Watch Out for the Denver Nuggets...as They Slide Down in the StandingsAll we've been hearing about since the Allen Iverson-Chauncey Billups trade is how Iverson is destroying the Detroit Pistons while Billups is revitalizing the Denver Nuggets. Meanwhile, I've kept saying two things:
1) Besides the well known salary cap relief that the Pistons can obtain by not re-signing Iverson, Iverson can have an impact this season by potentially making the Pistons more dangerous come playoff time because of his ability to dribble penetrate, collapse defenses and draw fouls. Detroit's offense stagnated in recent postseasons but he can have a 20 point quarter singlehandedly; the Pistons don't have an apparent solution to the way that Boston pushed around their bigs in last year's playoffs but the Iverson acquisition can at least jump start their offense. I didn't think that the Pistons were going to win the East before the trade and I don't think that they are going to win the East with Iverson but by the end of the season they will not be any worse off for the deal and there is a decent shot that they will be a more dangerous playoff team.
2) Denver has made a habit in the past few years of beating weak teams but falling flat against good teams; people seem to have forgotten that the Nuggets had some impressive winning streaks when Iverson teamed up with Anthony. It is not correct to speak of Billups' allegedly transformational effect on the team until the Nuggets actually face strong competition.
That loud thud you just heard was the San Antonio Spurs knocking the status right out of the Nuggets in a 108-91 beatdown that was not as close as the final score. This game was played in Denver, by the way, but homecourt advantage played little role as the Spurs' "Big Three" of Tim Duncan (21 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, five blocked shots), Tony Parker (22 points, eight assists) and Manu Ginobili (21 points on 7-11 field goal shooting) dominated while Billups (12 points on 5-13 field goal shooting, four assists) was almost completely invisible, scoring most of his points when the game was already all but out of reach. Duncan provided a nice demonstration of the difference between an MVP level player and a regular All-Star such as Carmelo Anthony (16 points, six rebounds) or Billups; Duncan has an impact on almost every possession at both ends of the court, drawing double teams, scoring and passing on offense while blocking shots, clogging the middle to deter drives and grabbing rebounds on defense.
You may retort that this was just one game out of 82--and you would be quite correct to say that but this truth should hardly be encouraging to Denver supporters because it is reasonable to expect plenty of other results like that as the Nuggets begin their inevitable descent from third in the West to fighting for the eighth playoff spot. Keep in mind that the Nuggets are just two games ahead of the three teams in a logjam at the seventh-ninth spots right now.
At full strength, the Lakers, Hornets, Spurs, Jazz, Rockets, Blazers and Mavericks are better than the Nuggets. The Suns look a bit shaky but I expect them to pull things together eventually. Denver will not win too many games against those teams this year. The Nuggets may very well pad their record in their next three games (at Sacramento, followed by home games versus Minnesota and Golden State) but then they visit Dallas and Houston in a killer back to back before playing Cleveland in Denver, traveling to Phoenix and battling Portland in a home and home series. Let's just say that Denver will most likely not be in third place in the West after those nine games.
posted by David Friedman @ 5:43 AM