The Dwight Howard saga is over, and it’s no surprise that it had semi-catyclismic reverberations. But something good did come out of Dwight’s dawdling, because he killed two other birds with one stone: Andrew Iguodala is out of trade block limbo, and Andrew Bynum was relieved of the pipe dream that one day the Lakers would be his team; and now he’s got the Sixers to twiddle around his thumb.
The pundits love this trade, if only because three teams improved and the fourth team, Orlando got understandably shafted – there was no way they were getting back requisite value for Howard anyway. But is that really the case? Everyone loves how the Sixers snuck into this deal, quietly swapping Andre Iguodala for Andrew Bynum. A huge upgrade, objectively, and a piece around which any team can build. And these same pundits love the Nuggets’ involvement too, as they essentially converted Arron Afflalo into his skill set doppeleganger, Andre Iguodala.
It looks good, doesn’t it? Short-term and long-term roster progression. The Nuggets are a high-flying up and down team anyway, so Iggy should fit in quite snugly. But the NBA isn’t about fit, at least on the level of secondary contention. It’s about championships, and Denver’s acquisition of Iguodala has paralyzed their evolution, entrenching them as competitive non-competitors. Because the NBA these days is an oligarchy – a few teams set the tone, and the rest of the league follows.
When Carmelo Anthony left Denver for New York, the Nuggets miraculously made away with some serious assets. And they were pretty good, too, riding that post-monarchical consolidation of will for the greater team good. But even then, the Nuggets were never good enough to supplant the strength of the West. They were a nice story, a team to root for in that anti-establishment kind of way. This past season they were the West’s sixth seed, losing to the pre-Howard Lakers in seven games. And now, both teams have upped the stakes: Dwight Howard and Andre Iguodala, namely. And it all comes back to that, what other teams are doing, because improvement isn’t the name of the game. You have to improve contextually. Teams can no longer build for a future in which the current power structure has folded, because Miami and OKC and Los Angeles are the present and the future. And that’s terrifying to fathom, knowing that these tanking teams might be exploding their foundation for a future that won’t be written.
Denver, in short, has earned itself $42 million worth of Western Conference mediocrity. Sure, they’ll be competitive and fun and earn themselves plenty of praiseworthy adjectives: they play the right way, as a team, sharing the ball, and all those other middle school preachings. We’ll force this karmic righteousness down our own throats, mushrooming the delusion that Denver, or any other chemistry-laden team, really has a shot.
There are only three logistical ways to build in the NBA: the Draft, free agency and trades. But there’s really only one way to build, and that’s superstars. LeBron James is 27 years old, Kevin Durant is 23, Russell Westbrook is 23 and Dwight Howard is 26. The 2012 NBA Finals could easily be the same in 2018.
The Denver Nuggets have been in a holding pattern ever since Carmelo left, unsure as to the direction of the franchise. Do they blow it up and start anew, or do they build off New York’s castoff foundation? They finally chose the latter a few days ago, which is quite alright, but Andre Iguodala is not the answer or The Answer. “He’s only a piece!” you might say. Sure, he might pick them up a few more wins this season, and maybe even a birth in the second round of the playoffs. But the Nuggets lack the assets to pick up other pieces, superstar pieces, to make the Iguodala acquisition worthwhile. Because it seems that all they’ve really done is guarantee themselves a worse first round pick in upcoming drafts.
What do you think?
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