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The Denver Nuggets Won’t Win a Championship, But Not Because They Don’t Have a Superstar
Since last year's Carmelo Anthony trade, the Denver Nuggets have been sizzling as one of the hottest teams in the Western Conference and the NBA. The million dollar question is: Can they win an NBA Championship without a superstar?
In J.A. Adande's piece on ESPN on Friday, Nuggets' backup point guard Andre Miller shared his doubts. In Adande's post, Miller said the Nuggets have a great system and it is fun to play in but when it comes to winning an NBA Championship he doesn't think the Nuggets can because of their lack of a No. 1 go to guy.
"I still think you need a star to win in this league," Miller said. "That's how it tends to happen in a high-level game like this. It (the Nuggets) won't be the exception, I'd like to say that, but it's the (regular) season. Once you get to the playoffs, it's a totally different story. The stars run the league, and the league wants that, for the promotion. I don't know when the last team that didn't have the stars won the championship."
The Detroit Pistons won the 2004 NBA Championship with one All-Star: Ben Wallace. Although he is a four-time Defensive Player of the Year winner (he didn't win the year Detroit won the championship), he is far from a superstar and won't be in the Hall of Fame since he couldn't score any points unless it was a put back or a layup after a rebound.
Two years after the Pistons won the championship, Wallace was joined on the All-Star team by teammates Chauncey Billups and Richard "Rip" Hamilton. These three players and Tayshaun Prince all played a huge role in the NBA Finals victory over a Los Angeles Laker team with Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Karl Malone and Gary Payton.
Wallace stopped opponents in the paint with an authoritative power, Billups directed the offense, Hamilton shot the lights out and Prince was an elite perimeter defender who could do a little bit of everything. Denver doesn't have the right blend of non-superstar caliber players who can score and defend at an elite team level.
With this said, I agree with Miller in the fact that the Nuggets will not win a championship anytime soon. However, it's not because they don't have a star player.
They simply don't have a strong enough defense or the experience to beat out the league's elite teams with the world's elite stars in a seven-game series.
Oklahoma City Thunder's All-Star duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and James Harden off of the bench will be able to wear down Ty Lawson, Miller, Danilo Gallinari and Arron Affflalo. The Thunder like to run and take it to the hole as much as possible which will draw fouls and keep the Denver defense on their toes.
The only front court offense the Nuggets have is Nene. On the other hand, he tends to sit on the bench a lot in physical games because he is a hack. Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka are not go to scorers for the Thunder, but they know how to draw fouls when Durant and Westbrook penetrate and create for their easy attempts. This will draw fouls on Nene, Chris Anderson and Timofey Mozgov.
The Dallas Mavericks have just as much depth as the Nuggets do, but most of their players are older and have been in the league longer; except for Miller and Al Harrington. This helps Dallas because of the playoff experience amongst the veterans. All of them have either won a championship or have made a deep run into the postseason.
Jason Kidd is one of the best point guards to ever play in the NBA and will find multiple ways to collapse the Nuggets' defense with the weapons around him: Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, Vince Carter, Lamar Odom and Delonte West. I don't even have to mention the seven-foot German.
If he is still feeling the ailments of his regular season injuries, there shouldn't be many worries because West and Rodrique Beaubois have the skills to pick apart Denver's defense also.
Dallas' top notch offense will be too much for the Nuggets to handle in a seven game series. Not only is the Mavericks' offense tough to compete with, but their defense is putting up better numbers than last season's squad with Tyson Chandler. Marion is healthy and Odom brought his length and versatility from Los Angeles to hinder opponents.
Oklahoma can beat the Nuggets because of their high powered offense and tough inside defensive of Perkins, Ibaka and Nazr Mohammed, while the Mavericks can beat Denver with the know how of the numerous cagy veterans and the high voltage fire power of the offense.
I don't think it would matter whether Denver had a superstar or not. I don't see them beating the likes of Oklahoma or Dallas. These are just two teams. There are arguments for teams such as the Memphis Grizzlies, the Los Angeles Clippers, the San Antonio Spurs and the Lakers.
When I list these teams as possible teams to take out the Nuggets I'm not thinking of who is going to score for Denver, I'm thinking who is going to stop these team's offenses. This has nothing to do with a superstar player, it has to do with team defense and the experience to know how to stop other teams from scoring.
The Lakers don't start and stop around Bryant; they have Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. The San Antonio Spurs have multiple go to guys including rookie Danny Green. It isn't the Tony Parker and Tim Duncan show any longer. The Grizzlies have a nice inside/outside attack with Rudy Gay, Tony Allen and Mike Conley on the perimeter and Marc Gasol, Marreese Speights and Zach Randolph - who should be back for the playoffs- in the frontcourt.
At the same time, the Thunder, the Mavericks and the Lakers have better defenses than Denver.
I don't think the Nuggets have the defense to stop the efforts of these teams or the offense to outscore them when defense is thrown out the window.
It might work for a game or two, but it won't last for an entire seven-game series.
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