This is something that’s been on my mind since the Denver Nuggets began playing well late in the season and it really came to light when they started ripping it up in the playoffs.
Take a look at this year’s Denver Nuggets and compare them to the 2004-05 Phoenix Suns. There are many similarities there, except that Denver may actually get by the Lakers and reach the NBA Finals. (You never know).
– The Nuggets really began making waves because of a new addition at the point. Chauncey Billups did the same thing this year that the Suns did when they brought Steve Nash aboard in the 2004 offseason. Billups was a later addition to his team, but he has been as effective as Nash in the way that he walked in and was immediately the team’s leader. Billups didn’t put up the kind of numbers Nash did that year (especially in the assist category) but he didn’t have to to help his team. Being a vocal leader on and off the court is where these two sync up.
– The Nuggets have a young stud and a wily veteran in the frontcourt joining their veteran point guard to form the core of their team. Denver has Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin while the Suns had Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion.
– Interestingly, while Carmelo isn’t necessarily a guard, he’s a legit swingman who can play inside and out. Joe Johnson and Marion were the same type of players for the Suns.
– Talent on offense and luck on defense wins them games. Phoenix scored 110 points a game and gave up 103 that year. Denver is averaging 104 and giving up 101. When Denver plays defense well, it’s in the form of Billups and Chris "The Birdman" Anderson. Marion gave Phoenix the bulk of their defense that season while they brought big-man Steven Hunter off the bench late in the season to provide some inside help and create block opportunities. Hunter wasn’t nearly as effective as Birdman is though.
– Shooting guards Quentin Richardson and J.R. Smith, play pretty much the same role on their teams. Q-Rich was a better 3-point shooter while Smith is a better slasher and dunker.
– Both team’s backup point guards that could have started on a lot of teams. Suns had Leandro Barbosa while the Nuggets have Anthony Carter.
– The Nuggets usually go deeper than the Suns ever did. Phoenix liked to go 7 or 8 deep and bring in as many as five subs if they had the game locked up. Denver has gone 12 deep in seven games so far this year in the playoffs and they are more inclined to rotate 8 or 9.
– Denver has Nene in the 5 spot while Phoenix didn’t really have that. They went with a 3-guard lineup with Joe Johnson, Nash and Quentin Richardson and used Amare and Marion as "centers." Ugh.
– Denver just doesn’t score in bunches like the Suns do. They actually run their offense instead of trying to score in "7 seconds or less." Yes, running an offense can work Phoenix. I know you believe it, but it’s true.
There’s a lot more to this, but I’m tired of typing and I think I’ve made my point. As a Suns fan, I hope the Nuggets can get past the Lakers this week and get to their first NBA finals. While I predicted the Lakers to win the West before the playoffs started, I also like to see teams that rarely reach the pinnacle of their sport get there instead of teams that ALWAYS get there.