"Not Yet" by Jesse Bishop
Ryan Bowan. Zendon Hamilton. Carlos Arroyo. Chris Anderson. Any of those names ring a bell? Probably not. For the record, they scored a combined 16.9 points a game last season and collectively pulled down 13 boards a night. If Denver could somehow find a way to mold those four players into one they'd have an all-star on their hands, but not even genetic technology can help the Nuggets win next season. Hold up, NEXT season? Don't get me wrong, the Nuggets want to win, but not yet. They've got a plan for success but they need some time.
After a quick glance over Denver's roster it appears that they've got very little talent. That is true. But they do have two veteran post players who at one time or another were both regarded as two of the best at their respective positions. Injuries and age have slowed them down, but they should be enough to make them as respectable as a 20 win team can be. They also have a young wing player by the name of James Posey. At 6'8" and 215 pounds he's got the size to rattle many 2's and 3's in the league, and is a formidable rebounder from the wing. At only 25 years of age he figures to be a part in Denver's future plans.
Outside of those three players they are void of experience and/or talent. Kenny Satterfield and Donnell Harvey are two young players who may have some potential, but they are both a few inches short for the ideal size of their natural positions, the 2 and the 4. Neither had much success last season, but both are under the age of 22 and have plenty of time to improve. Denver won’t mind if they take a few years, they don’t want to win. Yet.
With so little talent on the roster conventional thinking would have them taking the most NBA ready player in the June 26 draft, which would have been Caron Butler out of UCONN. But Denver GM Kiki Vandeweghe is not a conventional thinker. He drafted Nickoloz Tskitishvilli with the 5th pick in the draft, a 19 year old Georgia native, and traded their only real star player, Antonio McDyess, along with the number 25 pick for Marcus Camby and the rights to Nene Hilario, a teenager from Brazil. They also drafted Vincent Yarbrough out of Tennessee in the 2nd round.
They came away from the draft with two post players from foreign countries, one who does not speak English, both under the age of 20. Juwan Howard is a free agent after next season and will likely leave the team, and Camby is a free agent in three seasons. Their frontcourt situation seems perilous to an untrained eye, but to the eyes of Kiki, it’s a dream come true. Three years is usually the amount of time it takes for highschool players to start playing like the high picks they were, and Nickoloz and Nene are basically that, highschool players. In three years, Denver will have one of the best frontcourts in the Western Conference.
Even though next season will undoubtedly see Denver with a record near the bottom of the standings, all will not be lost. On the contrary, that’s what the Nuggets want to happen. In case you haven’t already heard, next year’s draft will be the coming out party for none other than Christ himself. Well, actually it’s Lebron James, but by the hype surrounding him you can hardly tell the difference. He’s the hottest highschool prospect in many years. Some say the best since Lew Alcindor, or Kareem Abdul Jabbar for those who aren’t basketball historians. Some say Lebron is the best highschool player ever. Some say he’s not even the best in the past few years, and that Dajuan Wagner was a better highschool player, but regardless of where Lebron fits into the history of high school basketball legends he’s still the top prospect for next year’s NBA draft.
Lebron has the size it takes to play on the next level, and many say that he already possesses the skill as well. We’ll see soon enough. Whoever is lucky enough to win the Lebron sweepstakes, err, lottery, will have a very special player on their hands. Denver could be that team. He would fit in well with the players they have, and they wouldn’t expect too much right away. Denver isn’t exactly a media hotspot either, so he’ll be given the space he needs to grow, as a person and a player. But even if they don’t land Lebron they’ll have many options to take. They could take a pointguard, someone like Chris Duhon, Kirk Hinrich, Luke Ridnour, or TJ Ford. They could go with a wing player. Maybe "Melo" Anthony or James "Flight" White appeals to Kiki, or maybe they’d prefer the style of play of Rickey Paulding, Dwayne Wade, or Romain Sato. We’ll have to wait and see who enters the draft and what pick Denver gets, but one thing is already known, they will find a player to fill a need, and that player will be a good one.
With so little talent on the roster for next season the Nuggets will not be hoping to make the playoffs. They won’t be gunning for a winning season, or even a decent one. They will hope to be respectable in their losses, but they hope to lose. They are probably the least talented team in the NBA, and playing in the tougher of the two conferences, so losing shouldn’t be a problem. Hilario and Skeeta may not even be allowed to play next season due to contracts with foreign teams, but Denver’s in no rush. They’re plan has been set in motion; they see the light at the end of the tunnel, and they’re prepared to lose as much as it takes to get there. Their future, believe it or not, looks bright. The Denver Nuggets will get better, all it will take is time. They’ll be contenders again, just not yet.
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