2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Nuggets: The road they shouldn’t travel

Published: February 19, 2014, 4:58 pm, by Paul Klee

This is too familiar for comfort. 

This is worrisome. Not worrisome like credit-card debt, the polar vortex or big government. Not worrisome like real-world things. 

We’re not writing about real-world things. We’re writing about the state of the Nuggets; not only where they are now, but where they could be heading. This feels like a path leading back to the late 90s and early 2000s. And that’s worrisome.

That was an era with an 11-win team in 1997-98, a 27-win team in 2001-02 and a 17-win team in 2002-03. It was starting lineups with Vincent Yarbrough, Ryan Bowen (no offense, good sir) and Keon Clark. It was an era of cheap tickets (a good thing) but more interest in the next draft than the next game (a not-so-good thing). That era wasn’t fun, except for the Jazz, Spurs, Lakers or another Western Conference club with the good fortune of playing those Nuggets.

It was rough. Really rough. It was waiting for a basketball savior to arrive. When he did, Carmelo Anthony changed everything. Through his own performance or through his own trade, Melo brought a decade of playoff berths to Colorado. That’s no small thing; only one other team, the Spurs, can say that.

Are we back to 2003? The parallels are in place, and that’s worrisome. There are still a few folks around here who place the Nuggets at No. 1 on the Colorado sports priority list. I’m one of them.

This Nuggets roster wasn’t a playoff roster. I wrote that wrote way back on Nov. 6, long before the wheels came spinning off and the roster was crushed by injuries to JaVale McGee, Nate Robinson (a regrettable signing in the first place), Ty Lawson and another surgery for Danilo Gallinari.

It didn’t look like a playoff team; not in the new system Brian Shaw attempted to implement.

Now it looks like a franchise with more interest in the draft than the games. I see what the Nuggets are trying to do. I really do. But this process still comes with a McNichols-sized measure of risk and apprehension. I see only one — maybe three — basketball savior in the 2014 draft. Is it better than recent drafts? Sure. Is the hype machine overvaluing their talent? Certainly. 

So this process is worrisome. As good as the Melo era was, the era that preceded it was that much worse. The difference between years of playoff berths and years of late-90s, early-2000s can be one draft pick. Perhaps the Nuggets grab another Melo with that pick.

The other option is worrisome.

Twitter: @Klee_Gazette