The Denver Nuggets are a very, very good basketball team. They somehow survived a brutal early season road schedule and have gone 22-3 at home, which is obviously very impressive. Currently the 5th seed in the Western Conference, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Nuggets jump up a spot or two in the standings and secure home court advantage in the playoffs. Playing with that pace in that altitude would obviously make them a dangerous first round opponent for any team.
Even with that advantage, it’s still hard to take Denver seriously as a legitimate title contender. The Nuggets are a completely average defensive team at 14th in defensive efficiency, they still can’t shoot from perimeter (24th in 3-point percentage), and late in tight games, they have a tendency to collapse offensively. In games decided by 5 or less points, the Nuggets have a 9-10 record. Hero ball late in games has its issues, but the Nuggets often don’t have a sense of what they want to do in the halfcourt late. Is it Ty Lawson in isolation? Andre Iguodala in the pick-and-roll? Something for Danilo Gallinari? The answers haven’t come easily.
Those things alone are enough to fuel the theory that Denver is built for the regular season, but not for the playoffs. Again, the Nuggets are very good, but they are definitely flawed.
With all the depth and assets Denver Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri has to play with, it would make sense to try and cover up some of those flaws at the deadline, right? But that might not be the case:
To me, this is surprising. Denver should be one of the teams likely to make a deal, even if it’s a small move. Trading Timofey Mozgov, a guy the Nuggets pretty much can’t keep next year, would be a good idea.
Wilson Chandler is another guy to shop. Chandler is on a decently sized deal ($25 million over 4 years), but he’s playing 20 minutes a night and may be unhappy. Still just 25 years old, some team might buy him as a future wing solution. The Nuggets certainly don’t need him with Iguodala, Gallinari, Corey Brewer and even Andre Miller playing next to Ty Lawson quite a bit. Looking forward, promising young scorer Jordan Hamilton is waiting in the wings, so it’s unclear how big of a role Chandler would have in the future, anyway.
It’s understandable that the Nuggets might not want to compromise their core or their style of play. But to be a true title contender, they simply have to get better defensively, and it’s hard to see how that happens this year without being active at the deadline.