The Avalanche and Nuggets both made it to the second round of the playoffs, surprising many in the process. Along the way, a lot was discovered about the two teams, as observations abound from the past few weeks in the Mile High City…
– We currently live in an “Everything is Awesome” world when it comes to the Avs and Nugs. A decade-plus of playoff irrelevance will set the bar pretty low when it comes to what exactly passes as a “successful” season.
– I had low expectations for the Avs. Last year’s team was a one-line team with shaky defense, inconsistent goaltending and a lack of secondary scoring. This year’s edition was a one-line team with shaky defense, inconsistent goaltending and a lack of secondary scoring. But they rode a lot of guts and hot-streak goaltending from Philipp Grubauer all the way to Game 7 of the second round of the playoffs.
– Along the way, they discovered a star in the making in defenseman Cale Makar, while guys like Tyson Jost and J.T. Compher who may be poised to become 20-goal scorers starting next year. Add in the fourth-overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft, plus a bedrock solid coach in Jared Bednar, and I like the Avs future. Their season was a success.
– I’m not going to argue the Nuggets’ season wasn’t a success. Jumping to 54 wins and a No. 2 seed in the West was more than anyone saw coming. That said, their second-round loss to Portland leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t care what anyone says, I believe they were the better team, but they massively underachieved.
– Jamal Murray is hopefully haunted by the last two games; he shot 11-38 while the Nuggets squandered a 3-2 lead. The bench was terrible. I’m still having a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea the Nuggsets reserves were outplayed by the likes of Rodney Hood, Zach Collins and Evan Turner. Will Barton has become one of the most-exasperating athletes to pass through Denver in some time. Paul Millsap seemed to calcify before our very eyes – no burst, no lift.
– This series has me wondering if the core currently in place will be able to contend for an NBA championship. I’m sold on Nikola Jokic; he’s a star. But Murray is too trick-or-treat for me. Gary Harris is a healthy Avery Bradley. The bench is made of nice overachievers like Malik Beasley, Monte Morris and Mason Plumlee, but there’s not enough firepower to win a title.
– I love the runaway excitement over Michael Porter Jr., but until I see him out there healthy for 82 games, I’m skeptical. For all we know, he’ll be the Nuggets’ version of Jake Butt.
– I like the flexibility that comes with not exercising the $30-million option on Millsap. But that just creates the same old problem: Does an NBA star – a true, in his prime, difference-making star – want to come here?
– The loss to Portland only seemed to re-enforce for many the Nuggets were a nice regular-season story, but a team that wasn’t/isn’t ready for prime time. That’s what makes the loss to an average team like the Trail Blazers so damaging. Get to the Western Conference Finals and you’re in the Final Four. You reap the benefits of sharing the big stage with the Warriors, even if you’re Clint Burton to Tony Stark (look it up).
There’s a lot to like about the Avs and Nuggets. They both have bright, young, headline stars. They have coaches their players have given permission to coach them hard.
But if the spring of 2019 told me one thing, it’s this: The Avalanche have the best chance of throwing a championship parade here in the next few years.
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