The Nuggets completed a trifecta this offseason, losing a high-end player (Andre Iguodala, who signed with the Warriors), a high-end coach (George Karl, who was fired) and a high-end executive (Masai Ujiri, who was plucked by the Raptors). It’s a disappointing follow-up to a season in which Denver won a franchise-record 57 NBA games.
Not only will the loss of three talented people likely hurt the Nuggets, the franchise’s willingness to lose three key cogs will also likely take a mental toll on those who’ve stayed.
Take Andre Miller, who was asked at 4:17 of this video whether Denver will win 57 games next season (hat tip: Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie):
“Naw, you know that won’t happen again,” Miller said.
He is right, but that attitude still stings.
The 2013-14 Nuggets will likely be worse than the 2012-13 Nuggets, but that doesn’t capture the whole reason Miller is likely right. The 2012-13 Nuggets got a lot of breaks.
No team won more one-point games last season. Some might chalk that up to clutch play, but I think it’s more a matter of good fortune.
Denver got hot late in the year, closing the season on a 23-3 stretch. That type of self-perpetuating momentum doesn’t come around often, and it’s usually kick-started by some lucky breaks.
The Nuggets’ Pythagorean record was 55-27, a better indicator of their true level than their actual record of 57-25.
And a first-round loss to the sixth-seeded Warriors further indicates Denver overachieved during the regular season.
Repeat the 2012-13 season 100 times, and I bet the Nuggets fall short of 57 wins at least two thirds of the samples. But repeat the 2013-14 season 100 times, and I’m not convinced the Nuggets crack 57 wins even once.
There’s a difference between realizing your team probably can’t maintain a high level without a few lucky bounces and knowing your team can’t reach a high level of play – lucky bounces or not. Just ask Miller.