The 2010-11 season is here. No, it is here. The season is underway and we can finally stop conjecturing and start making sense of this summer of upheaval. The new season will be much different than the old. So let's continue thinking and previewing 2011 and all the hope and promise that comes with it.
Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog.com has organized the NBA Blog Preview, consisting of all the best basketball blogs across the Internet, to help everyone get ready. I am trying to keep up and give a Magic-centered look at each team being previewed.
Last Year: 53-29, Lost in Western Conference First Round
Last Year vs. Magic: Lost 115-97 in Denver (1/13); Won 103-97 in Orlando (3/28)
This Year vs. Magic: Dec. 14 in Denver (9 p.m.); March 18 in Orlando (7 p.m.)
Magic Connection: Chauncey Billups (Player, 2000); Assistant Coach Stacey Augmon (Player, 2004-06)
Denver is going to be a mystery this season. They are a mystery now. There is no talking about the Nuggets without talking about the elephant in the room.
That elephant is Carmelo Anthony and what he will do with his future, and the future of the Denver Nuggets.
Two years ago, Denver made a surprising run to the Western Conference Finals, pushing Los Angeles to six games. Adding Chauncey Billups brought the professionalism that pushed them over the top. Having a healthy Nene also helped. That core is more or less intact, but injuries to the front court -- from Chris Andersen and Kenyon Martin is leaving the Nuggets a little thin. And the Billups post-trade honeymoon is over.
So what is Carmelo Anthony going to do?
Denver holds the card in the ability to trade him, but it loses leverage and the ability to get more value back as the trade deadline gets closer. Anthony appears to be trying to angle himself to a move to the Tri-State area, with New York and New Jersey the likeliest landing spots. Orlando is very much in the running too. Whether Orlando can get him to sign an extension is a hypothetical Otis Smith surely thinks about every time Denver dials his phone number.
There is a lot of change going on with the Nuggets, which makes it more and more likely that the franchise is ready to move on and make a change. There is a new owner, a new general manager and uncertainty at head coach (not that George Karl would get fired, but his health and his absence hurt the Nuggets last year).
So how good can Denver be? Nobody knows. Not even those who follow the Nuggets. If you read hte previews above, they offer predictions with and without 'Melo.
The real question the Nuggets -- and the other teams in the NBA must ask -- is how much is Anthony worth. Can you rent Anthony for a half season and get everything you want? If Orlando reached the finals with Anthony in uniform and then saw him walk for nothing, was it worth it? That is a similar question for many title contenders.
Likely though, Anthony will be in a Nuggets uniform until the February trade deadline. And as long as he is there, Denver should have a shot at competing in the West.
How the Nuggets will beat the Magic: Chauncey Billups is always a nightmare for Orlando for whatever reason. Every time he faces the Magic he seems to just light up and get better. Which is really scary. Jameer Nelson struggles to keep Billups in front of him and he seems to get everyone involved.
If Denver can have all its post pieces in place too, it makes this Denver team that much more difficult to handle. Billups is the cog that will turn the wheel though and he seems to always deliver when he faces Orlando.
How the Magic will beat the Nuggets: The Magic have a lot of shooting and that always seems to help. Outside of Billups and J.R. Smith, there is not a whole lot of 3-point shooting and the Nuggets have never really showed a proclivity toward defense.
Orlando does not want to try and outrun Denver by any stretch. But the Magic can spread the floor against the Nuggets and find a matchup they like. It means Rashard Lewis has to work off the dribble and force the Nuggets to go small. It means Vince Carter has to be attacking. Orlando has to counteract Denver's size somehow.