As all you Utah Jazz fans know, the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz finished last year’s regular season with identical records. However, due to a tiebreaker advantage, the Denver Nuggets were the Northwest Division Champions in 2009-10. Yes, the two teams did indeed meet in the playoffs, where the Jazz took the Nuggets in 6 games, but if you go to the Pepsi Center right now, the Nuggets will have a banner showing their divisional prowess from a year ago. The Jazz, on the other hand, will not.
Well, if you look at the recent offseason discussions, it looks like the Denver Nuggets of last season will not remain together for much longer. In other words, this is a very good thing for the Jazz.
First and foremost you have Denver’s top dog Carmelo Anthony. Anthony is the next great player who will probably be leaving his team for a chance to win a ring with a better team. He is definitely a top caliber talent in this league, and he deserves a legitimate opportunity to contend for a title. The team that he has played with for the last few seasons in Denver has been pretty good, but with the top tier teams in the league really stacking their players, his team just doesn’t cut it. Look for ‘Melo to be out of Denver and out of the Northwest Division before the start of the 2011-12 season. As for this season, there are still teams who would be willing to trade for him, so the possibility of a ‘Melo-less Nuggets in ’10-11 is still in the realm of possibility. Jazz fans, cross those fingers and say a prayer.
Secondly, the Nuggets are reportedly shopping J.R. Smith. I don’t know about you, but when the Jazz and Nuggets battled in the playoffs, I considered J.R. Smith to be the determining factor in the series. If he played up to par, the Nuggets would win. If he didn’t, the Jazz would win. Fortunately for the Jazz, Smith did not play up to par in 4 out of 6 games. But just because that was the case, it doesn’t mean that he is not a very dangerous player. Smith’s ability to knock down dagger 3’s in Game 1 of that series was extremely hard to watch as a Jazz fan. The Jazz fought so hard all game long just to keep it close, and when they were just about at the peak of the mountain top, J.R. Smith would hit another long range bomb to keep the distance between the two teams. Not only did he hit backbreaking shots, but he also got the Denver crowd into a frenzy every time one of his shots went through the hoop. Players like that are always key when it comes to winning tightly-contested games, and if the Nuggets get rid of him, I would be a whole lot happier as a Jazz fan.
If both of these things take effect, and Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith are no longer members of the Denver Nuggets, I would be ecstatic. Both players can score with anybody in the league, and they have caused many a headache for the Utah Jazz in the past. If Denver actually parts ways with either or both of these players, I can pretty much guarantee that there will be a new Northwest Division winner in 2010-11.
Does that automatically mean that the Jazz are that team? No way. They will have some very stiff competition from the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder, who are both teams that are clearly ready to take that next step.
Would it be a huge load off of Utah’s back to get ‘Melo/JR Smith out of the division? You betcha.
Let’s get it on!