In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing global precautions being taken to slow down the spread of the virus, the NBA has postponed the 2019-20 season. The details around if regular season games will resume, if the postseason will still be played as scheduled, and if the players have played their last game of the season are still unclear. If the NBA season was canceled today, the season would end without a crowned champion. All that being said, through 65 games, the Denver Nuggets have had a solid year.
Currently sitting at 43-22, third place in the Western Conference, finally healthy, and having trimmed the fat on the roster, the Denver Nuggets were primed to hit the last leg of the regular season with championship or bust expectations. Could 2019-20 go down as the season that could have been? If no more games are played for safety reasons, and in an effort to combat a deadly virus, will Nuggets fans forever think of March 12th, The Day that’s Sports ended, as an infamous year that robbed the team of their first NBA Championship?
Most around the NBA dub the Nuggets a full-on contender. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith even ranked the Nuggets as the fifth-best team in the NBA behind the Lakers, Bucks, Clippers, and Rockets.
Since the All-Star break, however, the Nuggets have not played well. The slump has allowed the skeptics to come out of the woodwork with heavy criticism, and for good reason. The last five games the team played saw them go 2-3 as they lost to two teams in the bottom five in terms of win percentage. They beat the lowly Hornets on the road by a game-winning buzzer-beater, and they unconvincingly beat the Bucks, who were missing three of their top five players, including Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The slump the team was experiencing before the postponement of the season was hard to watch. They were losing to the worst teams, Nikola Jokic seemed like he was on vacation, and his teammates couldn’t carry the load with their best player going through the motions game after game.
Jokic has this insane ability to turn on and off his competitive fire. He can be the best player on the floor. He can also be a complete liability, barely participating on defense, not taking shots, throwing errant passes for turnovers, and just having a negative impact on the games. Coach Malone needed to get Jokic reengaged and prepared for the end of season push, instead of letting him zombie through five games in an important stretch.
Prior to the last two weeks of the NBA season, however, the Nuggets were among the league leaders in assists, rebounds, and defensive ratings, they had an All-Star, they had only dropped one division game, and everything was on pace for a playoff push. With championship expectations. The team was ready for the postseason but fell victim to a slump that was needed to wake them back up.
This slump in the final weeks was confusing. It could have been prompted by the idea that they could not be beaten or perhaps it was caused by coronavirus concerns. Nevertheless, the final two weeks were not a valid summary of the streak that preceded them.
It seems likely that this team would have surged through the final 17 games and quieted the doubters.
If the season is resumed, the Nuggets are poised for a big finish.