Denver Nuggets’ Ty Lawson (3) drives past Milwaukee Bucks’ Brandon Jennings, right, during the first half of an NBA game, April 15, 2013, in
Denver Nuggets' Ty Lawson (3) drives past Milwaukee Bucks' Brandon Jennings, right, during the first half of an NBA game, April 15, 2013, in Milwaukee. (Jeffrey Phelps)

Why not the Nuggets? Why not now?

This is the best opportunity for Denver to win the NBA championship since it joined the league in 1976.

Bring the optimism. Dream big.

Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson has heard the same tired line, dripping with defeatist attitude, since he entered the NBA in 2009:

It's impossible to win a championship in Denver.

"Why would I buy into that? I believe that we can win a championship," Lawson said Wednesday.

Why not the Nuggets? Why not now?

There is every reason to believe the Nuggets will play in the Western Conference finals. In fact, I would guarantee Denver will blow the doors off its first-round opponent, give a proper burial to the golden age of basketball in San Antonio during Round 2 and advance to the conference finals against Oklahoma City, except for the fact George Karl turns into Mr. Crankypants when I do his job for him.

Look at this young Denver team. They're all grown up. It is time for the Nuggets to demand excellence from every teammate in the locker room, and embrace the pressure of expectation.

Anything less than a showdown with Oklahoma City for trip to the NBA Finals should be considered a failure.

"I'm pretty confident," Lawson said. "We've played all the top teams pretty well, and we've got a lot of wins against them. I feel confident that we can at least get past the first round and get into the second. From there, it's anybody's game."

Having wrapped up the No. 3 seed in the West with a ridiculously easy 118-98 victory against Phoenix in the regular-season finale, Denver heads into the playoffs with no reason to fear any rival.


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The Miami Heat is the prohibitive favorite to repeat as league champion. Despite its aw-shucks locale, Oklahoma City boasts all the superstar glitz of a traditional contender.

But, outside of Miami and Oklahoma City, is there a team anywhere in the league playing better basketball than the Nuggets?

No.

Memphis is a bar brawl in sneakers, but the Grizzlies don't possess the fine motor skills of Denver. San Antonio is so old and desperate, the Spurs sent out a search party to China and added 33-year-old Tracy McGrady, who has never won a playoff series.

Let's bust one myth. The Nuggets are not a bunch of nondescript role players. And Karl is not the star of this team.

On any given night, Lawson can be the best point guard in the Western Conference. Denver will go as far as Lawson leads them.

At a salary of $14.7 million, wing man Andre Iguodala is among the 25 best-paid players in the league, and for that serious money, he needs to be more than a lockdown defender. The good news: After a season in which he often acted as if permission was required to take charge, Iguodala has finally stepped up his game down the stretch.

With all due respect to forward Danilo Gallinari and a heartfelt prayer for a full recovery for his knee injury, Wilson Chandler is a better basketball player, particularly in the playoffs, when nasty beats beauty nine times out of 10.

You don't need advanced metrics to understand: At best, the Nuggets have a 10 percent chance to win the championship.

Is it a longshot? Absolutely.

Now answer this honestly: How many times in the last generation did Dan Issel or Fat Lever or Carmelo Anthony ever have a stronger shot at winning a ring in Denver?

Sure, there's an undeniable attraction between the Larry O'Brien Trophy and superstars named Bird, Jordan or Magic, who play in Boston, Chicago or Los Angeles.

But you mean to tell me a team in Denver is forbidden to go home with the trophy at the end of the long playoff dance?

Stop it. That defeatist attitude has a duty to die.

Why not the Nuggets? Why not now?