(Boulder-CO) With still nearly 90 days until the start of the regular season I thought it was about time to give Danny Ainge a big “Thanks” for all that he has done for the Denver Nuggets so far this off-season. Not following my train of thought? Let me break it down for you: Danny Ainge and the rest of Celtics management finagled, maneuvered, begged, borrowed, and some might even say stole Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett from the Sonics and Timberwolves. Both of which are conference rivals of the Nuggets and both teams now have no proven leader for their respective squads!
This means in the upcoming eight games the Nuggets will have to play against said opponents there will be two fewer NBA All-Stars to contend with as both teams try rebuild (and recover) from the Celtics nabbing their superstars.
Last season, the Nuggets played the Timberwolves even and split their four games with Minnesota two apiece. It could be argued that both Nuggets losses to Minny were in fact due to Kevin Garnett being the deciding factor in the game(s). In the November 3rd match-up with KG, the Big Ticket smothered the Nuggets with 27 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks, two assists, and a steal. It was easily the biggest performance by any player of the game and, in my humble opinion, made all the difference. Furthermore, on February 14th the Nuggets suffered another loss to the T-Wolves in a game where KG ripped Denver for 17 rebounds (seven on the offensive glass), 19 points, three assists, two steals, and a block in another apex performance leading to a 99-94 loss for the Nuggets. So, as you can see, the Nuggets should be very excited about playing the Timberwolves four times next season without the services of Kevin Garnett to contend with. Good ol’ Danny Ainge, he’s always got our back!
Now onto the Seattle Supersonics and how the Nuggets will probably win at least three out of four pending match-ups in the 2007-08 season. First of all let me say that I truly do feel that Kevin Durant will EVENTUALLY become an amazing talent in the NBA, but the Sonics will have some growing pains to endure in the next two years, at least, before they recover, rebuild, and restructure their franchise to the evolving Durant’s style of play.
The way I see it is the Sonics lost Rashard Lewis to the Orlando Magic and Ray Allen to the Celtics in a draft day trade that ultimately makes them a whole lot weaker of a team overall than last season. Lewis left the Sonics after nine seasons when the two teams completed a sign-and-trade deal. The Magic sent Seattle a conditional second-round pick, while the Supersonics earned a trade exception believed to be in the $9 million range. Jesus Shuttlesworth AKA Ray Allen was acquired by the Celtics on draft night for the fifth overall pick, which turned out to be Georgetown forward Jeff Green, along with Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak.
Durant plays the same kind of game that Rashard Lewis does, but is about three years behind Lewis in maturation. They are both perimeter players who lack the strength and durability to last very long down in the trenches of the paint. But at 6’10”, both men can shoot from the outside, but just like Lewis did, Durant is going to have to adjust to the physically, speed, and defensive schemes of the NBA game and I would be very surprised if KD will be able to put out numbers even close to Rashard’s third year clips of 14.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in either of his first two seasons in the NBA. Plus, Seattle fans may hate me for this, but there is no way that Jeff Green, Wally, and Delonte West are going to compensate for the All-Star services of Ray Allen. Don’t even hold your breath up there in the great northwest because it just isn’t going to happen. Thanks a million, Danny!
So all of this should mean that the Nuggets will most likely have their way with both the Timberwolves and Sonics this year in the combined eight (four per team) divisional match-ups they have on their new schedule. And barring how the Portland Trailblazers look with their new point guard, ehh mmm, Steve Blake and rookie center Greg Oden, I would say that the Northwest Division is basically a two team race between Jerry Sloan’s Utah Jazz and the Karl led Nuggets. That is… until things start to really unfold. But until then everyone who roots for the Denver Nuggets should send Danny Ainge and the rest of Boston’s management a thank you note and a fruit basket for our gratitude in making the Northwest Division a whole helluva lot easier.