In the transition from the ABA to the NBA, the Denver franchise changed its name from the Rockets to the Nuggets. The team’s main distinguishing feature is its ability to pick basketball players in the draft. Denver has several times picked young players that have sealed the fate of the franchise for years to come. For the 2021/2022 season, Michael Malone is the head coach of the team, and Denver is owned by Stan Kronke, who happens to own Arsenal football.
Periods of decline
The team’s poor results are linked to the departure of key players and a small market – as a rule, mid-level players transfer to Denver, forcing the team to give away money disproportionate to a player’s talent. The worst period in the franchise’s history can safely be called the end of the nineties. Dikembe Mutombo and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf left the team in 1996, which ruined the Nuggets’ defensive game. Under Bill Hanzlik in ’97/’98 the team produced only 11 wins – an anti-record for Denver to this day.
The team fared slightly better the following seasons, but continued to miss the playoffs. The situation did not change even with new managers Mike D’Anthony and Dan Issel, who worked for the Nuggets during the Mutombo years, did not take the franchise to the next level. The 2002\2003 season was the second worst record in the organization’s history. But the team’s failure in the playing year made it a contender for the high pick of the draft. Under the second pick in 2003 the Nuggets selected Carmelo Anthony who served the team for 8 years.
The heyday of the team
The team’s best performances in history came back in the ABA. In the 74/75 and 75/76 seasons the Nuggets were the favourites and a strong contender for the league title thanks to the play of young guard David Thompson. He did not shine from long range but he was outstanding in the paint, hitting 10 successful shots in two seasons in a row. If the Nuggets made the playoffs in ’74/’75 but were beaten in a seven-game series by the Indiana Pacers in the conference finals, they reached the ABA finals the next year when they fell to the Knicks with Julius Irving. A 37-point average from leader New York allowed the Knicks to become champions, beating the Nuggets 4-2.
The departure of Carmelo Anthony had a positive impact on the Nuggets at first. The team gained some quality role players in the process, bolstering the roster in 2012 with the trade of Andre Iguodala. The All-Star Game participant fit in very well with the team, in particular his defensive skills. Eight players averaged over nine points a season, but the team’s high rotation scheme was incompetent in the playoffs. Therefore, despite a 57-win regular-season record, the team lost in the first round to the Golden State Warriors.
In the postseason, Denver finished second in the conference with a 47-25 record. The play of the main stylus in NBA history contributed to this. In 2014, Denver picked Nikola Jokic with the 41st pick. And five years later, the 11th pick of the second round becomes MVP and takes Denver to the conference semifinals, where a series of injuries prevented the Nuggets from beating Phoenix.