[Note: Originally Posted 06-23-2012 at 10:20 AM by DenButsu]
I don’t want to be cruel.
I’m sure that Jeff Bersch, sports writer fot Coloradoan.com, is a fan of the Nuggets and has their best interests at heart.
And in-house disputes among fans can tend to get silly. After all, we all are hoping for the same outcome of a championship.
But his latest column, “Nuggets need to draft better”, really ground my gears.
It’s riddled with many of the “casual fan” misperceptions and fallacies that make the neck hairs of more serious Nuggets fans stand on end.
The most obvious transgression Bersch commits in his column is to apply “The Nuggets” as a blanket term to address every move the team has made from 2003 to the present.
He seems to have absolutely no awareness that three distinctly different front office regimes have run the show during that time period.
For example, he writes:
[T]he Nuggets are lucky they ended up with the third overall pick that season  instead of the second. They certainly would have drafted Darko Milicic, a first-round bust picked by the Detroit Pistons.
This is correct, but what he fails to mention is that the General Manager at that time was Kiki Vandeweghe, who was also responsible for the Nuggets’ worst draft transgression (selecting Nikoloz “Skita” Tskitishvili with the 5th pick in the 2002 draft), and has had absolutely nothing to do with what the Nuggets have done in the past six years, other than hamstringing them with Kenyon Martin’s despicable contract (which, by the way, also cost the Nuggets valuable future picks and took them out of the draft for years).
Bersch also writes:
But the Nuggets have done little through the draft to help themselves. They didn’t even have picks in 2010, 2008 or 2007. And in the franchise’s history, they’ve drafted only two players who went on to be all-stars with the team.
Obviously, this must be the fault of current GM (well, technically “Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations”) Masai Ujiri and owner Josh Kroenke, both of whom took the helm in the summer of 2010 when, unfortunately, they could not reverse time and undo the mistakes of previous management, including the (also not mentioned in Bersch’s column) “three headed triumvirate” of Mark Warkenstein, Bret Bearup and Rex Chapman, who shipped out additional picks to land Allen Iverson.
So let’s talk basic journalism 101. If you’re going to talk about “The Nuggets”, and what “they” have done, and what “they” need to do now, please at least understand and – preferably – also clarify to your readers who exactly “The Nuggets” are at each stage of the process.
Sure, teams have cultures, and there is a certain organiztional continuity to be found in most of them, but come on. It couldn’t be clearer that the current FO’s approach to team building represents a radical departure from previous regimes.
My second main gripe with Bersch, and this one is admittedly more debatable, is that he takes a severely strict take on what it means to be drafted.
He claims, for example – and technically he’s right – that Nene, Ty Lawson and Jordan Hamilton were not drafted by the Nuggets, and bends this technicality to insinuate that somehow these don’t count as draft successes.
So sure, if you want to be a stickler about it, all of these players were acquired via trade on draft day. But who gives a damn if another team drafted them and dumped them off to Denver, or if Denver drafted them directly?
This is really basic, but so many sports fans don’t understand it. A draft pick is an asset. A player is an asset. A traded player exception is an asset. An expiring contract is an asset. Cash is an asset, as is cap space.
The entire point of draft night is to make the best possible moves with the assets you hold in order to convert them into better assets that will help your team get closer to being a championship contender. So at the end of the day, does it matter that Denver traded a future 1st round pick (which eventually turned into the great Luke Babbitt, by the way) for Ty Lawson rather than drafting him with their own pick?
At the end of the day, the Nuggets used an asset they had in pocket to get the player they wanted. And since then, he has delivered on their hopes for him. So that’s a successful draft night, ladies and gentlemen, all hair splitting aside.
Although, speaking of splitting hairs, I do have one final nit to pick, and that is the fact that it’s 2012. Anyone and everyone who writes about basketball in this day and age should at least have a basic grasp of advanced stats.
[The Nuggets] ranked 29th in the league in defense
Sigh. And no, they didn’t. I assume that he’s going by points allowed, which is a terrible measure of defensive quality, since it does not adjust for pace. Defensive efficiency, or points per 100 possessions, cancels out the pace factor and gives a more accurate picture. Denver had the 19th best defensive efficiency rating, which is definitely below average and disappointing, but not at the absolute bottom of the scrap heap.
But I digress.
To get back to and summarize my main point:
Masai Ujiri was handed the s**t sandwich of Melo’s impeding departure when he got to Denver. The Nuggets now have the second youngest team in the league, and he has added a hefty pile of young, talented assets such as Faried, Hamilton, JaVale McGee, Danilo Galinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, Kosta Koufos, Rudy Fernandez, Corey Brewer and (the less certain) Julyan Stone.
Ujiri has taken a team that many predicted would be in the lottery, and built a 6th seed – who will only get better from here – who was able to take the Lakers to the finish line.
So until he screws up – and he hasn’t yet, despite making a lot of major moves – he doesn’t “need to do” anything except keep doing what he’s been doing.
Making the Nuggets better.