Denver Nuggets – Member of the NBA Elite?

Soak it in Denver Nuggets fans. For the first time in almost a quarter of a century the Nuggets are in the Western Conference Finals.

We will have plenty of time to dig into what went right in Denver’s 124-110 game five victory over the Dallas Mavericks and what they will need to do better in order to advance to the NBA Finals. I promise a proper game recap tomorrow (this time I mean it) and even though there is more work left to do let’s take a brief look at what tonight’s win will do for the franchise.

For all of the abuse he received after the Marcus Camby trade, Stan Kroenke is a very good owner. He loves basketball and wants the Denver Nuggets to win a championship. After paying an exorbitant bill for the 2007-08 Nuggets squad that was demolished by the Los Angeles Lakers 4-0 in the 2008 playoffs he understandably demanded that the front office slash salary this season. As I wrote after last season, he would have been insane if he did not slash salary. That team was simply not worth keeping together.

This group of players is proving that they are capable of earning playoff success. As a result I firmly believe Kroenke is going to foot the bill to bring every player the front office wants to hang on to back next season. That means you can count on the Birdman flying high in Denver next season. Some of you might recall that previously I expressed my opinion that Chris Andersen was as good as gone after the season, because I did not think this team was going anywhere in the playoffs. I am happy to admit I was wrong about the Nuggets’ chances in the playoffs and I will be wrong about Birdman not returning to Denver for the 2009-10 NBA season.

That is the good news. The really good news is I believe Kronke will not just spend money to bring back players like Birdman or Dahntay Jones or Anthony Carter to maintain the roster, but he will spend money to actually improve the roster. That brings us to the next big development for the Nuggets and that is that as a conference finalist Denver is going to be a free agent destination.

The Nuggets have proven that they can play a fun style of basketball, they can play defense, players like Carmelo and J.R. Smith are no longer guys you do not want to share the court with and Denver has a leader capable of guiding the team in the right direction who has won it all before. Players who are looking to win a title that cannot catch on with Cleveland or Los Angeles (the Lakers, not the Clippers) are going to strongly consider the Denver Nuggets.

During the season the Nuggets expressed interest in veteran players who were bought out such as Joe Smith and Mikki Moore and at the time I wrote they should not even waste their time talking about those guys because they are not going to be interested in Denver when teams like Cleveland and Boston are on the phone. Now with their success over the previous month Denver has made itself a team that has to be taken seriously when they call. They can and will be a force to be reckoned with in the free agent market, both in the offseason and for the in season veteran castoffs.

Now combine those two points and then add a third. Denver has an owner willing to spend, a team that will be interesting to free agents plus economically teams are hurting and will be looking to not only hold on to their money, but to dump salary this offseason. Perhaps you have heard the phrase in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king. Well, in the league of the impoverished the team with $5 is king. The Nuggets are not going to have much to spend once they bring back Birdman and whoever else they choose to retain, but they will not need much in order to outbid the few teams who will be looking to spend.

Plus Denver can be a force in the trade market as well as they have some excellent assets to work with. They possess a nearly $10 million trade exception from trading Camby. That exception was included in the Billups trade and “refreshed” thus they can use it until November making it infinitely more useful (originally it was going to expire in mid July). They also have a roughly $3.2 million exception that was acquired in the Chucky Atkins to Oklahoma City deal. Throw in potential sign and trade deals with Linas Kleiza, and the future first round draft pick that Denver is owed by Charlotte and Denver can be a major player this offseason.

I hope you can forgive me for looking into the future with this season being far from over, but I am just excited that the Nuggets have to be considered a member of the NBA elite and have a bright future.

I realize there are surely fans out there who just do not believe in the Nuggets. They still think Melo, Kenyon Martin and J.R. are knuckleheads and they will get swept by the Lakers or trounced by the Rockets. Well, Denver has a great opportunity to win those doubters over by winning the Western Conference Finals, a task they are certainly capable of accomplishing.

Soak it in Nuggets fans. It is a new day in the Mile High City.

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  • b.archy6

    I cannot believe this run! As a true Nuggs fan I’ve been waiting for the house to come crashing down, but it just hasn’t happened! I just want to give a big shout out to all TRUE Nuggs fans out there. While we need the revenue, these people who now all of sudden think the Nuggs are all sick are absolutely ridiculous. Oh and where all the haters at? A Wright, Cuban, J Terry and Howard have made this all too SWEEEEEEEETTTT!!!!

  • Othe33

    Jeremy, I want to officially join you in admitting my wrongness – George Karl has clearly done the job necessary to get this team over the hump into the league’s elite. I think he deserves a lot of credit, even if his most significant move was to get out of Chauncey’s way. It takes a lot for a coach to give up the reigns, and in doing so GK gave our young players someone to follow (with help, of course, from the front office).

    Kudos, George. I don’t even care how you got that rug burn on your chin!

  • KC Gunner

    I do hope Stan commits some money to keep the Birdman and upgrading the roster a little, but I’m curious how much you all have heard about Stan’s major investments in Arsenal, an English soccer team (which also happens to be my favorite soccer team — check my handle: Arsenal are the Gunners). He has certainly been spending quite a bit of money there:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2009/may/12/arsenal-stan-kroenke-shares

    He dropped about $90M last month, and is approaching the 30% level at which he will be required to launch a takeover bid and buyout the other stockholders.

  • Frontrange

    What sort of pieces do you think the Nugs should add?

    Couldn’t help but notice Bass is unrestricted FA after last nights game and he seems to be the right type of fit for this team . . . active, young, great motor, good mid range shot. We had a great year health-wise but some more front court depth is still needed.

    ‘Sheed mailed it in this year, but a great team defensive player, legit post defender. Would he be worth a 2 year, lower level contract here instead of in SA?

    How about making a run at Grant Hill to replace Kieza off the bench?

    Marvin Williams at back-up SF?

    Would the Warriors part with Runny Turiaf, cheap?

    Toronto would be a seller, but we don’t have the assets to get Bosh and I don’t think I want Marion. If he could be a second fiddle on Phoenix, how would make it as a back-up to ‘Melo.

  • rcather10

    I think the main impetus will be keeping the team as it is constructed together with the following changes:

    -Replacement for Kleiza
    -A Young Point Guard for Chauncey to groom
    -a Big Man to Replace Hunter.

    I would see just how badly the Knicks want to keep David Lee for the Kleiza replacement and 4th Big Man and draft Ty Lawson as the point guard (I think George promised to draft him if he stayed in and was there when we picked last year before the DUI made us reconsider.) Or if you want JR as the new point guard, draft Wayne Ellington to the be next big-time jumpshooter.

    Do we have Charlotte’s number 1 pick this year?

  • Othe33

    Well, according to NBADraft.net, we don’t draft until the 34 spot, the 4th pick in the second round. They have us picking Jonas Jerebko from Sweden…but they also have Ty Lawson going to the Bulls at 16 – which makes no sense to me and calls into question the entire site.

    These few days off are giving me time to think about all this, and what I keep coming back to is this: Ask Chauncey. Maybe it’s cliche at this point, but those of us who have been watching the team all season have seen the gradual impact he’s had on guys like Carmelo and JR, and his opinion will matter to the rest of the team. If he says Rasheed will get his head back in it, I believe him (for example)

    Pretty much anything we could get for Kleiza at this point would be a bonus, but I don’t think we have him under contract for next year yet, do we?

    Brandon Bass seems like a good fit, but I’d like to get someone like him in the draft. A kid with something to prove that comes cheap and is super happy to be playing with this team, learning from the veterans.

    I like JR as the backup point guard. I think he has the skills to be the dominant combo guard in the league, and we’ve got him signed for at least the next few years.

    The possibilities are not endless, but it sure is exciting to think about minor tweaks instead of major overhauls.

  • Josh Hopp

    I’d be unwilling to change much. You never know what even minor tweaks to our roster could do to our chemistry. LK is an easy target but I can’t think of an obvious trade parter for him that helps us.

  • Josh Hopp

    However, having said that, I was more than happy to stick with Camby this time last year! (puke).

  • givemefletch

    I can still remember our last playoff series win against the Sonics when I was 8 years old, and it has been a LONG 15 years, but we have finally made it back to and even past that point!

    I have a lot of confidence in this team and I think they can win it all, but no matter what happens from here on out I am proud of the Nuggets and the organization. GO NUGGETS!!!