- Bradford Doolittle, ESPN Staff Writer
The Denver Nuggets are less than one year removed from challenging for a No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Denver's 57 wins in 2012-13 was an NBA best for the franchise, and with a deep roster brimming with players just entering their prime, the Nuggets seemed poised for something big. The front office was led by one of the game's brightest general managers in Masai Ujiri, who had successfully turned the inevitable departure of Carmelo Anthony into a windfall for the organization. On the bench was future Hall of Fame coach George Karl, who was in many ways the face of the team and who orchestrated a distinctive style of play that was a perfect fit for the Mile High City.
The breakout season was punctuated by a six-game loss to the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs, a stunning defeat that was only partly explained by the absence of injured forward Danilo Gallinari. Then just about everything about the Nuggets changed. Karl was replaced by first-time coach Brian Shaw. Ujiri departed for Toronto and was replaced by first-time GM Tim Connelly shortly before the 2013 draft. Six of the top eight players from last season's rotation have either moved on, are injured (Gallinari and JaVale McGee) or are stuck in limbo (Andre Miller).
The Nuggets (19-18) currently stand ninth in the stacked Western Conference. The overriding question after the tumultuous offseason: Has Denver closed the window of contention on itself?
1dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann