Do the Nuggets have what it takes to be a legitimate contender in the NBA’s Western Conference? |

Do the Nuggets have what it takes to be a legitimate contender in the NBA’s Western Conference?

The Denver Thug-gets, I mean Nuggets, are a legitimate contender in the West. At this point in the season, technically everybody is a contender, but the Creamy-Sweet Nougats have the firepower to soar past the other contenders.

Not since the days of Alex English or David Thompson, have the Nuggets had this much firepower on offense. They have two of the top scorers in the league. They also have an improved defense with Camby, K-Mart, A.I., and Melo’s new dedication to that side of the ball.

Last year, they gave the Spurs a big scare in the playoffs even though Kenyon Martin was out and Iverson and Anthony hadn’t gelled yet.

Some complain they have too many big guys, but with one always hurt, it works out. If they can stay healthy and get Nene going when he comes back, the Nuggets are scary good. If not, they’ll lead the league in tattoos, corn-rows and amazing plays.

Here are four good reasons why the Nuggets will struggle to be a contender in the Western Conference: First, the San Antonio Spurs; second, the Dallas Mavericks; third, the Phoenix Suns; fourth, the Houston Rockets.

Let’s just say it’s too bad they’re not in the Eastern Conference because they would have a much better chance with only two other good teams in the Celtics and Pistons in that conference. There are probably eight to 10 teams in the Western Conference that are better than the third-best team in the Eastern Conference.

The Nuggets definitely have what it takes to contend in legitimate scorers A.I. and Carmelo and unselfish defenders and rebounders Marcus Camby, Nene, Najera.

They have an experienced coach who is a little crazy sometimes; two of them actually with George Karl and Doug Moe. They prefer to play a fastbreak style, but they can play half-court basketball ” especially with K-Mart back.

But, most importantly, the Nuggets have an owner who is competitive and has a legitimate checkbook in Stan Kroenke.

Buy your playoff tickets now so you don’t over pay for them on Stubhub.

The Nuggets ” if they can stay healthy ” can contend in the West. Health will be the key. Kenyon Martin will be needed down the stretch, and as the season grinds, he could be that missing link to put them over the first-round losing skid they have endured the past couple of years. Nene should pull a little more weight this year and help Marcus Camby clog up the middle.

I hope they can add some depth to their bench during the trade deadline come February, but we will have to wait and see.

I think the Nuggets can maintain this good start and build off of it, and should make some noise come May and June.

The NBA season is like a typical pro game ” no need to pay attention until the fourth quarter. The Nuggets don’t appear to be contenders, but it’s early.

If the Lakers trade Kobe, they’re out of the picture; the Trailblazers lost big man Greg Oden to injury, so the West may not be as strong.

A team can bury itself early (maybe Seattle?), but if the Nuggets hang around the .500 mark, who knows? The Golden State Warriors made a deal early last year that revamped their starting lineup, then rode a sizzling final month by Baron Davis into the playoffs and an upset of the No. 1 seed.

Trades, injuries, coaching changes … all sorts of things can and will happen before we reach the fourth quarter of this season. Besides, I was one of those who didn’t think the Rockies had a chance, and look what happened there.

If you consider only the meaningful NBA stats, it’s clear that the Nuggets are a great team. By meaningful, I naturally refer specifically to offensive stats ” since none of the professional teams bother to play much defense.

So far, Denver has been near or on top of the League in total offense. No other team has a high-powered scoring tandem to match with Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson, along with one of the top rebounders and shot blockers, Marcus Camby.

The key will be to keep these three guys healthy and focused … especially in the case of Iverson. His improved attitude along with his added skills of making steals and creating assists will be essential to the team’s success.

You would think that, after Carmelo and getting A.I., this Nuggets team is a contender not a pretender. Last year they had all the pieces but were still trying to put them together.

There are a few things they have to keep up on before they can win that title though. They have to be confident in their decisions. Yes, sometimes it might turn out bad, but stick with the game plan and don’t try to be a hero. But the big thing is health. I believe that if the Nuggets can stay healthy then those Finals are right around the corner.

I’ll opt for a wait-and-see approach in addressing the Nuggets’ chances out West, the AFC of the NBA.

I don’t care how much talent you have ” and there’s plenty on this team in the likes of A.I., Carmelo and defensive specialist Marcus Camby ” but getting past the Spurs, Suns, Rockets, Mavericks or Jazz in the first round of the playoffs is no pedestrian task.

That’s why Denver will need a 55-plus win season and must take a top-four seed into the postseason. You’ll need some lucky rolls of the dice to get past just one of the aforementioned teams in the playoffs, let alone two or three of them. An easier first-round opponent, like the Clippers or something, could up the confidence before taking on one of the West’s beasts.

I think the Nuggets are for real. Yes, they are playing in an extremely difficult conference, but I think they have what it takes to actually make it out of the first round of the playoffs. The keys will be having the J.R. Smith stay healthy and make it so A.I. doesn’t have to take the whole guard load on all by himself.

With Marcus Camby, K-Mart and Melo, the trio down low are a dream team. That being said, they still don’t want to take on the Spurs, so the Nuggets need to beat out Utah in the Northwest Division and get a decent seed.

The Nuggets could make for a good year of basketball in Colorado, and while they may not pick up as many fans as the Rockies did this year, they could still add to the fan base.

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