It’s only July, but it’s not premature to say that the Denver Nuggets are going to be a serious contender next season. Last season, without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr, the Nuggets still finished with a record of 48-34 and placed sixth in the Western Conference gauntlet. That’s impressive on its own.
Of course, plenty of the praise goes to MVP Nikola Jokic. He also received a five-year, $270 million contract this offseason, tying him to the franchise for the foreseeable future. Denver’s injury-plagued season allowed other players to develop, and the Nuggets made some shrewd acquisitions into an otherwise strong roster. Barring any other health concerns, the Nuggets are ready to win.
The Denver Nuggets Are a Serious NBA Championship Contender
The Magic That Is Jokic
Jokic now holds back-to-back MVP awards. Both were very well deserved.
In the 2020-21 season, Jokic averaged about 26 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, and a steal per game. Remember, he’s a center. He also had a shooting split of 57/39/87. He won the MVP award again this past season, with averages of about 27 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists, and two steals per game. Jokic had a shooting split of 58/34/81.
He’s an incredible player and arguably the top player in the entire league. He’s essentially impossible to game plan against as he plays the game at his own pace. Jokic had to take care of a lot last season, although he did have teammates who stepped up. With that being said, expect his load to slightly decrease due to the return of Murray and Porter Jr. Perhaps Jokic’s stats won’t be as jaw-dropping (although there’s definitely a possibility they are), but he’s by all means ready to be the best player on a championship-winning team.
Murray was injured during the 2020-2021 season and hasn’t played since. Many may have forgotten how talented he is. That season he was averaging about 21 points, five assists, and four rebounds per game. He also had a shooting split of 48/41/87. Murray is another extremely efficient scorer. More than that, he can take games over. The 2020 playoff series versus the Utah Jazz was an excellent example of that. Murray is essentially the ideal second option for a top team, and now he returns to play alongside the reigning two-time league MVP.
Porter Jr. has dealt with injuries going back to his high school days. He didn’t play the season he was drafted, and he saw very limited time the following season (2019-20). In 2020-21, however, Porter Jr. was healthy for the most part as he appeared in 61 games, 54 of which were starts. He averaged about 19 points, seven rebounds, and a block per game. He had a very strong shooting split of 54/45/79. Porter Jr. is an excellent athlete and scorer, but also a terrific three-point shooter. The opportunities he gets in a Jokic offense are endless.
He only played in nine games last season before being announced as out for the season. Back issues may be lingering for Porter Jr., but if healthy, he’ll be extremely explosive for Denver.
Rounding Out the Roster
Aaron Gordon is an integral part of the team as well at the four. Last season he averaged about 15 points and six rebounds per game. Gordon is a versatile player who succeeds on both ends. Last season, however, he was a tad overworked due to Denver’s lack of options. As a fourth option on offense and a primary defender, Gordon will shine.
The Nuggets brought in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown to boost their backcourt. Caldwell-Pope has championship experience with the Los Angeles Lakers and is a very solid “three-and-d” type of guard. He should slot in nicely alongside Murray as the starting backcourt.
Brown looked solid for the Brooklyn Nets last season and is an underrated signing. Although he’s a guard, he plays a lot bigger than his position. Like Gordon, he’s a bruiser on both ends of the floor. Having him and Gordon together will bode well for Denver.
Bones Hyland showed his skills last season as a late first-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. His role will only expand and he’ll improve upon his averages of about 10 points and three assists per game. A new rookie joins the youth ranks too in Christian Braun. He’s an excellent “glue guy” for this roster as he’ll play tough defense and make open shots. Peyton Watson is another rookie, but a project for the time being.
Denver Nuggets Outlook
The starting five should look like Murray, Caldwell-Pope, Porter Jr., Gordon, and Jokic. That’s very strong on both ends of the floor.
Hyland provides a spark of offense off the bench, whereas Brown brings defense. Green does a tad of both, as does Braun.
Assuming health and development go the way they should, Denver is a legitimate championship contender next season.
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