Nuggets can Learn from the NBA Playoffs

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

The Warriors, Cavs or Rockets will win this year’s title.  One of those three will probably win next year as well.  The time beyond that is the Nuggets power band.

Where will the balance of power shift after that?  If Denver continues its progression, they have a legitimate chance of becoming a powerhouse Western Conference team.

The Midwest division will provide a lot of the competition with the Nuggets, Wolves and Jazz all on upward trajectories.

Only the Blazers are a question mark, their first-round flameout and lack of playoff success have many questioning Terry Stotts’ crew.  Damian Lillard has the capability to be an MVP level guard but has been streaky.  CJ McCollum has as sweet a shooting stroke as you’ll find but the backcourt pairing with Lillard hasn’t translated to playoff success.  Nurkic showed flashes of competence but his ego and mouth are far more developed than his game. The Blazers are caught in a good enough/not good enough holding pattern that can’t sustain much longer.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have a great core of young, talented players.  That sentence plays like a broken record in the Midwest.  Karl Anthony Towns has moments of greatness.  In only his third NBA season, Towns was selected to the West All-Star team in 2018. He averages 22 and 12 for his career.  Remarkably, Towns has started all 246 games in his NBA career.  He will get stronger and mentally tougher.  Andrew Wiggins, the other assumptive superstar, is trending somewhat down from his outstanding 2016-17 campaign.  Wiggins saw his output drop from 24 points per game to 17 and his shooting percentage drop to his lowest since his rookie campaign (he was ROTY for 2015). Veterans Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson make the T-Wolves a strong division rival.  Minnesota should challenge for division supremacy for the next several years.

The Utah Jazz are coming off of a thrilling playoff run.  Winners in the first round matchup with the Thunder, the Jazz could only muster one win against top-seeded Houston.  There’s valid excitement for Donovan Mitchell, the rookie combo guard from Louisville.  Donovan did things that have only been done by names like Jabbar and Chamberlain with his rookie season, he is a legitimate stud. Mitchell had a nice run in the playoffs, the highlight of which was a putback dunk off his own miss that could be the highlight of this year’s playoffs, so far.  Utah is a bit of a question mark, they play elite defense and have a top-tier shot-blocker in Rudy Gobert.  Consistency from the rest of the team (looking right at you, Joe Ingles) will determine their future success.

Outside the division, the Lakers are always players and will look to return to prominence quickly via free agency.

The Thunder are always strong but it’s becoming apparent that the team is unable to build around Russell Westbrook.  Where the fault lies in that relationship is difficult to pin down.  Russ has playoff performances comparable to LeBron but when he does it, he shoots too much or isn’t a team player.  The Thunder will always be constricted by that perception.

San Antonio can never be counted out.  The Pop-Kawhi drama will work out one way or the other and the Spurs will carry on with excellence.

New Orleans will contend as long as star Anthony Davis is in town.  Davis is a special talent and Jrue Holliday is coming into his own. DeMarcus Cousins is a free-agent. It will be interesting to see how the Pelicans move forward with Boogie (and Rajon Rondo) considering the surprise run to the second round.

The Clippers look to be close to extending Doc Rivers, signalling that they will not go into full-rebuild mode.

Memphis, Sacramento, Phoenix and Dallas are in various stages of reworking their squads and are wildcards.