Have the Nuggets taken “the greatest risk a team can take”?

Recently, Mark Cuban wrote a very revealing and intriguing blog post on the Dallas Mavericks’ recent offseason maneuvers. This was brought to my attention by Matt Moore’s insightful reaction to Cuban’s post. As they are really great reads, I would highly recommend reading both in their entirety before proceeding. Cuban’s post is here at BlogMaverick.com, and Moore’s article is here at CBSSPORTS.com.

The central theme of both is the conundrum of what to do with an aging superstar, and how that decision may impact short- and long-term team building. Is it best to trade him for draft picks and other young assets, tanking for the hope of the next draft superstar and sacrificing current success for future gains? Or to take a win-now-at-all-costs approach and milk the value of that star for all he’s worth while you can? Or alternately, choose a middle ground in an effort to have your cake and eat it, too?

In 2011, under Masai Ujiri’s competent guiding hand, the Nuggets successfully delayed facing this music when confronting the departure of Carmelo Anthony, who was abandoning Denver not due to nearing the twilight of his career, but rather for his desire to play for a worse team under a brighter (and more lucrative) media limelight.

Thanks in large part to receiving a hefty handful of assets in exchange for Melo, Denver could plausibly choose the third way and opt to stay competitive (and, in fact, improve) while undergoing a fairly significant retooling process. And it worked pretty well – for a while.

But this summer the somewhat tenuous threads which had held the Nuggets’ unconventional “success without a superstar” project together finally began to unravel, as Ujiri departed for Toronto, Josh Kroenke fired George Karl, and Andre Iguodala – their prized pickup from the previous offseason – split for the team who beat them in the first round of the playoffs (with the added shady innuendo of his allegedly secretly confiding in Warriors coach Mark Jackson – during the series – about his dissatisfaction with the Nuggets’ tactics).

The flood gates seemed to burst open, and in their wake Josh Kroenke and Tim Connelly – or as they’ve come to be known in the comments section, “KronCon” (h/t RMC reader “Bricks”) – made a series of rapid-fire moves. Each of these was by no means disastrous, and all could be seen as reasonable deals in their own right, ranging in quality from redemptive (the hiring of Brian Shaw) to thrifty (signing Nate-rob on the cheap) to dubious (the acquisition of Foye).

Taken as a whole, however, this suite of moves comes across as a hastily assembled patchwork which could be seen at worst as desperately plugging holes in an increasingly unstable dyke, or at best as making sub-optimal but necessary adjustments for postseason success. And from what I’ve seen, the resulting roster is regarded by nearly all – irrespective of positive or negative opinions about the new front office’s decision making thus far – as a fairly confusing jumble (I’ll politely refrain from using a phrase beginning with “cluster”) which we won’t be able to fully make heads or tails of until we see this team on the court and get the opportunity to observe how the rotations, chemistry and system shake out.

But of course, most Roundball Mining Company readers are all too familiar with the events of the 2013 Nuggets offseason, and the main reason for recapping them here is to set the stage and frame the context of the specific tatement Cuban made which, to me, strongly resonates with issues the Nuggets will be facing this season and beyond:

Culture is very important to the Mavs. Your best player has to be a fit for what you want the culture of the team to be. He has to be someone who leads by example. Someone who sets the tone in the locker room and on the court. It isn’t about who talks the most or the loudest. It is about the demeanor and attitude he brings. It is amazing how when the culture is strong, the chemistry is strong. When the Mavs have brought in players that didn’t fit or buy in to our culture it created on the court and off the court problems. Its possible to handle one guy who may not fit it. It’s going to have a negative impact on your won and loss record if you have more than one.

Our culture is one of the reasons I won’t trade Dirk.

When you turn your team upside down and try to figure out what the culture of the team is, you take the greatest risk a team can take. Dirk sets the tone for our team. He works as hard, if not harder than anyone… That mindset. That selflessness. His work ethic is something I want to be in place long after he has retired. But to do that we have to transition with him, not in a void.

Matt Moore extrapolates:

It is when Cuban says things like this, that you’re forced to simply say “He gets it.” The Lakers don’t have much of a culture besides “winning.” That’s a function of their payroll, their fortune, their access to talent on and off the court in building teams. But so many NBA teams squander their lives away by pursuing only basketball concepts rather than by building that culture. Certains teams have. The San Antonio Spurs, for example. The Miami Heat under Pat Riley are another. Say what you want about the way he brought the Big 3 together in Miami, but Riley sold LeBron James on taking his talents to South Beach by preaching a winning culture, and by sticking with it. You don’t hear word of James’ cronies running the joint like they did in Cleveland. And that’s for a reason.

Too often teams overlook what building a program does for you. It’s true that often that goal is compromised by the lack of a superstar like Tim Duncan or Dirk Nowitzki. But we’ve seen teams with good culture rise from the ashes much faster than those without who squander their years in mediocrity.

Riffing off the bolded statements above (all emphases mine), and using them as a lens through which to examine the Nuggets, here are some observations and questions about what the team has now become, and going into the future, what its trajectory and fortunes might be:

 

  • Culture is very important.” – It’s a no-brainer to agree with Cuban that team culture is important not only for the Mavs but for every NBA team. Which for Denver raises the question: What exactly is the culture of the Nuggets now, anyhow? After eight years of the team being largely defined by five elements – Karl’s coaching, Melo as the star, the “three-headed monster” triumvirate front office, Ujiri’s tenure, and the Kroenke family’s overseeing of operations throughout the entire process – only the final component remains. In retrospect, it may prove to have been the most important one, although probably the least attention was paid to it by the media and fan base. Until we see how the new Nuggets unfold, we can’t know much, but one fact will rise above all others: The Kroenkes, having assumed full control, should likewise be recognized as being fully responsible – and accountable – for the success or failure of this team, and the quality of the organization.
  • It’s going to have a negative impact on your won and loss record if you have more than one [player who doesn't fit into the culture].” As “the culture” of the Nuggets remains somewhat of a mystery, it’s hard to say much about this assertion except to simply point out how much turnover the roster has seen. And to be clear, this means nothing automatically. Ujiri and Karl made success out of a big roster shakeup which exceeded the expectations of most pundits. But in the current roster, with so many NBA-worthy players competing for so few minutes, it will be a challenge for Shaw and the FO to prevent the frustration of guys who aren’t getting the minutes they feel they deserve (and perhaps, rightfully so) from becoming a team-fracturing dilemma. On the flip side, this point could illustrate a silver lining to Iguodala’s exit. If he truly did not want to remain in Denver, as much as the team will miss what he delivered on the court, in the long term it could be better for the team if by staying he would have poisoned the well. After all, who wants to be the chump whose girlfriend or boyfriend isn’t into it anymore, but only hasn’t broken up because of not finding someone better yet?
  • When you turn your team upside down and try to figure out what the culture of the team is, you take the greatest risk a team can take. This was the passage from Cuban’s blog which really grabbed me. Because “turn your team upside down and try to figure out what the culture of the team is” sure sounds like a dead ringer description of what just happened to the Nuggets over the past three months. Which is not necessarily to suggest that Cuban is correct, or that the remaining core players, under Shaw’s leadership, are incapable of keeping the team at an even keel despite all these changes. And “the greatest risk” may be a bit melodramatic. (Why else would I put it in the post title?) But one thing is absolutely clear: Josh Kroenke has taken risks. Major ones. And it seems apparent that he has lost a few gambles as well. I hope that it’s fair to say (and based on our conversations, I believe it is) that most of your RMC writers at the very least see more steps back than steps forward this offseason. And speaking personally the cost-benefit analysis ain’t looking too hot. Having locked in so much payroll on so many middling players, the Nuggets’ flexibility has diminished considerably, and although there are few “untradeable” contracts on the roster, there are also few “appealing” trade assets which the Nuggets would likely be willing to give up. The one thing we know for certain: We will learn the answer to the question of how big a risk the Nuggets have taken, and what the cost will be, in due time. I for one hope to be proven wrong, and to be pleasantly surprised that KronCon’s gambles paid off.
  • But so many NBA teams squander their lives away by pursuing only basketball concepts rather than by building that culture.” Regarding the Nuggets, this is a very compelling blade which could slice either way. Karl’s Nuggets were a patently concept-driven team with a near-religious commitment to 3-pointers and paint points run off the dribble-drive, combined with relentless running. But what was the “team culture”? That identity was fractured and relegated to disparate elements – Faried and Brewer for their energy, Iguodala for his defense and leadership, Lawson for essentially running the show. Gallo the guy who steps up and comes through. The team has lacked a true leader in the sense of having one player who encompasses multiple dimensions of running the team rather than filling a niche. I wrote a post last year about the Denver’s need for Lawson to step up as a leader and arguing that he should be named team captain, and with Iggy gone and Gallo out, if he’s not the guy who willingly and capably takes up the mantle, it’s hard to see how the Nuggets won’t struggle. At this point both “basketball concepts” and “team culture” remain so enigmatic that it’s far too soon to judge. But it’s something to watch for.
  • But we’ve seen teams with good culture rise from the ashes much faster than those without who squander their years in mediocrity. After years of wallowing in the lottery, it took the Nuggets the good fortune of landing Melo (and the subsequent hiring of Karl) to dredge them out of the murky depths of the league’s perpetually bad teams. Have they done enough to stay afloat? Or, as has been repeatedly bandied about on Twitter and elsewhere, have the Nuggets doomed themselves to the dreaded fate of becoming the new Bucks? (With apologies to Milwaukee fans). As much as I hate to be pessimistic, at this point I’m more worried than optimistic. But again, nothing would make me happier than to be proven wrong. The portal through which that could realistically happen, though, is some kind of trade which makes better sense of this still-enigmatic roster.

 

The fact that this post raises more questions than it answers is at least in part a function of the Nuggets not yet having clarified in concrete terms where they’re headed. And as hard as it is right now to get a grasp on what exactly this new incarnation of the team will end up being, the matters of culture and identity will certainly prove to be very important to the Nuggets’ immenent and future success. It’s undeniable that Denver has taken some major risks (some, perhaps, more out of necessity than their own choosing), but whether they promise to continue or threaten to unravel the (relative) success the team has had over the last decade remains to be seen.

 

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  • herpderpnuggets

    I think that this year will be a step back from what we had last year, but I have a feeling that in the next 2 – 3 years, a “leap” will be made. The young core on this team is solid, and a culture was established before shaw, and it didnt really work. I think the culture finding and player maturation this year will be very significant, if not the most we have seen. There is still some serious talent on this roster, and it feels kind of good to be seen as the underdogs again this year. Denver will have its bad, good, and great years, and we are witnessing steps in the process for one of those types of years. I love denver basketball, and dammit the season needs to start soon.

  • Wayne Highwood

    Upon reading the title I was expecting an article about JaVale, since he is the biggest gamble KronCon are making.

    Shaw and his presumably more coherent system, his development skills, and the seemingly positive chemistry our youthful players already have should combine rather well. Shaw has already established higher expectations than Karl ever did. I think the Nug’s culture will be ok.

    • herpderpnuggets

      i also agree that the culture will be ok, as long as there are fans. And Shaw is going to bring in a new culture

    • Bricks

      Biggest gamble was firing GK, and we honestly know nothing about Shaw yet, especially about the system he’ll be rolling out. So to say that it’s coherent might be jumping the gun a tad. And, frankly, how has Shaw established ANYTHING in Denver. He has to actually coach here first. Not trying to be a smart *asterisk, really, just find your optimistic comments about Shaw and his system, and comparing his expectations to GK, a bit presumptuous.

      • loops

        Our biggest gamble was firing a coach who couldn’t win in the playoffs?

        • Bricks

          I’ve gone on record many times saying the firing of Karl was well-deserved. But, hell yes, it was an extremely risky and gut-wrenching decision for JKronk. Not many coaches can boast making it to the playoffs with one team for nine straight years, averaging 50+ wins per year. And any fan of basketball (if one takes off his Nuggets colored glasses) has to admit that with the middle-of-the-road talent that GK had to work with he performed some decent voodoo to get the most out of them. Furthermore, the team that was being assembled in Denver this past season had all the makings of vastly improving next year — and it still may — but doing it with a new coach and a new system is, to me, as big a risk as it gets in this game. Should the risk have been taken — yes.

          • loops

            Not many coaches had teams of highly talented players like GK did. Carmelo Anthony was middle of the road talent? AI was middle of the road talent? GK has had some very talented teams. Put him in Philly last year and he doesn’t make the playoffs. Let’s not act like Karl hasn’t been surrounded by talent his entire tenure with the Nuggets.

            • Bricks

              Talent does not equal good player. Melo and Chauncey were GK’s best and brightest players. Outside of those two, GK did not have much to work with — but he worked well with what he had. A.I. was on the downside of his career when he was in Denver, all he could still do when he was here was create his own shot.

              • loops

                On the downside of his career averaging 26.4 points, 7.1 assists, 3 boards, 2 steals per game with 2nd best career FG% .458 and .345 from 3. Or the year before when he had a very similar year.

              • Bricks

                A.I.’s all-around game was revived the couple of years he was in Denver. And, yes, he was on the downside of his career, because you know as well as I do that after he left Denver his career was over and his game was never recovered.

            • gimpcom187

              ummm Yes the nuggets were very middle of the road in talent prior to Chauncey coming. Melo is a significantly overrated talent because he essentially is a one trick pony. His one trick (scoring) is the most revered skill in basketball and so he is put into a class right behind Wade etc when in fact he was never even close to a top 10 player in the league with the nuggets. His defense is decidedly below average. And of course he displays few leadership skills beyond his willingness to take tough late shots (which is valuable). If the team had drafted Wade or Maybe even Chris Bosh they likely get 1 round beyond where they did in 2-3 years Allen Iverson was essentially a slightly better version of monta ellis. Again severely overvalued as a good shot creator for himself with medium to low efficiency, mediocre to poor creating for teammates skills and poor defense. Kenyon Martin was a 6-8 million dollar player getting paid double that. And after his surgeries he was more of a mid level exception guy in terms of talent.

              Their talent was probably top 10 or close to it many of the years AFTER Andre Miller was traded. When they got Chauncey who was truly the leader and best talent on the nugs for 2 years the team was WCF and a 2 seed? with Karl sidelined recovering from Cancer. Unfortunately in the West you have to be top 5 to be better than 50/50 to get to second round. Consistently over the past decade the west has had 4 of the top 6 or 5 of the top 7 teams in the league in terms of talent and often record. Unless you have two all-stars you have no right to EXPECT to get to round 2 in the Western Conference.

              This team does not have the talent (when defense is accounted for) to make it to the next round. It’s a 50/50 shot they make it to the playoffs at all. The only nice thing about this offseason is it will make it clear how unrealistic some nugs fans have been about the team.

              • loops

                You just said Melo is a middle of the road talent. I don’t need to read any further. Wow

              • gimpcom187

                well apparently you CAN’T read. I said the team had middle of the road talent and I ACTUALLY said Melo was overrated. Which if you think he has EVER been a top 10 NBA talent he is. He made a step up last year because he was willing to take the small ball PF roll and still he’s borderline top 10 at best (he was unwilling to take this role in Denver)

              • loops

                Significantly overrated. I don’t know if he was ever significantly overrated as a talent. He can rebound and he can play fantastic defense. We’ve seen him do both, he just doesn’t try half the time. He still has the talent. Like I said, Karl can’t manage personalities and AI taught Melo more about the game than Karl himself. I blame AI for how selfish Melo is on the court.

              • gimpcom187

                . Melo is a good Offensive rebounder which is more about him getting to the hole and putting a shot off the board and then following up his own miss. He isn’t a guy like faried who goes to get more possessions for his team. Defensive rebounding he is average for a SF and bad for a PF. Defensively he is consistently amongst the worst 10 starting wing defenders in the league because he does not put in great effort and has limited court awareness. You obviously don’t understand anything about AI. That dude is in no way a role model as an NBA talent. AI was a freakish athlete who was very competitive but constantly undermined his talent with his stubborn unwillingness to accommodate his game to a team concept (he made slight adjustments in Denver). Chauncey and Karl shifted Melo from what could have been a Sprewell type career into (ball hogging ego maniac) to bernard king (great scorer with average value beyond that). If he had turned himself into an above average defender or stellar passer he could have been a poor man’s Larry Bird, which is still a top 5ish player in the league. Unfortunately he is running out of years to develop this.

              • loops

                Ummm I’m the guy saying AI and the word mature shouldn’t be used in the same sentence. The fact remains, Melo didn’t change his style just like AI didn’t. Therefore GK didn’t have a grasp on managing personalities. Kobe Bryant has more to do with Melos development than Chauncey does. GK did nothing for Melo but talk sauce on him after he lead town just like he does with a lot of players. Actions reflect leadership. GK was not a leader of men he wasn’t even a leader of boys.

              • LBJ

                One thing that GK learned over his coaching career – is that some players in the NBA cannot be led. They have their guaranteed contracts and could care less what any coach thinks. Better to just get rid of their ass and bring in players that care about winning.
                Apparently D’Antoni couldn’t lead either – it took the Knicks hiring a coach that just lets Melo/JR run endless isos. Of course, they will never win anything, but Melo is happy.

              • loops

                Woodson rivals GK for some of the biggest head scratching rotations. Woodson will win just as much as we did with GK. which is winning nothing. Funny considering you implied things are different with guys like GK. they aren’t, they are exactly the same

              • LBJ

                You mean Coach of the Year, George Karl? The guy that set the franchise record in wins last year? Without a single all star on his roster?

              • loops

                What exactly did he win again? Oh yea, one and done. Regular season means nothing. GK has had some of the worst rotations of any coach it’s not even debatable

              • LBJ

                1000 wins in the NBA says your allegation is a joke – and its not even debatable.

              • loops

                1000 wins and how many NBA championships? Oh yea…what actually counts.

              • LBJ

                So other than Spo, Doc, Pop and Carlisle – all the NBA team have morons that can’t coach? I’m sure that it is just a coincidence that some of the best players in the NBA just happen play for those great coaches…

              • loops

                So GK never had AI, Carmelo, Gary Payton or Shawn Kemp. Hmmmm.

              • Charliemyboy

                It was really idiotic for all of Karl’s peers to vote him coach of the year. They just don’t know what he did with this team of all stars, did they. Can’t wait for Shaw to take us to the conference finals this next year. No way Karl could have done that.

              • loops

                That’s why Masai got voted exec of the year right? Because he provided him with nothing, and he won with nothing. lol

              • Charliemyboy

                Point: Karl’s peers voted him the best coach in the NBA last year. Point: 40 wins this year. Point: bad decisions.

              • loops

                No, your point was that he won coach of the year with no all-stars yet his GM was voted GM of the year for assembling such a team. So your point lacks substance. Want to wager on us breaking 44 wins? Karls first full season record with the Nuggets, you know…with all-stars

              • loops

                14 one and done seasons

                453 wins

                229 losses

                Win %: 66.4

                19 playoff wins

                51 playoff losses

                Win %: 27.1

              • Charliemyboy

                Can’t wait to record the games this year and enjoy watching the replays through 60 wins. That will make me a happy camper for many months. Screw the playoffs. When we wil only get through 2 rounds after 3 years, and never have a chance in the foreseeable future to even make the conference finals, then talk about Karl. No telling what would have happened next year with the same coach and team. I like winning and beating the best teams. I’m sure we will continue to do that this year with our great changes.

              • loops

                Just like we didn’t know what would happen in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

              • Charliemyboy

                Can’t wait for the 60 wins next year, er, I mean 40.

              • loops

                Maybe you should go like another team. This isn’t George Karl’s team. He’s gone. All your crying won’t bring him back. He’s never coming back. You act as if GK was going to get 60 wins next year. You act as if he was going to break 57 wins. In your honest evaluation, how many wins do you think GK would have had? Let’s consider he wouldn’t have had Gallo the majority of the season. Then let’s consider first that he has averaged 50 wins per season when he coached full seasons with the Nuggets. So if Brian Shaw breaks 50 wins, or wins one round in the playoffs will you still act as if the world is ending?

              • Charliemyboy

                I’m sorry you don’t like the Nuggets. I love the team and that is why this dismantling and acquiring medium to low acquisitions, or unknowns, as compared with the opportunity to have an unsurpassed year is, to quote an old hall of fame coach, ‘Stupid.’ People who’s entire reputation is based on analysis and perspective on the over all impact of systems and coaches have pointed toward imminent demise; whereas, one more year would have surpassed the previous under George. Gallo is equal to Ty in contribution, yet his loss only provided a venue for Chandler to rise to the occasion, with hardly a slip. Personality and age pushed the team back to curses at each loss on expectation to win in the forthcoming. It is hard to see the limit on what could have happened this year. He would have started JaVale, and the others would have been stronger, faster, and smarter. Granted, they still will develop, so I don’t know why the seesayers have predicted lottery. But He would have had 57 plus and maybe won the conference finals; we beat, SA, beat OK, beat Ind, beat Chi, beat the Clips, Mem… sh/beat Miami. Don’t give up, though; but don’t be surprised and discouraged at 40-45 wins. Demise.

              • loops

                It’s absolutely idiotic to think this team would break 57 wins this year under Karl. Iggy would have left regardless. CBrew would have been gone. Koufos would have been gone. Karl doesn’t control the player personnel, the front office does and Masai left. No way this team would have won the conference finals or had 57 wins again. Last year was a fluke and Karls system is proven to be the worst in the playoffs. It’s a terrible playoff system. I love the Nuggets which is why stale and one and done GK had to go. You clearly love GK and not the Nuggets. So feel free to go stare at GK pictures until he gets a coaching job, if that ever happens, then you can go watch him go one and done with his next team.

              • Charliemyboy

                Do you have some of GK’s pictures in your closet? GK fought off cancer and showed what kind of man he was. You’re hunching again on your prognostications; the facts and trends bely your lack of reason. If Josh had tended to Masai early on it is possible that all your jargon would have been superseded. Thus, with a team of kids, Karl might have exceeded this years performance. With the same team, stronger, faster, and more mature, and adjustments w/JaVale, who could they not have beat? They could have even got 58 wins!

              • loops

                Why would I have GK pictures? I absolutely loath the guy. I’ve wanted him out of Denver for years. This team doesn’t get stronger or faster under Karl. They just stay the same. Masai was going to Toronto regardless. He told Kroenke not to bother extending an offer despite Kroenke vowing to offer more money. Masai admitted that in an interview. Your assumptions are a joke. Again I ask you, what would be a successful season win wise for B Shaw. You can’t say for a second a guy who had gone one and done 8 times in 9 years that he would have somehow not done so next year. That would be an absolute joke.

              • Charliemyboy

                Ok, you win; YOUR assumptions are right. We will have more victories this year that last, or than what we could have had sans the dismantling. We will make it to the conference finals. Josh s/h negotiated a deal last year (2012) w/Masai and paid him right. Poor management. He waits until it is too late and then gets back-up mid range players to cover the wound left by Iggy which he couldn’t negotiate due to the culture he has set. He is reactive and not proactive and should have learned from Masai. Successful for Shaw? Why, progress from last year with more wins and playoff victories. Isn’t that the future? Or do we wait for sometime during the next 5 years? Read Bleacher or other prognosticators. Demise, less wins; one even predicted lottery. I don’t believe that; but Josh will reap what he sowed.

              • loops

                It’s funny because I never said we would make it to the conference finals next year. I never said we would get more victories than last year. I actually said we would do neither with both Shaw and Karl. Kroenke wasn’t going to get Iggy. Iggy said himself he didn’t appreciate the contract structure offered and he clearly didn’t approve of Karls culture when he was the mole for Jackson during our series. So GK wins 44 his first year, and he’s had 8 one and done’s in Denver yet here you are saying he would have broken another regular season record for wins and would have won the conference finals? Dear lord man, get a grip. Do yourself a favor and go find another team to support you troll

              • LBJ

                We could have signed Iggy if your hero Joshy boy hadn’t cheapskated him on the 5th year of his deal.

              • loops

                I’m glad we didn’t. This will be Iggys last contract and he is not a game changer. He’s only getting older and he doesn’t thrive when he’s asked to be a star player on a team. Good riddance.

              • LBJ

                I will give you credit – you are consistent, consistently wrong. Failing to sign Iggy was a big blow – you don’t let your best players walk away over a few bucks in the last year of the deal. Yes, Iggy is “only getting older” – but last i checked so is every other player in the league! Plenty of players are still pretty good at 34 (see Kobe).

              • loops

                Iggy doesn’t win this team a championship. So what’s the point of extending him a contract that handicaps us? Not much. It sure didn’t put us over the hump last year. One and done with your boys iggy and karl. Glad to here you love to settle for mediocrity. Not even mediocrity. Down right terrible playoff performances. lol.

              • LBJ

                If the measure is winning championships then players on 29 teams failed. But you don’t see OKC dumping Durant or LAL dumping Kobe or Spurs dumping Parker. They build on existing talent. We let our talent walk and replace it with players that no one else wants – which is why we have no championships.

              • loops

                Durant has been to the conference finals. Durant and Kobe are not just a tier above Iggy but a few tiers. They are game changers, Iggy has proved in Philly and in Denver he is not. He is a good player yes, but he is not the player you want as the star of your team. He’s in the perfect role with GS. Had he been younger, you keep him. His talents are only diminishing at this point in his career. I would have liked him back at a good price but when he wants north of 12 million for 5 straight years well…we don’t have the developed talent to warrant blowing it on him. Especially when his heart clearly wasn’t with Denver. He got more money garaunteed from Denver but he didn’t like the last year of the contract. He was the mole. Parker is a game changer. To sit their and compare Iggy, a one year rental to home grown talent that were actual superstars like Parker, Kobe, and Durant is silly. Kobe and Parker have multiple championships. Durant will likely have one in the future.

              • LBJ

                Your silly ass point was that since we didn’t win a championship we need to dump Iggy because he will be 34 at the end of his deal. As anyone who knows anything about the NBA – you don’t let quality players leave. Replacing Iggy with crap like Foye and Nate Rob is a huge loss. It’s too bad you are too stupid to recognize the obvious.

              • loops

                No, my point was we weren’t going to win a championship with him and by signing him to a contract like that with a player who is pretty much on his last contract, it would have handicapped us. In a year or two, that contract is not trade friendly, it would not expire until he is 34 and Iggy is a player who’s athleticism has put him over the edge. Now that he is losing that, he is on a steady and rapid decline as a player. His terrible jumper is worse, his terrible free throw percentage is worse. He’s never been a big threat from the 3 point line. He’s rapidly becoming a role player and that’s what he will be in Golden State. Of course, you continue to sling insults around. Further proving that I am making logical points that make you feel threatened. This is fun. You are too cute. LBJ? Shouldn’t you be on the Heat boards?

              • LBJ

                In reality you are a moron who never makes a point. Even your butt buddy Josh knows we are worse off after this disaster of an off season. Joshy screwed up with Ujiri and cheapskated Iggy. But on the bright side, we won’t have to worry about losing in the first round – because your studs (Foye and NRob) won’t get us there. We can always watch Iggy and the GSW though.

              • loops

                Very disappointing this site doesn’t moderate trolls who just come on here to insult people like you do. How about you go be a Golden State fan, or a heat fan since you modeled your SN after him. Troll on troll

              • Charliemyboy

                You write with experienced banality. You should listen to LBJ; he knows what he is talking about. Go back to your closet.

              • loops

                So says the guy who was singing we were doomed based off summer league despite this team winning more SL games this year than last year. lol. Denver Stiffs is solely better than roundball based on the absurd amount of trolls floating around here. This site is good for it’s incite but is absolutely murdered by trolls like the both of you. At least some of the posters here are rational and not troll like in their disagreements such as Bricks.

                Your post history is also filled with nothing but troll like posts.

              • Charliemyboy

                Yes, but LBJ has a mind; you only have a mouth, and can’t even type with it. You give yourself away with your banality. LBJ is right on. You are a write-off.

              • loops

                Funny, I have a mouth but no mind and I am the one being civil and offering my interpretation and opinion where as LBJ is straight up trolling and apparently all he does is troll from his post history on every website he participates on by calling people names. When you name call and outright attack people you are a mouth, not a mind. Just because you don’t agree with my opinion doesn’t mean you should demean me. For being such an old guy, you are very close-minded. Oh wait I forgot, that kind of goes hand in hand with your generation.

              • gimpcom187

                Googs? If it looks like a duck and quacks like one too. The truth is if you feel iguoudala wasnt worth wasting the money on (you may be right assuming you couldnt offload him in 2-3 years). I think they could have. Anyway this team is headed for the purest form of mediocrity. 7-11 seed with little hope of development beyond that.

              • loops

                See I just feel like we were already at mediocrity. Granted, franchise record for wins is awesome but this team wasn’t going to win the NBA Championship. I doubt we make it past the Spurs. I mean, I know we didn’t make it out of the first round with homecourt. Injuries happen, it’s part of the game. We were a deep team and GS lost an all-star PF. There was no excuse. I think we overachieved because of a system that works in the regular season but doesn’t ever seem to work in the playoffs when the game slows down and teams have longer than 2 days to gameplan for their opponents. I don’t think Iggy would be a waste of money. I was happy with the acquisition. I’m just not going to sit here and pretend we were going to win anything of significance with him. So in the long run, it may benefit us to not be tied to that type of contract. Did I want iggy? Yes. Did I want to overpay for him long-term? No, not really. This team will live and die by developing it’s young talent. I want to see if we can develop these guys into all-stars and if we can’t, well we weren’t going to win with Iggy anyways. The only way this team wins anything of significance is if the talent develops. If they did develop wouldn’t it be an advantage to have Iggy? Sure, but he hinders us in terms of resigning young talent as well as court time to help develop them. Practice is great but you truly develop when you play the game.

              • loops

                Just like we didn’t know what would happen 8 out of the 9 years he was here

              • Charliemyboy

                Brilliant changes… ended as high as 3, now starting out at 17 on the demise.

              • gimpcom187

                Kobe? Lol. That guy wouldnt help his mother out of an alligator pit if he saw her as a competitor. Your also the guy who said melo learned from ai. So youve reiterated a guy who cant lead you saw as acting as a role model to melo. Im beginning to see circular illogic. Look the nugs have had 3 above average coaches in their nba history. Larry brown, george karl and doug moe. If you dont understand karl as probably 2nd best of that group you’ll probably getting the clue around march of this year.

              • loops

                So Melo citing Kobe as one of his greatest mentors in his later years was just him blowing hot air? Get a clue.

              • LBJ

                Melo sure never learned a desire to win from Kobe. He might have learned how to crank up 30 shots a game from Kobe – but Melo pretty much had that down early in his career…

              • loops

                Melo sure didn’t learn a thing from GK

              • Charliemyboy

                Melo is unteachable. Come on; he’s the same in NY.

              • loops

                Yet, GK is being touted as someone that taught unteachable guys like Melo, JR, KMart, and AI lessons. That never happened. He has never effectively managed a personality his entire coaching career. Melo had his best year last year in NY ironically

              • LBJ

                Melo probably learned more from Karl than from any of his coaches…

              • loops

                Yea, how to lose

              • LBJ

                Melo played fantastic defense??? When the hell did that ever happen???
                Melo didn’t need Iverson to teach him how to be selfish – that was one thing he excelled in. Check out Tyson Chandler’s comments on Melo’s unselfishness against Indiana.

              • loops

                Against Kobe Bryant in the western conference finals he played fantastic defense

              • LBJ

                Somehow I don’t recall that….

              • LBJ

                Kobe scored 40,32,41,34,22 and 35 points in the 6 game series. I’m not sure that qualifies as “fantastic” defense.

              • loops

                Kobe was a monster but Melo did play fantastic defense. He was on Kobe like white on rice. Kobe was still draining shots. Kobe cited Melo as having the best defensive series of any player he’s ever played against. Who has ever shut down Kobe in his prime?

              • gimpcom187

                Umm no. 2010 and 2008 finals kobe was very mediocre. Against the 09 rockets again struggled especially in effeciency. Teams that had good wing defenders kept kobe to high volume mediocre efficiency. Melo and dahntay jones were not good defenders hence kobe went off. Youre grasping at straws.

              • loops

                Clearly you didn’t watch it. Kobe came out and said he had never been so tired in his entire life after the Denver series and he said it took a heavy toll on him leading into the Championship series. He even cited he was surprised they went 4-1 in the finals because of how completely exhausted he was heading into them.

              • LBJ

                I know you are going to find this incredible – but sometimes players are not always honest in post game interviews!!!!
                Some players have even been known to make absurd claims to stroke some unsuspecting competitor’s ego!!!! I know that seems totally unfair (and probably should be illegal) – but some unscrupulous players do that frequently!!!

              • loops

                What would he accomplish by doing that?

              • LBJ

                Maybe by stroking his opponent’s ego – while lighting him up for 40 – the opponent will think he is playing “fantastic defense” and see no need to play any harder, or change his approach. Of course, I’m just guessing…

              • loops

                Yea but this was after the series had ended

              • LBJ

                Maybe he had some wild notion that Melo would still be in the league next year….

              • loops

                So Melo was his biggest threat?

                I think it’s ridiculous that you are in such denial that Melo has the athleticism to play fantastic defense, his mind is just never there. When he tried, he plays fantastic, granted for one series. The point is, he is fully capable of playing great defense with his athleticism and strength

              • LBJ

                Did I say there was any limit to the ego stroking that NBA players can do (or any professional athlete for that matter)? I can’t recall too many players saying after a series – “Yeah, my opponent sucked – I could have lit him up for 50 if I wanted to.”
                I also never said anything about Melo’s athleticism (now that you brought it up, I would say he is about average among the NBA’s 3/4s). A lot of defense is desire and focus – something that was rarely ever a priority for Melo.

              • loops

                So that’s why Kobe has never said that about anyone else? That’s why he didn’t say it about Ron Artest or any other player up until that point? Melo had the desire and was focused in that series, hence playing fantastic defense. Kobe hardly ever compliments the oppositions defense. You’re just throwing crap at the wall hoping it sticks.

              • LBJ

                So you talk to Kobe daily? And you know who he has complimented in his 17 years in the league? According to you, it was a guy he lit for 33 a game on only 22 shots. Sounds believable coming from an idiot that thinks a guy that has won a thousand NBA games knows nothing about coaching.

                BTW – where is all this great D from Melo after he left the Nuggets? Or is Karl the only coach that ever motivated him to play D?

              • loops

                Karl never motivated Melo to do anything. Love how you say he doesn’t do something then say “Oh Karl made him do it.”

                People only name call when they feel the opposition has made a threatening logical opposing point. So thanks for that sweet heart. You are cute.

                Melo wasn’t the only player D’ing up Kobe as has already been pointed out. Dahntay Jones and JR Smith also D’d him up. When Melo was on Kobe, he played fantastic. Also, what game are you referring to? He didn’t score 33 points once in that series. Maybe you were referring to his 35 points on 20 shots?

                That series was the only time I have ever witnessed Melo play defense in his entire career. Why would I or Kobe make that up?

              • LBJ

                I was simply observing that this brief interlude of Melo’s defense (which is shrinking even smaller in your last post) occurred when Karl was his coach. How come this never happened under any of his other coaches???

              • LBJ

                As much time as you spend trashing our all time winningest team – i question whether you were a Nugget fan last year.

              • loops

                I’m a Nuggets fan. Not a George Karl fan. Not a fan of an individual player. I’m a Denver Nuggets fan. Karl couldn’t get this team over the post-season hump. If B. Shaw can’t get us over the hump in the next 3 years, I’ll call for a change of coach then as well. I believe he deserves a third of the time Karl got. Unless he has an epic collapse in year 2. If we actually made good on a 57 win season and didn’t make some of the dumbest coaching mistakes I have witnessed in a playoff series then I would have been fine keeping Karl. However he made little adjustments. The adjustments he made worked to GS advantage. His rotations were at times, mind blowing. Such as starting Fournier not once, but twice for 6 minutes at the beginning of the game and then benching him until the final 3 minutes of the 4th. Who does that? Oh yea, GK

              • Bricks

                loops, you completely lost me on this post. 1. A guy who has the talent and just doesn’t try should never, ever be mentioned with the Greats; 2. Karl managed four of the top head-cases in the league in 08-09 (Melo, JR, KMart, and AI) and won 55 games — to not give any coach some props for that is simply ridiculous; and 3. To say A.I. is to blame for Melo’s selfishness is the same kind of blameshifting, childish cop-out that my 6-yr-old daughter daily uses against her 4-yr-old sister.

              • loops

                When your mentor is selfish is makes you believe it’s ok to be. To deny an icon like AI was not looked up to by Melo is to deny that the idols your daughters worship have an impact on how they want to dress and act

      • Wayne Highwood

        You must not have been listening to any of the Shaw interviews, Bricks. From his very first presser, he’s raised the bar of expectations. Hell, yes, I’m optimistic about Shaw. GK is not the genius that he (or the national media) think he is.

        • Bricks

          I heard Shaw’s summer league interviews and his welcoming press conference. Sure, I’m optimistic about Shaw. I’m a fan. Nothing to dislike about the guy. But he hasn’t been a head coach a day in his life, so why give him credit for anything until he proves himself in one game, esp. at the expense of a coach who has thrived and survived as a coach in the Assoc. for over 20 years?

          • Wayne Highwood

            I give him credit for already explicitly raising expectations, that’s all. We shall see when the season starts. I’m giving Jobu plenty of cigars and rum for JaVale’s sake, but I fully expect Shaw to distinguish himself as one of the top coaches in the league.

        • Charliemyboy

          He would be a foolish man to lower the bar of expectations.

  • Ckwizard

    It’s all about your “lens”! You kind of imply that there were “5 elements” that made up the culture that “was” but don’t discuss the “culture that was.” I don’t think that this off season has left the team without a “culture” but rather has finally established a “culture” that will be cohesive… By that I am implying that your “5 elements” of the past were counter-productive to establishing what could be considered a “quality basketball culture” and in fact those 5 elements acting against each other or not in unison did more to create dysfunction than establish culture.

    Every one is about the off season moves with the highlight being about Javale McGee but come on this off season was first about Igoudala and then after Igoudala left it became about who it should have been all along any way Ty Lawson. Culture- Lawson always steps up in “Big Games” and now he doesn’t have Karls cracked out line ups and rotations to be counter- productive. Lawson is quite but he is obviously becoming the Leader “Karl” wanted him to be and he is being surrounded with better offensive players than any other time except when Melo and Smith were in Denver, but now Lawson is the “star” of the team and is arguably the “best” player…. Gallo and Chandler are probably the next two best players and they “compliment” Ty’s play and demeanor very well. Actually all of the additions to the team “compliment” Ty’s game very well. Ty is the culture for better or worse and Scott will probably reinforce and expand upon the culture that Ty has established and cultivates. Ty wanted Igoudala to stay and was very vocal about it, Josh Kroenke wanted Ujiri to stay and miss played it…. But when it is all said and done this year Lawson will show that he is not only the leader of this team but the previous years success was more about him than “Karl” or “Igoudala” This off season was about establishing a good culture by removing the architect of what was continual dysfunction… If only the last remaining piece of that dysfunction was removed ie: Miller than this off season would be an utter most success… This season will show how important “Karl” was or it will show he was in fact counter productive to the management of the team… Time will tell!

    • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com/ JoelRMC

      Just to clarify, the “5 elements” thing was intended not to say anything about whether the team culture over the last decade was positive or negative (or better or worse than whatever it will be moving forward). What I was really trying to get at, and perhaps I should have been clearer about this, was that we were dealing with known elements. The culture and identity of the team were relatively clear and easily understood, and that’s what I was trying to contrast with where things are now, since we currently have more questions than answers about how the team will shape out.

      But just FWIW I definitely think it was time for the team to move on past the Karl era. And I don’t think Melo, though he clearly had a net positive impact on the team’s *success* (ie. wins) had a very positive impact on the team *culture*, especially during the Iverson years (though Billups did a great job of restoring balance to the force). And I think there are plausible reasons for being either hopeful or for being worried about what comes next, but we just don’t have any evidence to support either until we get a chance to see how things play out on the court.

      • Bricks

        I agree, time to move past Karl, but that is strictly based on his playoff non-performance record. My view is that for the last 9 years the Nuggets’ culture was clearly the GK Way. And honestly, GK’s magic was palpable — he pulled off some amazing success doing things his Way. I thought it was nothing short of miraculous that GK was able to bring cohesion to a team that included head-cases Melo, JR, KMart and Iverson. THAT team set a team record for reg. season wins, before it was surpassed last season! Whether Nugs fans admit it or not, GK pulled that team together. And it was also because of GK, and more specifically, the GK Way, that Melo . . . and most recently, Josh Kroenke, grew tired of and decided to go other directions.

        JoelRMC, I think you hit it on the head with your comments about the Kronks: Currently, it is their philosophical oversight of the team that is the culture of the Nuggets, firm and secure. I, for one, am confident that Josh made a timely, ballsy, and albeit wise decision to rid the team of GK and his nubulus basketball gods and karma, so that he can securely create and oversee a culture that he — and all Nugs fans — can be proud of. This summer we are witnessing the genesis of the Age of Josh Kroenke, for better or for worse.

        • loops

          Since when has GK ever been efficient at managing personalities? You are giving him way too much credit for winning games with superstars like AI and Melo

          • Bricks

            We’ve had this discussion before about our differences in opinion about GK. I respect yours, loops. To me, I’ll always credit GK as a no-nonsense coach who respected the game of basketball, and demanded the same from his guys. I believe GK personally revived Iverson’s passion for the game and that A.I. became a better team leader in Denver because of some of the attitudes about the game that GK instilled his Denver teams (the GK Way culture, if you will). I’ll be the first to admit that if those same disciplines can’t translate into playoff wins then the team has to move in another direction.

            • loops

              Of course he’s a no non-sense coach who respects the game and demands the same from his players. Most successful NBA head coaches are just that. I really don’t believe he revived AI’s passion for the game. AI always had passion. I also didn’t see AI progress much as a leader under karl, the kid got older. Certainly didn’t help him to be surrounded by a prima donna in philly like Webber briefly. I sure as heck didn’t see Carmelo progress as a leader or JR Smith or pretty much anyone with questionable maturity under Karl. JR Smith has matured more in 2 years with the Knicks than he ever did with the Nuggets and Karl. I just have to disagree, you give the man way too much credit just like I might not give him enough.

              • Bricks

                Do you remember A.I.’s last couple of years in Philly? He self-admittedly was ready to quit. Perhaps just being in a new environment revived him. Personally, I believe GK had no small part in bringing A.I. and his game back to life for the couple of years he was here.

              • loops

                The guy was an immature prima donna there and in denver. You just said a minute ago that AI was on the down-side of his career and could only create his own shot but now you said he brought his game back to life.

              • Bricks

                I saw a more mature A.I. in Denver than he had ever been in Philly.

              • Bricks

                Karl had little patience for head-cases and guys who refused to develop other aspects of their games than their natural strengths. Melo and JR couldn’t stand Karl’s abrasive demands in that regard. And Karl’s tactics to motivate were often underhanded, like when he would call guys out in the media (particularly Melo and JR). And he was downright wrong for throwing JR under the bus because of his bad play in the playoffs a few years back. But Melo and JR and Karl’s coaching style were never going to mix anyway . . . Oh well, moving on . . . hoping Shaw doesn’t disappoint and can help us forget the GK Way (even though it was arguably the most exciting, and certainly the winningest, 9-year span in Nuggets history).

              • gimpcom187

                JR is exactly the same player in nyc that he was in denver. Uber talented slight headcase limited team play and mediocre to poor defense. He just has a spotlight now. All stats back up this view.

              • LBJ

                Not to mention his stupid ass ejection in the playoffs this year – after which he shot about 10% from the field while jacking up shot after shot.

    • loops

      I agree. We can talk about culture all we want and how to get there but when the oldest player on your roster is also the most dysfunctional to the teams morale then there is something seriously wrong.

  • karl

    culture is irrelevent the most talented roster wins always

    • DavidRMC

      This has been proven false time and time again in the league. Talent is the most important factor when it comes to a team’s ceiling but it is far from the only one. As was pointed out by Moore and Joel, team’s with established cultures usually find themselves rebuilt much faster than team’s with fractured ones.

      • loops

        It could be argued that the teams culture is fractured because they are not winning. We’ve seen great coaches with a knack for establishing proven cultures be on the out in a matter of time because the talent was not adequate enough to win and the players turned as they always do when the team isn’t competitive. It’s overly simplistic from both points of view.

  • Evan Woodruff

    Nuggets win 60 games this year.

  • Evan Woodruff

    Culture is established by a coach or FO. Rarely by players.
    Phil Jackson, – lakers
    Pop – Spurs

    Riley – Heat
    Rivers – Celtics
    Thibido – Chicago
    Mike Di Antone – Lakers/knicks w/e (not all cultures are good ones)
    Even Karl established a culture.
    Players – KD – okc.
    Not Lebron, Not Kobe, all proven when lebron was in Cleveland and kobe was without phil.

    point is its more the coach then player. sure dirk and maybe one other (KD) player Establish the culture. Most just fit in with it. Alla kobe – phil.

    • Bricks

      I like your comment, “not all cultures are good ones.” Nice reminder for this discussion.

    • LBJ

      While the players don’t establish the culture – if they don’t buy in, the culture doesn’t work. Karl didn’t really establish a culture in Denver until Melo was gone – as can be seen by the Nuggets record since his departure. We actually drafted/acquired players who fit the culture (Brewer, Iggy, Lawson, Faried). It will be interesting to see how these players fit into Shaw’s culture (whatever that may be).

  • Drewbueno

    I was extremely excited about this article when I saw it and it didn’t disappoint. Culture and identity are critical components of championship teams – and especially dynasties. The ones that last longest are the ones that are based on something more than players, more than front offices. You look at the Steelers (who I can’t stand) and you can tell that they have a culture that players have to buy into and fit into or they’ll be gone. Some are based on a system (like the Walsh-era 49ers). Some seem to be based on a leader (like Pop in SA) but we’ll see if the culture of fundamentals + everyone having a specific role carries over when he leaves someday in the future. Humility, swagger, athleticism, extra work… all are potential components to what that team is. The Nuggets haven’t developed one that has transcended its personnel… and that’s one reason we’ve never been champions. I’d love to have a short phrase (whether it be “excellence” or something like “the Patriot way”) and have it mean something to people when they hear it because it’s taken on a life of its own.

    • LBJ

      I agree, but I would assert that the “Spurs’ way” goes way beyond Pop. It starts with an owner who allows his FO and coaches to be responsible for the team. Unfortunately, Joshy envisions himself as some kind of co-GM – which will chase off all FO talent that has a chance to run their own team (see Ujiri). That is the Nuggets culture until our owners decide to own.

  • Bricks

    Joel, I think you hit it on the head with your comments about the Kronks: Currently, it’s their firm oversight of the team that is the Nuggets’ culture. I, for one, am confident that Josh made a timely, ballsy, and albeit wise decision to rid the team of GK and his nebulus basketball gods and karma. Now JKronk can securely create and oversee a distinct culture that complements the Kronks’ personality and ideals. That couldn’t happen with GK at the coaching helm. What Nuggets Nation will become is now firmly in JKronk’s hands. With great power comes . . . well, hopefully, a great, starter-worthy, defensive-minded, long-range shooting SG who can make free throws. Come on, KronCon, TAKE ANOTHER RISK . . . go make a deal and bring in this last piece we need to legitimately compete! Either Faried or Hickson + Miller + TPE + a future pick, if necessary, FOR . . .

  • Thought Criminal

    Dirk defines Mavericks’s culture because he is a leader. The Nuggets in the past decade or so have lacked leaders. I suppose George Karl was the leader and defined Nugget’s culture which unfortunately was characterized by flame-outs in the playoffs. The Nuggets are are young and a player leader may emerge, but they sure didn’t lose any leadership with Iguodala, Brewer, and Koufos leaving.