no team has ever been in the ring process without a star in the roster and Ty Lawson is no such player. I’m really really sorry but unless Denver gets really serious, it will remain a steady ” Playoff dwarf “.

  7. Dylan says:

    The Nuggets are really an X factor in the playoffs. There’s no speculation that they can beat anybody in the league at the Pepsi Center. It’s just a matter of whether they can A) make the top four or B) win a game or two on the road. I don’t think their lack of having a go to player is such an issue- I was at the game where Lawson knocked down the buzzer beater against OKC, and Durant’s body language said it all.
    If Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari can put in 20 each, the Nuggets will be a force to be reckoned with. Along with Wilson Chandler and Andre Iguodala, their outside shooting is better than people give them credit for. And with Javale McGee and Kosta Koufos inside, they’ve got plenty of firepower down low as well. Just look at their point int the pain numbers this season.

    If they play like they’re capable, I bet we’ll see OKC v. DEN in the western conference finals. OKC will win in 6, but it’ll be close. The Nuggets are exciting. They deserve it.

  8. denver is good says:

    I just want to point out the nuggets are 2-1 against okc 1-1 against san antonio 2-1 agianst the clippers and 2-1 against the grizzlies

  9. ohhh noo please says:

    do you guys even know basketball? denver is done. first round. i mean how deep you think they are going to go in the west? get real..

  10. John says:

    So you don’t think the Nuggets can win the West? Here’s their record so far against the other so-called contenders…
    Spurs 1-1, Thunder 2-1, Clippers 2-1, Memphis 2-1, Golden State 3-1, Houston 3-0, Lakers 3-1. And Memphis is coming up at HOME. That’s 16 wins vs. 6 losses. If you look at their “conference” record, they are right up there with OKC and SA. And they’re just getting better.

  11. stan says:

    wow what love from ESPN.. watching pre game show and Mike is talking up the Nuggets and what happens…..Magic interrupts saying let’s get back to the Lakers. And we are not mentioned again. Wow I did not know the Fakers were playing tonight….

  12. Strictoses says:

    I like the attention for Denver, they deserve some notion!

  13. Karlo Garcia says:

    The Nuggets best is yet to come. No one will want to play them at home.Iguodala is a very nice fit because the style of play fits in with the Nuggets.

  14. adam says:

    Denver will have to play lights out in the playoffs to offset the refs and the lopsided calls that happens when denver plays almost anyone. Denver must be red hot in all playoff games to subside the extra points given to the other team on the foul line! This is the best year yet for the REFS to allow denver to get their share of calls since denver roster barely can make a free throw.

  15. The Nuggets r going to make it into the playoffs

  16. xyz says:

    Denver is really fun to watch, but their style of play won’t take them far in the playoffs. Running and gunning can really hurt a slow team, but in a 7 game series, coaches are bound to make the proper adjustments and they’ll slow Denver down to a half-court game, which they simply can play. You have to be able to adjust your style to your opponents (eg Miami, San Antonio). The go-to-guy isn’t a “must” (’04 Pistons), although it doesn’t hurt to have a Lebron, Kobe, KD, Melo in the playoffs. Denver’s out in the second round, where they’ll probably lose 4-2.

  17. howie says:

    Definitely a good match tonight between Nuggets and Knicks. Melo is going to get owned by his old team.

  18. dj rgm9 says:

    Denver gonna surprise everybody this year right during the play-offs!And this is coming from big time Lakerfan!Many people d’ont see it but one of the best playmakers today is ankelbreaking for the Nuggets,Ty Lawson!He need no space to put the ball in the right hands,very fast,exellent ball handling,good shooter.,swifty player+ a real instinctive streetballer but shinning in the nba.This is the one Mitch Kupchak overlooked for a while!Denver now is like the 2004 Pistons team but with more talent!A team to watch out in the future,If the Lakers not gonna pull it trough the play-offs,than the nuggets gonna get my blessing to win it all!The East can keep Lebron he’s a coward anyway pairing with Dwayne&Co.Vai Lakers!!!

  19. Stan says:

    Denver @ Home vs Anybody Denver Wins….. When Denver learns to win on the road they will be NBA champs. Denver also will need to learn how to beat OKC that is the team that will rule the west along with the Clippers those young teams will be getting better each year.

  20. Ben Velasquez says:

    Denver is a great team they really do have a go to guy that’s danillo Gallinari. And any team in the western confrence im sure would hate going up against the.

  21. Elusive1 says:

    The nuggets are a great team. i can see them getting out of the first round but not winning the whole thing since okc and the spurs are monsters on the court. Coach Carl is a great coach that adjusts to situations (unlike d’antoni but that’s another topic) and promotes team play. why the need of a “go to guy” when you have 5 that are willing to work for the win?

  22. SKillz says:

    I hope the Nuggets are in the playoffs. I think they would be fun to watch while their in it!

  23. amit says:

    Denver vs. utah would make for the most exciting series. Both teams really want to win

  24. Joe says:

    you know faried is my step dad. he can dunk

  25. Chacodamus says:

    The East playoffs will be a morbid display of has-been’s and never-will-be’s whose only shot at giving Miami a run at it, is if LeBron becomes bored with the lack of competition.

    The West playoffs, however, will be a SHOOTOUT!!.. Almost every series will be a fight, and no team escapes to the finals without having already played at least one 7 game series…

    • jhbh says:

      Just like last year right. because the celtics heat series didnt go 7, and the bulls 6ers didnt go 7 and the 6ers celtics didnt go 7 and the heat didnt get a 1-2 scare against the pacers. the east competition will heat up during playoff time

  26. Chacodamus says:

    With Denver’s blitzkrieg of offense, AND their very overlooked yet very improved defense, they can easily take all 4 in a home court series, or split 2-2 in an away series. The notion that their “style” of play won’t be effective in the postseason is ridiculous amatuer speculation.

  27. Nugget Fan says:

    Did the 2004 Pistons have a “go-to-guy” when they won the NBA Championship?
    The Nuggets have players that can make clutch shots.
    Lawson hit a buzzer beater to beat the Thunder.
    Iguodala hit a buzzer beater to beat the Lakers.
    Gallinari hit a buzzer beat to beat the Mavericks and 76ers.
    We have players that can step up WHEN we need them to.
    The best part about the Nuggets though is we rarely need to make that clutch shot because we blow people out.
    This year is the Nuggets year.
    It’s time to shut the critics up.

    • TEE says:

      Chauncey Billups was Detroit’s go to guy. “Mr. Big Shot”

    • skrutz says:

      …and while Detroit was an example of a championship team with no clear stars, it’s also the only example. It would be great to see again, but it’s highly unlikely.

    • bullsfan0218 says:

      not to mention DPOY Ben Wallace

    • BID says:

      I’m tired of people saying that the 04 pistons did not have a superstar… yeah that’s right instead they had 4 ALL-STAR players which to me can compensate the lack of a superstar

  28. NBA for life says:

    Look guys, denver has been a solid team ths last couple of year and this season they crancked up the heat. still i have to say that this team is not experienced enough for a deep playoff run. they have many young players and only a very few experienced veterans (actually only andre miller). for this team to be able to compete on the same level OKC will be competing in the playoffs they need more experience and clutch players.

    You tell me if im wrong.

  29. Rico says:

    i would love to see Denver vs Houston first round match up.. They will both score 140 all series long. 🙂

  30. W/E says:

    Denver is good.THey can do some real damage in the playoffs.

  31. Big Euro says:

    @Sekou: Andre Miller is a terrifically crafty player who has a knack of making big plays, Gallinari also causes match-up problems with his ability to put the ball on the floor and hit 3s.

    I personally don’t see them going past the first round, unless they get really hot beyond the arc against a bigger, slower team like Memphis or the Lakers.

  32. steppx says:

    god spare us sekou smith’s cliches about go to guys. The go-to guy is the guy you go to.

    thats who it works for some teams.