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Nuggets loss stings -- thoughts

My thoughts & opinions:
Stung to lose in a such a close game with many "what-ifs", despite the season and a playoff run that went way beyond expectations. This was the funnest last 5-6 weeks in a very long time, and my favorite Nuggets season ever since I started following the team in 1984.

Thought Game 7 nerves got to the team and they started melting down in the last 10 minutes. Denver has the superior roster, but did not have the calmer collective mind in that 2nd half; Can see that Portland has "been there before", and they were clearly able to execute with big plays in that 4th quarter while DN tightened to the point they couldn't hit a shot. Yet, Denver was very much in position to pull a W with one additional stop or score in the last 2 minutes -- esp considering 1 point game with 30 seconds left.

Also, let's also keep in mind: These sting losses have happened to nearly all eventual Finals winner of the last 30 years in their journey, including the Bulls, Golden State, Miami, and Bad Boys Pistons before they got to their first finals. What feels horrible now, may actually turn out to be a big step for this franchise to finally get to a Finals...The team went way beyond what could be expected at the start of the season and esp great they made a strong playoff run in which they showed excellent resilience. The Joker took it to the next level too and is a validated superstar after this run. I can see him getting rewarded with more free throws next season.

Let's be very honest with ourselves: Neither team is good enough to beat Golden State, even minus Durantula. The way GSW disposed of Houston leads me to believe they will rally with their roster and finish Portland in 4 or 5 games. And, frankly, Denver's season was going to come to an end soon had they faced GSW - likely 5 games. But, the benefit to playing GSW is that the front office would be crystal clear on the holes of the team after playing the best. However, I think they have come away with a pretty clear insight from the 14 playoff games where the flaws are, some of which were not as apparent in the regular season:

- No question, #1 is Nuggets need a long range shooter that is proven in the playoffs. In hindsight, this is probably why IT was signed by the front office, and is a positive indication (at least to me) that this front office has had the right ideas on overall roster strategy. Unfortunately, IT never got back to his pre-injury state, and so, they will have to look elsewhere. This is the most obvious need so can't imagine this won't get done. They will bring in someone and there is clearly room in the rotation for at least 1-2 more players - hopefully, a player that they don't have to cross fingers on like they were with IT. If Beasley gets better, two strong shooters is huge.

- A couple players in the rotation were ineffective all playoffs. The most glaring was Plumlee -- horrible minus rating throughout and it was a big problem when Jokic had to go out for a breather. So wish things could have worked out with Nurkic before they traded him (though he didn't want to come off bench so there was not much of a choice). Hopes are that MPJ will be the answer starting next year. But, I hope they won't rely on hopes too much. They're going to need to find a more competent answer than Plumlee to become a real contender.

- Monte was very disappointing in the playoffs -- he is young and he did have a great 2nd half of reg season, so is worth giving him a year to develop and see if he can contribute. He's on notice in my opinion with being that bad in the playoffs.

- Barton is a big question mark on whether he's a positive or negative. I think he got better during the playoffs and there were some positive impacts that occurred in this 2nd round, so he may be worth keeping and the offseason will be of great benefit along with coming into next year healthy. The big thing is he showed improvement during the playoff run, and that feels like a positive sign. Let me say it this way: I realize he is plain scary at times, but I thought his playoffs were better than the regular season overall - usually, players get exposed the other way around. And that's why I'm not on the "get him replaced" boat yet. Very interesting player.

- Jamal was missing yesterday -- he's only 22, and I expect we'll see a big improvement after he works on what he got exposed on, in the offseason. No question he will work on his stuff hard. But, there is a legit question mark on if JM will end up being a rich man's JR Smith or a consistent star player, after what we saw. If there is a superstar they have a shot at, JM may be a player DN needs to be open to trading with these questions. His value is very, very high right now, and would be a player that other teams would covet. My suspicion is Denver will give him this offseason and they always have that mid season Feb trade deadline if they are in position to make a blockbuster deal. I hope it works out with JM as he has shown he can take over a game, but the inconsistency needs to be watched carefully.

- They should not re-sign Milsap at $30 Million. If he wants to stay a Nugget, it needs to be at a reasonable price so they have the cap room to get this roster improved. I think he's a great influence on the youth, but cannot have an out of whack situation on impact vs. cost at this stage.

Summary of players that look solid based on the playoffs and probably the core to build on:
Joker-obviously, Craig, Garris (improved also in playoffs), Jamal.

Question Marks:
Barton, Monte, Beasley (though I think he is going to be good - probably belongs in above category, but in playoffs, was pulled quickly yesterday and so not confident on him yet), Milsap at $30M (if the number were $10M, then he's in the above category).

Exposed and likely need to be replaced:
Plumlee, IT and the last 2-3 players on the bench that didn't make the playoff roster.

Next year:
I think the team is going to be targeted and may experience drop off to a 4-6 seeding, if they only make a minimal roster improvement. However, if they land a superstar FA like Kwahai Leonard (who is perfect for the Nuggets), then a #1 seed and contention for WCF becomes very viable next year. And, Its all doable if they have another focused and super strong off season like last year. That off season a year ago is why they exceeded expectations so much.

[Post edited by RamMan at 05/13/2019 1:07PM]

Posted: 05/13/2019 at 12:27PM


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