The Denver Nuggets fell to the Minnesota Timberwolves last night 132-128 in Denver, CO last night. More importantly the Nuggets tanked their way to another loss as they gather as many losses as they can. Just so they can get a chance to increase their odds of gaining the number one draft choice in the NBA lottery.
Such is the norm in the NBA these days. It happens every year and it is especially prevalent this season because the draft class that is expected to be available his June is reputed to be the best the NBA has seen in a long time.
The Philadelphia 76ers, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Nuggets are among a slew of teams that have decided the best way to get better is to be bad for a season or two. Most people know how this works now. The theory is if you are in a city that has a hard time attracting the best players like Los Angeles, Miami or New York does, then the only way to get better is to get as high a draft choice as you can so you can get the player that turns your franchise around.
The problem with this method is that for every Lebron James that is drafted number one overall there are many more that never make a difference. Since 1960, there have been 10 overall number one picks that have won a championship. In some cases the team winning the championship had two number one overall picks. That means that roughly one in every five number one picks leads his team to a championship.
The point is that a player like James doesn’t come around every year. Thus, in the process of chasing the dream of Lebron James teams risk inevitably falling in to a perpetual state of losing.
Which brings us to the Nuggets. A perfect case study for this situation. From 1997 to 2003 they missed the playoffs and in general were a miserable team. Poor records and high draft choices did not do them any good. Things began to change when they drafted Carmelo Anthony in 2003.
He was not the answer either. Anthony was traded in 2011 when it was obvious to the team and everyone else that he was leaving as a free agent after the season. The Nuggets did not want to end up like the Cavalier and get nothing in return. So the trade was made. No championships were won and they never really got close.
Unlike the Cavaliers the Nuggets flourished without their star player. Rather than roll over and roll the dice on the lottery again they decided to try to win without a superstar. Led by Head Coach George Karl and General Manager Masai Ujiri Nuggets accumulated as many talented players as the could. They did not have a superstar so they acquired as much talent as they could and tried to win a different way.
It worked. To an extent. In 2012-2013 they won a franchise record 57 games. Head Coach George Karl was named NBA coach of the year. General Manager Masai Ujiri was won NBA executive of the year. The Nuggets roster was stacked with good and a couple potentially great young players. Not superstars.
However after a couple injuries and running in to a blazing hot Stephan Curry they lost in the first round. Nuggets owner Josh Kroenke panicked, decided he couldn’t win that way and fired Karl. He let Majuri leave. He let former Olympian Andre Iguadala leave as a free agent.
He started over. He decided his Denver Nuggets would tank for the season. And they have. The Nuggets tank loss after loss. It’s important to Let us be clear here. Head Coach Brian Shaw is not trying to lose. His players are not trying to lose. The Philadelphia 76ers coaching staff and players are not trying to lose.
Their bosses are. They made the choice by stripping the club of its veteran talent that they will lose. And play for the number one over all choice. The Nuggets tanked their way to another loss.
By Mick Varner
The Denver Post