Since the Melo trade took place, not much was expected of the Denver Nuggets. People thought that Denver would surely fall out of the playoff race and lose their established dominance in the West. Dever has shocked all of those critics and even gotten better since the loss of Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. Since the trade the newfound Nuggets have compiled an impressive record of 9-3 while the Knicks with the supposed “elite player” Melo have just gone 7-7. People have had low expectations for Denver since the trade and Denver has not only proved them wrong, but also set themselves up for a possible first round upset against Dallas assuming that the Nuggets maintain their six seed in the West.
Felton, Chandler, and Gallanari for Anthony and Billups was the fateful trade that shocked the entire NBA. This was seen as a high price for Anthony and Billups as the Knicks were seemingly trading away one of their elite players and almost all of their young talent. Still Felton, Chandler, and Gallanari were not expected to mesh well with Denver and the Knicks were supposed to receive the better end of the deal. This was seemingly perceived to be true as the Knicks got off to a quick start with an unexpected win over Miami. In that time period though, no one was paying attention to Denver as Denver won game after game with their new roster. Denver is still not being recognized as the elite squad they are because they have no leader. Rather, the Nuggets have a roster well-balanced with players that possess equal talent and therefore the team is a nightmare to defend. Double teams are detrimental when every player is capable of lighting the scoreboard up. This is why Denver is in a much better position now. Now Denver has a future and every player is no longer overshadowed by Anthony.
Then you have to consider the dark horses who are not expected to clinch the spot but still lurking 5 games out. By dark horses I mean New Jersey and Detroit. Detroit’s recent struggles and three game losing streak have put them a considerable distance of 5 games out of a playoff spot. New Jersey’s recent success and 4 game winning streak have put them also 5.5 games out of the 8th spot. It is still feasible for these two teams to make a playoff push due to the 18-20 remaining games in the season.
The playoff race in the East is contested mainly by three teams but can be taken by either of our dark horses if New Jersey or Detroit catches fire. It will be interesting to see how this all fares out.