Oklahoma City Thunder: What if it’s Denver?
The Thunder is expected to play the Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals. But what if it’s Denver instead? The Lakers lead the best-of-seven series three games to two, with Game 6 Thursday night in Denver. We’ve all speculated on a Thunder-Laker series. We haven’t spent much time on the Nuggets, who are a fascinating team.
The Nuggets have undergone their second remake in 15 months. We saw Denver up close last April, when the Thunder eliminated the Nuggets in the first round of the 2012 Western Conference playoffs. That Denver team persevered despite the trade of superstar Carmelo Anthony to the Knickerbockers. But Denver has retooled again.
Here’s how crazy the Nugget turnover has been. Anthony was traded on Feb. 21, 2011. That’s less than 15 months. And only four Nuggets remain from the Denver roster of Feb. 20, 2011: Arron Afflalo, the Birdman, Al Harrington and Ty Lawson. And Birdman no longer is in the rotation. So Denver is using just three players who were on the team before the Carmelo trade.
That’s wild. So many of the Nuggets who were part of that spirited series against the Thunder — Raymond Felton, Nene Hilario, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, Wilson Chandler — are gone. The Nuggets since then have added Andre Miller and JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried and Corey Brewer.
Compare that roster stability to the Thunder, which has six of its top seven players — Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison — the same as November 2009. Only Kendrick Perkins is new to the equation. Derek Fisher would be the No. 8 player, and he’s on the roster only because of the injury to Eric Maynor.
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