The Nuggets’ Guide to Avoiding a Re-Build Avalanche

“Patience is bitter, but it’s fruit is sweet.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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The Nuggets’ rebuild continues next season – and with a year of prized draft pick Emmanuel Mudiay under the belt, plus the emergence of center Nikola ‘Big Honey’ Jokic, their future is looking pretty good.  As one of the youngest rosters in the league, including the youngest starting back-court, the Nuggets are committed to this rebuild.

Denver has been on a downward slope since bowing out in the first round of the ’12-’13 playoffs – but it’s vital for the team to continue rebuilding patiently and avoid making any decisions without careful thought and planning. The Nuggets finished last in attendance last season, partly due to the rebuild; but, frankly, I look at that with some optimism. It means Denver is rebuilding in the right way.

Yes, we’ve lost games, but while doing so, we’ve played our young players so that their development is expedited by having the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and strive to correct them next game. The Nuggets did show some fight towards the back-end of the season; being the only team to beat the Spurs AND the warriors is quite a feat.

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The game that most exemplified the development of our young stars was on Feb. 5th vs the Chicago Bulls.  Despite his team trailing the entire game, Emmanuel Mudiay corrected his mistakes from the first 3 quarters, came out in the 4th and was just unstoppable. Mudiay led the Nuggets to a 42-21 final period, completing one of the biggest comebacks in Denver Nuggets history.

A patient rebuild will bring more games like this, with more experience gained, and with a better understanding of how to adapt and how to finish down the stretch.  These are not easy lessons to teach and can only be taught in one way: through experience. The more patience and diligence the organization can be, the better this Nuggets team can get. The core of this team has been crafted through the draft, and the more these guys play and grow together the better their on-court chemistry will be. 

Wilson Chandler will be returning from injury next season, after missing last year due to a torn labrum in his hip.  His return will feel like the Nuggets added a free agent; but, in fact, he’s been on the bench, itching to return to action.  Though side-lined by circumstance, he’s been talking, laughing, and joking with the team – all the while contributing to the Nuggets’ chemistry and demonstrating leadership and positivity while he was going through rehabilitation.

Upon his return, Chandler’s on-court profile will fit nicely with the team and will add another dynamic for Coach Malone to utilize. He is a very explosive guy – capable of both slamming home some high-light dunks, and shooting the lights out from behind the arc.

As their core develops, Denver could have a championship contender by developing the players currently at their disposal and trading talented players, like Gallo, to teams trying to contend in the short-term.  At this point it’s still too early to tell how high this squad’s ceiling is: for this reason, the best course of action is to target surrounding talent who fit the team’s timeline and to cautiously delist players that don’t fit the team’s long-term vision. Stability is vitally important at this stage in a rebuild, and if management doesn’t maintain appropriate roster continuity in acquiring different pieces, it could cause their rebuild to fail.

centers coverAs discussed in my previous article, one of the pieces in the Nuggets’ trio of young big-men – Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic and Joffrey Lauvergne – will most likely have to leave: I suggested moving on from Joffrey Lauvergne.  This will be the first major decision the front office has to make. In the coming draft, the Nuggets have 3 picks in the top 20, and with them, 3 more decisions to make that will determine the future of the Nuggets’ franchise. If the Nuggets trade up the draft and pick Brandon Ingram, that probably means in a year or two that the Nuggets will move on from Gallinari, assuming that Ingram shows his true potential.

The main theme of the Nuggets’ next few years should be patience. There are only a couple of moves the front office should make as this team and its players develop.  It’s been a few years since Nuggets’ fans have envisioned a future this bright; we just have to wait to see the results.

by Tim D’Elia