The visiting Denver Nuggets come to Brooklyn tonight and offer the Nets one last stern test before the All-Star break. Prior to dropping their last two, the Nuggets were winners of nine straight and are one of the top teams in the Western Conference, which is to say they are exactly the kind of team the Nets have struggled with. Joining us to offer perspective from the Nuggets side will be Kalen Deremo from the ESPN TrueHoop Network affiliate Nuggets blog: Roundball Mining Company.
Justin DeFeo: Zach Lowe recently wrote about the Nuggets and their chances at an NBA title recently for Grantland. Do you see this Nuggets team as a title contender?
Kalen Deremo: No. The Nuggets are not a title contender. They’ve just come off one of their most successful regular season stretches in several years and are playing their best basketball of the season; but even so, it’s hard to ignore their flaws. The Nuggets are still without a superstar (or All-Star for that matter), can’t win on the road and run a style of offense that fails time and time again when the playoffs arrive. The Nuggets are a fun, energetic and occasionally lethal team during the regular season, but people cannot get mesmerized into believing that will translate to playoff success. In the nine years since George Karl has been head coach of the Nuggets his team has made the playoffs every year… and advanced past the first round only once! While this team is certainly improved from last year it’s still unwise to ignore history so willingly. Let’s just say Chancey Billups and Carmelo Anthony aren’t walking through that proverbial door anytime soon.
JD: The Nuggets are a team plush with assets and could be active around the trade deadline. Do you think the Nuggets will pull the trigger on any deals and if so, what type of player would they be looking to add?
KD: I don’t think so. The Nuggets have been one of the most active teams in the league since Masai Ujiri arrived in Denver two years ago, but this year is different. After the Melo trade Ujiri had to retool. He did all sorts of maneuvering to put an incredibly talented and deep roster together. Now that several years have past his moves are finally beginning to pay off. His young players are maturing and an actual team is starting to manifest itself. If he’s approached with a deal that he perceives will be a home run, I highly doubt he passes; but with the way this team has been playing lately, I don’t see him actively pursuing deals the way he has in the past. All that said, a deal would not shock me in the slightest bit as I feel Ujiri is a GM who thinks he can always get the upper hand in any transaction. And if something were to go down I’d suspect it to be for a big man, as Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee — as talented as they are — still have some major shortcomings.
JD: What will the Nuggets need to do to beat the Nets tonight?
KD: First, they need to be healthy. The Nuggets were missing three of their key rotational players (Chandler, Iguodala and Gallinari) in Toronto and saw several others stricken with in-game injuries. Next, they need to get out and run. This could be difficult on a back-to-back, especially given the Nets allow the fifth least amount of points per game in the league, but Denver is a very mediocre (to say the least) half-court team and will likely crumble down the stretch if forced into a slow-paced game. Lastly, the Nuggets simply have to put forth more effort and desire to win than the Nets. I know it sounds elementary, but it’s so true. The Nuggets are a totally different team on the road than they are at home. If they want to jockey for high playoff positioning, it’s going to have to start on the road and between the ears.