Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone ripped his team for their loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night.
Malone’s Nuggets fell 120-112 at home to the Pelicans, who were playing without Anthony Davis.
“They kicked our a–,” Malone said after the game, via The Athletic’s Nick Kosmider. “62 points in the paint without Anthony Davis is embarrassing.”
For a team battling for one of the top spots in the West, a loss to the Pelicans and giving up that many points in the paint is embarrassing. But New Orleans also has claimed recent wins over the Suns, Lakers and Thunder, with one of those also coming without Davis.
When you only shoot 28.1 percent on threes the way Denver did, you can’t expect to win. The Nuggets are now 1.5 games behind the Warriors for first in the West.
The NBA trade deadline has passed, which means we more or less know what teams will look like in the NBA playoffs. There will be a few new faces who join playoff teams, but the bulk of these rosters are in place. With most of the season behind us, we also know who will likely be making the playoffs and seeded highly for a Finals run.
Keeping in mind the trade deadline activity, here are the top ten contenders to take home the title in June.
10. Utah Jazz
The Jazz were ultimately quiet at the trade deadline despite being linked to Memphis guard Mike Conley. In the end, they will go with what they had, which isn’t bad. Donovan Mitchell is a star, and Rudy Gobert is playing with a point to prove after being a quite egregious All-Star snub. They’re not really deep enough to challenge the best of the West, and they don’t really have enough in the way of top-level talent, but they’re good enough to cause a few headaches.
The Denver Nuggets think they’re pretty good this season, but the Milwaukee Bucks still think they’re better.
The Nuggets moved to 36-15 with another victory on Friday night, reclaiming the best record in the Western Conference in the process. That led to coach Michael Malone remarking that the Nuggets have “beaten every team in the NBA,” but that, as the Bucks pointed out, was something of an oversight.
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) February 2, 2019
The two teams have not played since November, but the Bucks are right. They defeated the Nuggets twice in the span of eight days.
The Bucks ultimately do not appreciate being disrespected. Their Twitter account will be more than happy to continue correcting the record on stuff like this. After all, the Nuggets may have the best record in the West, but it’s the Bucks who can claim the best record overall.
Nick Young has not stuck with the Denver Nuggets.
The team announced Sunday that they have waived Young just 20 days after originally picking him up.
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) December 30, 2018
Young was signed on Dec. 10 as the Nuggets battled a glut of injuries. He ended up playing just 37 total minutes over four games and took nine shots, eight of them three-pointers, converting on three of them. Ultimately, he didn’t contribute much, and with both Gary Harris and Will Barton closing in on returns, there just isn’t any place for him on Denver’s roster in either the short- or long-term.
It’s not clear where Young will land next, but some team will inevitably need a shooter to fill out their roster.
Nick Young has been looking for an opportunity to continue his playing career since the offseason, and a team has finally decided to add him to the mix.
The Denver Nuggets announced on Monday that they have signed Young to a contract.
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) December 10, 2018
Young won a championship ring with the Golden State Warriors last year. He averaged 7.3 points and 1.6 rebounds per game during the regular season and played just 10.3 minutes per game in the playoffs.
Prior to joining the Warriors, Young spent four seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. The 33-year-old appeared to offer his services to his former team in a tweet earlier this season, but he should be pleased to be joining another contender. The Nuggets are off to a 17-9 start and look like one of the better teams in the Western Conference to this point.
Fans and analysts knew this NBA offseason could be crazy, with a number of big-name players potentially changing uniforms — and the league hasn’t disappointed. So far, we’ve seen the unsurprising (LeBron signed with the Lakers), moderately surprising (Paul George is sticking with OKC), and downright stunning (DeMarcus Cousins is headed to the Bay Area).
But the above moves are just scratching the surface of all that’s happened. Other teams improved through the draft and through signing players who aren’t household names but should still make a big impact.
Which squads have made the biggest leap over their 2017-18 iterations? Here’s our take on the 10 teams that have improved the most so far this summer.
10. San Antonio Spurs
The biggest move of San Antonio’s offseason, of course, has not yet happened: the trade of Kawhi Leonard, which seems all but certain to occur. And even though they’ve lost Tony Parker and Kyle Anderson, the Spurs have still had a good summer to date. Marco Belinelli won a title with the Spurs in 2014, and they’re happy to have him back. He was a key piece on the Philadelphia team that at times looked unbeatable late in the season, and he’s one of the league’s best shooters. Snagging him at $6 million a year is a real value. R.C. Buford lucked out landing Lonnie Walker, a cold-blooded creator from Miami, at No. 18 in the draft – one of my favorite picks. He’s shown shades of Dwyane Wade.
The Denver Nuggets are trying to put themselves in a position to contend in the Western Conference next season, and they are aiming as high as possible in free agency in order to accomplish that goal.
Now that they have signed Nikola Jokic and Will Barton to extensions, the Nuggets are reportedly planning to “aggressively pursue” a meeting with LeBron. Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated says they could try to sell James on the idea of giving them a shot for one season.
With Jokic and Barton on board, the Denver Nuggets will turn their attention to one more free agent: LeBron James. The Nuggets have been in contact with James's agent and will aggressively pursue a meeting.
— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixYS) July 1, 2018
The Nuggets know it's a long shot, but Denver's ultra aggressive front office wants a shot at selling James on a Jokic/Murray/Barton teammate trio–even if it's just for one year.
— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixYS) July 1, 2018
While that’s awfully ambitious of Denver’s front office, the odds of it happening are about as slim as it gets. Jamal Murray, Jokic and Barton give the Nuggets a solid core of young players, but it would make no sense for LeBron to sign with them over a team like the Los Angeles Lakers.
There have been indications that LeBron is going to make a decision sooner rather than later, and no one expects a surprise team like the Nuggets to be a factor.