COMMENTARY | It looks like the Denver Nuggets' streak of 10 consecutive playoff berths is about to come to a halt.
As of February 19, they're four games under .500, 6 1/2 games back on the current 8th seed, Dallas, and there are two teams above them in the race for the final playoff spot.
The question on everyone's mind is whether it makes sense to tank the rest of the season. For at least three reasons, the answer is an unequivocal yes.
The first reason is the obvious one. The 2014 NBA draft is loaded with talent, and lottery picks are highly coveted assets right now. For the Nuggets, their draft calculus is a bit more complex. Essentially, they own the rights to the Knicks' pick, but they owe Orlando a first-rounder as well. So if the Nuggets' pick ends up being better than New York's, they'll keep their own and send that one to Orlando. If the reverse is true, they'll do the opposite.
Right now, the Knicks are just 3 1/2 games behind Charlotte for the last playoff spot in the East. Though they've lost three straight, the Eastern Conference is so weak that it's easy to imagine New York slipping in, especially if they're active at the trade deadline and manage to upgrade their roster.
The bottom line is that if the Knicks were in freefall, there would be zero incentive for the Nuggets to tank. But they continue to hang around, and it would be a sad affair if Denver wound up without a lottery pick in a draft class with the kind of quality that only comes around once a decade.
Fournier and Miller are the two most enigmatic talents on the Nuggets' roster. Both have extremely limited playing experience, but both have shown flashes of brilliance in limited action (particularly Fournier). The Nuggets have to figure out what they have with these two young players, and the only way to do that is to give them starter-level minutes over an extended period of time.
That means short-term pain for Nuggets fans. Nobody's going to argue that Quincy Miller is, at his present level of development, as capable as Wilson Chandler. Nor does Fournier have the experience of journeyman Randy Foye.
But the Nuggets know what with Chandler and Foye: mediocrity. They don't know what they have with Fournier and Miller. However, there's high upside with both players. Evan Fournier compares favorably with Portland's Nicolas Batum, a fellow Frenchman. They're both lanky, nimble wings with a nice shooting stroke and good passing skills.
Coach Brian Shaw has gone so far as to compare Quincy Miller with Paul George. That's undoubtedly a bit much for a player who hasn't even notched a full half-season of experience. But it's important to remember that before Miller's injury, he was seen as an elite prospect and a potential lottery pick. Quincy was never a second round talent, he was simply a risky selection.
It's been reported that nobody on Denver's roster is untouchable except Ty Lawson. This is as it should be, because it's becoming increasingly clear that these Nuggets are going nowhere fast. If the right trade comes along for Kenneth Faried or Wilson Chandler, they should take it, because the rest of this season should be about looking to the future.
And if Miller and Fournier continue to excel, that future isn't as bleak as it might seem.
Doug Brockwell grew up in the Denver area and has been following the Nuggets since the Doug Moe era. He regards the Carmelo Anthony trade as one of the single greatest GM feats in NBA history.
- Sports & Recreation
- Denver Nuggets
- Evan Fournier