The NBA lockout didn’t produce any real winners. Lots of games and money were lost by everyone involved and in the end, not a lot changed. Superstars can still dictate where they want to play and for how much.
But for this year anyway, the ability to stack a team and be top heavy in star talent may not be as much of an advantage as you might think.
As a result of the new collective bargaining agreement that was agreed to earlier this month, the season will still include 66 games, but they will be condensed into just over four months. That’s a lot of hoops in not as many days as normal. Every team has at least one back-to-back-to-back set of games and some teams will play as many as five games in one week.
In other words, players will get far fewer days off, which means less rest for older players and teams (sorry, Celtic fans) and more of a burden for teams with less depth (hello, Heatles…). This will actually benefit teams with more depth…like the Denver Nuggets.
After re-signing Nene and Arron Afflalo, the Nuggets find themselves awash in good, quality NBA basketball players. No, they don’t have a true superstar. No real “go-to guy” in the textbook sense, but instead they have an abundance of interchangeable parts where almost any player can potentially be that night’s star. Denver can realistically go at least 11 deep off the bench. That’s very rare.
Of course they will miss the toughness of Kenyon Martin, the (sometimes) scoring punch of JR Smith, and the versatility of Wilson Chandler. All three are playing in China right now and only Chandler is likely to return to Denver in the spring after the Chinese League season is over. But if and when Chandler comes back, there might not be much room or playing time for him.
Along with Nene and Afflalo, Denver will count on returning players like Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari to keep up the momentum from the second half of last season. They will also feature a front line with Al Harrington, Chris Anderson, Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos. They added Corey Brewer and Rudy Hernandez to the mix. And Andre Miller returns to Denver to help in the backcourt as well.
Rookies Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton will probably have to bide their time on the bench for awhile before they can crack George Karl’s playing rotation.
So would a team rather have three superstar players and a roster filled out with low cost journeymen, or a roster that features a lot of players that can provide valuable contributions to a successful squad? In most seasons, it might be debatable, but not this year.
Injuries are going to happen in any season…maybe even more so this year with no off season work having been done with the team. Already, Kobe Bryant has gone down with a wrist injury and the Lakers could be without him for a few weeks. He won’t be the last star player to get hurt. That begs the question: Which teams can withstand injuries to key players and still contend? What happens to a team like Miami if they are without one of their ballyhooed big three for any length of time? Same goes for the Celtics, or any team with a top heavy salary structure.
The Nuggets are in a pretty good place as the season get ready to tip off. Are they NBA Finals worthy? Probably not. They really would need at least one big star and career seasons out of the rest of the key guys to get to that place. But they are built to withstand the rigors of the condensed season, and who knows, if they get a few good bounces, they could be right in the mix with teams like Oklahoma City or either LA team when spring comes around.
As long as they get farther than the Knicks, we should all be happy.