Staking a Claim is a new column that will be taking a look at all things Nuggets through the eyes of an outsider. As those who follow me on Twitter know I am a Bucks fan, so it will give Nuggets fans an opportunity to see things through the eyes of someone who follows the team closely but isn’t necessarily a fan. Please leave any subjects that you would like to see addressed in the future in the comments below or send them to me on Twitter @Matt_Cianfrone.
As I have gotten to know Nuggets fans more in depth one thing keeps coming up when complaints get voiced, the teams recent run of making the playoffs before flaming out in the first round. While there is understandable frustration, especially as the possibility of it occurring again this season is there, though looking less and less likely, I ask Nuggets fans to do one thing.
Please just step back and realize how lucky you are just to make, and be competitive in, the playoffs each year.
You see, as a Bucks fan I am rooting for a team stuck in the worst spot for any NBA team to be; the perennial battle for the eighth seed.
Even worse, more often than not recently that battle has been a losing one. That losing has caused the Bucks to draft in the absolute latest lottery picks, a place too far to gain a real franchise changer but not far enough away that I can watch my team come playoff time, even if it is only for four or five games.
Add into the fact that the Bucks haven’t made wise decisions in regards to trades, (Monta Ellis, Stephen Jackson and Cory Maggette) or free agent signings, (John Salmons extension comes to mind) and things are even more frustrating.
So when I see Nuggets fans complain about making the playoffs every year I laugh a bit, especially when I look at the state of the Denver franchise right now.
First of all, you have had the chance to root for your team in the playoffs every year in the recent past. Yes, I understand that losing in the first round every year can get frustrating, especially when you perceive that the team has enough talent to do more. But the fact of the matter is, that unlike 14 other teams in each of those years, the Nuggets season wasn’t done with meaningful games until playoff time.
In fact there are some teams that haven’t even seen meaningful games in March for years. The Timberwolves haven’t made the playoffs since 2004, the Kings since 2006, the Warriors since 2007, and the Wizards, Nets and Raptors since 2008. That is one-fifth of the league that hasn’t seen the playoffs in at least the last four seasons.
Even worse there are teams that barely make the playoffs and the once or twice they do they can’t win. The Knicks and Trailblazers haven’t won a series since 2000. My Bucks and the Raptors haven’t since 2001. The Kings and Wolves haven’t since 2004. And the Charlotte Bobcats haven’t won a playoff series in franchise history, a franchise which started in 2004.
More importantly than immediate and constant playoff success the Nuggets have a clearly competent front office, one that has a plan and is sticking to it, leading to what looks like a very bright future. Just recently Denver has nailed draft picks such as Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried. They have won trades such as the Melodrama and the Andre Iguodala/Dwight Howard/Arron Afflalo trade. They sign players to team friendly contracts such as the Lawson, and JaVale McGee extensions. They even have found and singed important role players to small team friendly deals such as Kosta Koufos and Cory Brewer. Most of all they are patient.
That patience was on display again this season when they didn’t make a move for the sake of making a move at the trade deadline. What they did was allow this team to gel and grow, to show them they have more than one year to make it work. And the team has responded, with a six game winning streak including a win over the Thunder. With Ty Lawson playing at a new level than ever before this team looks ready to win a first round series at the very least this year and do potentialy bigger and better things in the very near future.
That patience isn’t normal. Take the Bucks for example. The following players from the 2010 playoff team are no longer members of the organization: Andrew Bogut, Kurt Thomas, Dan Gadzuric, Primo Brezec, Darnell Jackson, Carlos Delfino, Jerry Stackhouse, Salmons, Charlie Bell, Michael Redd, Luke Ridnour,Royal Ivey and Scott Skiles.
The following players joined the team after the 2010 playoffs and have since left the organization: Maggette, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Keyon Dooling, Earl Boykins, Jon Brockman, Jon Leuer, Shaun Livingston, Tobias Harris, Beno Udrih, and Stephen Jackson.
In other words, twenty three players and one head coach have left the Milwaukee organization in three years. Only three players have remained on the team that long: Brandon Jennings, Luc Richard Mbah A Moute, and Ersan Ilyasova.
On top of the patience and general intelligence of the front office, and meaningful games into March, the Nuggets have another thing going for them. They are incredibly fun to watch. The team flies up and down the floor,and has fantastic finshers in Fareid, McGee and Iguodala to end those blazing trips. They have blinding speed in Lawson and a player who has mastered the art of the leak out in Brewer. And our good buddy Pierre even provides comedy on most nights. So not only does the team win, they do it in a fun way.
Imagine watching the Celtics on a nightly basis. Sure they win but the style, defense and midrange jumpers, isn’t exactly the most fan friendly thing in the world.
So yes, I get things can get frustrating after continuously losing in the first round of the playoffs.
But when things look too bleak, too frustrating, please do me a favor.
Look around the league and realize how lucky you are.
Your team isn’t trapped in purgatory. You can trust your front office. Your team is incredibly fun to watch on a nightly basis.
Most importantly though, you get to root for your team in the playoffs every year, a team that has been competitive in recent years and looks headed in the right direction.
So I ask you. From time to time take a step back.
Realize it can get worse.
Enjoy these Nuggets.