Welcome to the Greatest Moment series at Last Word On Pro Basketball, where we’ll present to you each NBA team’s greatest moment of the 21st century. From draft lottery luck, to a franchise-changing trade, to the sweet taste of a championship, every NBA team has had its own special moment to look back on.
In this edition, we will relive the Greatest Denver Nuggets moment of the 21st century: Drafting Carmelo Anthony.
Greatest Denver Nuggets Moment of the 21st Century: Drafting Carmelo Anthony
It might seem like an easy thing to select as a great moment. Any time a franchise drafts a superstar and surefire Hall of Famer it is a great moment for a franchise. Just about every team in the NBA could say that the best moment since the year 2000 could be drafting a franchise player. But Anthony really did change the fortunes of a struggling franchise. For a franchise that struggled throughout its existence, the arrival of Carmelo Anthony brought and unprecedented period of success.
His Early Performances
Carmelo Anthony was drafted third overall in the 2003 NBA Draft. One of the most famous draft classes in NBA history that also had names like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. His play immediately changed the fate of the franchise. The 2004 season saw the Nuggets make the playoffs, becoming the first team to do so following a sub-20-win season. This was on the back of Carmelo Anthony averaging 21 points per game his rookie season. During that season, Anthony became the third youngest player in NBA history to reach 1,000 points.
Anthony continued to improve as an offensive player, finishing eight in scoring with 26.5 points per game in only his third season. As Anthony improved, so did Denver making the playoffs once again and winning the Northwest Division Title for the first time in 18 years. As a result, Anthony was named co-captain in 2006, cementing him as not only the leader of the team on the court, but in the dressing room as well.
Later Years in Denver
The arrival of talented combo-guard Chauncey Billups in 2008 saw another period of success for Denver. The first season that the talented duo played together the Denver Nuggets won 54 games, a franchise record since their induction into the league in 1976. This was the first time in franchise history that the Nuggets had back-to-back 50 win seasons; winning 50 games in the 2007-2008 season. The 2008-2009 playoffs saw the Nuggets get past the first round after losing five straight years prior to this. During that first round demolition of the New Orleans Hornets, the Nuggets won game four with a 58-point victory. This matched the most lopsided win in NBA playoff history.
Despite his departure to New York in 2011, Carmelo Anthony gave a struggling franchise something to cheer for. Although the Nuggets did not get what many would consider significant pieces when they traded Anthony to the New York Knicks. It did allow the organization to commit to a rebuild. Often teams are kept in a state of limbo when they have a superstar on their organization and try to fit players into a squad to stay relevant. The Western conference had too many good teams with the likes of the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns making it unlikely Denver could compete.
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