It’s been nearly two months since Mike Malone and the Denver Nuggets won their first NBA Championship in franchise history.
A 4-1 conquering of the Miami Heat gave the franchise their much-needed ammunition to silence a disrespectful national perspective generated by several national sports analysts (Nick Wright of FS1 and many folks at ESPN) blatantly showing bias towards other teams (notably the Lakers).
Now that the party is over and free agency has come and gone at least the big wave, the Nuggets look like a much different group that stood on their home court and celebrated with their fans. One of the more notable losses is Bruce Brown.
Don’t get it wrong, Brown’s departure to the Indiana Pacers is a massive blow, but the idea that all of a sudden, the Nuggets will take a massive step back and open the door for the rest of the West to burst through the window and dominate is ridiculous.
The Denver Nuggets may have lost pieces like Bruce Brown, but it doesn’t automatically mean that they won’t be a contender next season.
The Athletic highlighted rather eloquently why despite losing Brown, the rotation should not feel as shaken up as made out to be. Losing Brown would be inevitable, but it wasn’t seen as the end all be all.
"In Denver’s head, the Nuggets knew they were likely to lose Brown. Because of the lack of Bird rights, Brown played himself out of Denver’s financial market. A team was almost certainly going to offer Brown its full midlevel exception, and as it turned out, the Pacers offered more than that. Indiana’s also offering a starting role, and that’s something Brown hasn’t had in his career.So, the Nuggets knew in their heads that what turned out on Friday night was what it was always going to be. It’s one of the reasons Booth traded into the NBA Draft, got himself three picks and used the three on two wings and a point guard. It’s one of the reasons the Nuggets are high on Peyton Watson and bullish on his ability to move into Malone’s rotation. The Nuggets know they have to give themselves as many bites at the apple by replacing what Brown provided nightly.But, in its heart, Denver hoped the championship experience, the power of the culture and the desire to run it back with the same team, would sway Brown to stay in the fold. There wasn’t much they could do about the constraints of the contract they could offer."
So what happens now? Reggie Jackson steps in? The longtime veteran may not bring the same juice that Brown brought, but at the same time, he is battle tested and can still play. Moreover, this now opens the door for former Kansas Jayhawk superstar Christian Braun.
Braun’s 15 points in Game 3 of the NBA Finals helped Denver take a 2-1 series lead, and though he had only seven in the final game of the series, three rebounds went a long way. Braun will likely get a bigger role now that Brown is in Indiana.
Additionally, the Denver front office got rookie Julian Strawther and veteran Justin Holliday to fill the gaps. Bruce Brown wasn’t the only player who left; Thomas Bryant and Jeff Green also left.
That said, much of the core is still intact, and given the way the Nuggets play basketball, don’t be surprised if they make a valiant defense of their title. They aren’t as flashy and headline-dominated as the Lakers (for obvious reasons), but they can still play at a high level. Don’t count them out, or go ahead and watch yourselves look foolish once again.