Wednesday , Dec , 27 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Allen Iverson, the Denver Nuggets, and the Wild West

Allen Iverson has been traded. Finally.

The Denver Nuggets have relieved the Philadelphia 76ers of the ‘problem’ of Allen Iverson, and in the process acquired one of the greatest scorers in the history of this thing called basketball.

Allen Iverson, the Denver Nuggets, and the Wild WestSo that then begs the question, what now?

And no, that’s not a stupid question. I know, in the immediate sense, what happens. What happens is Allen Iverson drops 28 and 13 dimes with four steals on the Celtics in a Nuggets win – that’s what happens.

But there is still a discussion to be had in terms of the larger scope of things. How many wins will add up for the Nuggets during AI’s stay? How will The Answer gel with Melo once the league’s leading scorer is back from his sucker punch suspension and into a uniform? And finally, what impact will the new look Nuggets have on the rest of the Western Conference?

 So, what now?

AI = W2

It takes a special kind of ignorance, or prejudice, to claim that Allen Iverson doesn’t make any team instantly better. I suppose you deserve some props if your brain cells are turned on and you realize that much. But in pro sports ‘better’ is about as certain a term as ‘kind of’ or ‘maybe’ and it’s a given that any time a team makes a trade they have to publicly state how much ‘better’ they are. And it’s true, the Nuggets are better, but results both positive and negative only matter as much as they can be measured, thus this all comes down to one thing, the win-loss record.

    It’s difficult to speculate because a season’s path and the exact number of wins is a tough thing to predict, particularly when one has to take into account the suspensions of key players. But all things considered, without Allen Iverson, I probably would have had the Nuggets down for about the same amount of wins they had last season, around 49-50 wins, and fitting in somewhere behind Utah in the playoff standings. With Allen Iverson, however, the Nuggets are certainly projected over the 50 win mark in my book, and could get all the way up into the 55 win range.

Stuck in the Middle With You

But of course my estimations of the Nuggets, along with anyone else’s, all hinge on whether or not Allen Iverson and his new teammate, Carmelo Anthony, will get along. It’s been well publicized that AI and Melo are friends and that’s fine, I can’t deny that may help ease tensions, should they arise. But let’s not think for a second that someone being your buddy makes everything okay in basketball-land. The only thing that matters is how well these two get along on the court, and that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with how well they get along off the court. Kobe and Shaq, during reign in LA were anything but friends, but despite what anyone might claim they got along perfectly on the court.

Throwing out any personal likings or dislikings, and looking just at the basketball angles, I can safely say Iverson and Anthony should do just fine as teammates. Neither of them will get quite as many shots as they did before this trade, but when you’ve got two of the league leaders in shot attempts, it’s not like it would kill them to share a little bit and still get twenty shots a night.

Each of them will still be able to get most of the shots they want, in the spots they like. Their games will compliment each other. Iverson is a slashing, penetrating, perimeter shooting, guard playmaker. Carmelo, regardless of what anyone might claim, is not a wingman. He plays the three (does anyone really call it small forward anymore?), but for those old enough to remember, there was a time when that position was not about playing like a perimeter player, and more about interior play and rebounding. Carmelo is more of a throwback to the old small forward position than anything else. While Anthony is multifaceted and capable of playing like a guard with a tight handle and solid perimeter shot, he’s most effective posting up and playing around the basket.

People often make a lot about there only being one basketball, which makes me wonder if being able to count is still a commendable observation. That aside, an NBA basketball court is a big place, if you’ve ever stepped foot on one. There’s plenty of room out there, and if you space the floor and move the basketball around effectively, that one basketball will travel well and get to whomever it needs to. Carmelo will roam around both low blocks and the high post; Iverson will play the wings and run the pick and roll with Anthony, and Camby, and anyone else in a Denver uniform that can set a decent pick. And that’s only in the half court set offense; the real fun starts when the Nuggets get out in the open court where opportunities will be even more readily available.

You were saying something about not enough shots?

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Remember when we were talking about ‘better’? Well better, in addition to being uncertain, is a relative term. And in this thing we call competition, relative, is all that matters. The Nuggets are ‘better’ than they used to be, and ‘better’ than the bad (Clippers) and the ugly (Grizzlies). But does the Iverson deal make them better than the good teams (Spurs, Suns, and Mavs) in the west? Well as I just said, that’s all that really matters.

In short, at a glance, and at first thought the immediate and adamant answer of most NBA pundits would be that Denver is still not in the realm of Phoenix, San Antonio, or Dallas, and certainly not in a position to overtake any of them for one of the top three spots in the west, or upset any of them in a playoff match up. I’m not about to dispute that outright, but I do offer a word of caution to anyone, pundit or not, who feels easy about dismissing the Nuggets as a contender in the west.

The Nuggets are a team of potential, both in essence and in theory. What that means, is that we all assume the theory of their potential sits on how well the team adjusts to having Iverson on the squad. This is one type of potential. But the type of players the Nuggets have, Carmelo, AI, Camby, J.R Smith, are all potential players. Not just so much in terms of their careers or seasons, but in game to game. These players, with the exception of Camby, can all be considered explosive. And all of them, in any given game can blow up for a huge night, but not every game. This is a completely different kind of potential that differs almost from game to game.

If both these types of potential are fulfilled at the right time, that is, if Iverson fits in with his new teammates, which I think he will, and the Nuggets get into a rhythm late in the regular season and going into the playoffs, they can indeed overcome a San Antonio, or Dallas, or Phoenix.

The keys will be finding a way to keep up until Melo, Camby, and J.R Smith get back from suspension, and then finding a way to get everyone acclimated to one another and get on a roll before the playoffs.

I had <a href="">plenty
to say about Allen Iverson not being traded</a>, in case you missed it. But now Allen Iverson has been traded. Finally. He’s been traded and the Nuggets are good, and better than you think for that matter. So, what now?

Now we start counting the wins.