Once upon a time, the Denver Nuggets were known as the model for consistency in a daunting Western Conference. This blissful moment in time was from 2003 to 2013, better known as a golden era in Nuggets basketball. Denver made the NBA Playoffs in each of these seasons, with incredible team play being executed at a breakneck speed. The Nuggets were able to rely on Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, Marcus Camby, Chauncey Billups, Nene Hilario, Allen Iverson, Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, and many others during this time. There was plenty of talent that called the Pepsi Center home. These teams were expertly coached by George Karl.
The Denver Nuggets Biggest Mistake In The Past Ten Years
Any coach can take talent, put it on the floor, and make it look talented. It takes a special coach to get a talented team to unify as one and play for a common goal. Denver will not look back on trading Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups as the worst mistake the franchise has made in the past ten years. Masai Ujiri’s sins against the Nuggets salary cap aren’t the worst either. Stan Kroenke letting Kiki Vandeweghe exit stage left? It pales in comparison. Those debts have been long forgiven.
The worst mistake that the Nuggets have made in the past ten years was letting George Karl walk out of the Pepsi Center at the end of the 2012-13 season. A season in which he was named NBA Coach of the Year. George Karl made the Denver Nuggets a more talented team than the talent on the floor. A team cannot replace that by changing the name outside of the coaches office.
Before The Mistake
George Karl took over a young, athletic, and talented Nuggets squad mid-way through the 2004-05 season. During his tenure, Denver went an incredible 423-257, winning a ridiculous 63% of the time. They made the NBA Playoffs 9 consecutive times under George Karl, winning the Northwest Division 3 times and finishing second 6 times during that span. Through multiple roster changes, the product on the court remained consistently competitive in the Western Conference.
What Caused the Mistake?
A domino effect led to George Karl not returning to the Denver Nuggets for the 2013-14 season. While the Nuggets enjoyed consistent success under George Karl, they often came up short in the NBA Playoffs. When GM Masai Ujiri bolted to Toronto, Denver began expunging the leftovers from former GM Kiki Vandewegh’s era, including George Karl. Nuggets ownership made an overhaul of the coaching staff and front office for the 2013-2014 season, prompting the end of an era in Denver.
Since the Mistake
Will Smith said it best on Fresh Prince Of Bel Air, “see, what had happened was…”. That doesn’t begin to describe the train-wreck known as Denver Nuggets since parting ways with George Karl. Playing with the same talent, the team began to under-perform. The product on the court became sloppy, and the brand of basketball had changed. Without notice, a proud franchise lost it’s identity. Since the end of 2012-13, the Nuggets have endured two coaching changes in three seasons. During that time, they have posted a record of 99-147, winning only 40% of the time.
Without question the biggest mistake that the Denver Nuggets have made in the past ten years was letting George Karl ride off into the sunset. Of course there are a number of things that could have been done differently that might have created a different result, but we will leave that for the pundits. One thing is certain, losing George Karl did create a different result in Denver. Addition by subtraction only works when you subtract the right pieces.
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