The Denver Nuggets had a promising season reduce brief final yr when star guard Jamal Murray went down with a knee damage on April 12. They nonetheless managed to earn the No. 3 seed within the Western Convention when the playoffs bought underway. Led by the league MVP Nikola Jokic, Denver defeated the Portland Path Blazers within the first spherical earlier than being swept by the Phoenix Suns.
Denver made a large commerce just some weeks previous to Murray’s damage to amass huge man Aaron Gordon from the Orlando Magic. The fourth total decide within the 2014 NBA Draft was the right match for this group, filling the void left by Jerami Grant. Lower than two weeks in the past, Gordon and the group agreed on a four-year contract extension price $92 million. He simply turned 26 years outdated and can fortify their protection heading into this season.
With Murray more likely to miss most of this season, what are the expectations for this group? Can the Nuggets maintain up over the course of an 82-game season with Jokic, Gordon and Michael Porter Jr carrying the load?
The largest concern in Denver this yr shall be their depth. Clearly, Murray is a big loss and whereas they’ve a stable level guard in Facundo Campazzo, he’s removed from the offensive weapon that Murray is. The 30-year outdated depends extra on his expertise and basketball IQ than his athleticism. He averaged 6.1 factors and three.6 assists per sport final season, beginning in 19 of the 65 video games he performed.
Will Barton would be the X-factor for Denver this season. The versatile wing seemed good getting back from his damage late final season and must be totally wholesome when coaching camp opens. He and Monte Morris will doubtless see a rise in minutes this season and will have the ability to deal with the additional load. PJ Dozier is one other man that might see his function elevated this yr. Austin Rivers is returning after a robust displaying to finish the season, however he can’t be requested to do rather more.
The one different guard that Denver added to their roster is Nah’Shon ‘Bones’ Hyland, whom they chose twenty sixth total within the draft this summer season. The previous VCU product is a prolific shooter with nice size that permits him to play passing lanes and contest photographs on the perimeter. He has demonstrated a knack for altering speeds with the ball and can grow to be even higher as he provides muscle to his wiry body.
Bones Hyland says he performed 5 pickup video games on Nikola Jokic’s group throughout the Nuggets’ open runs: “We did not lose. It seemed like 2K. You could possibly simply inform the connection. It was clicking immediately. They put me on a special group as a result of it was too straightforward truthfully.”
— Harrison Wind (@HarrisonWind) September 21, 2021
The Nuggets additionally added ahead Jeff Inexperienced in free company, which was a sneaky good transfer. Primarily, they traded Paul Millsap for him, because the veteran huge man signed with the Brooklyn Nets. The transfer will be considered as an improve for Denver, as Millsap’s function was diminishing. Inexperienced supplies them with one other versatile defender on the wing and is a stable shooter on the offensive finish of the ground.
Offensive firepower would be the one factor to regulate with the Nuggets this season. They’d the seventh-best offensive ranking final yr, however a lot of that was primarily based on the play of Murray, who averaged 21.2 factors per sport on 48 % taking pictures. He’s able to taking on at any level, as he demonstrated two years in the past within the playoffs when he scored 50 factors on two events of their first-round collection with the Utah Jazz.
That’s the place Porter Jr is available in. Projecting breakout seasons will not be straightforward however this one seems to have all the components required for the Most Improved Participant Award. Denver has an MVP in Jokic however passing and rebounding are what he does greatest. Gordon has improved offensively however his function is to be the very best defender on the group and to rebound. Barton and Campazzo are recognized extra for his or her courtroom imaginative and prescient and passing capacity. With the group’s greatest offensive weapon on the sidelines, the time is now for Porter Jr to ascertain himself.
Porter Jr completed third in votes for this award final season and must be thought of the favourite for it this yr. He has the potential to be a 25 point-per-game scorer and put himself into the All-Star dialog. He shot the ball with nice effectivity final season (44 % from three-point vary and 54 % total) and could have a higher quantity now with Murray out. A monumental leap is in retailer for Porter Jr this season if he continues to progress.
— Michael Messer (@mmesser30) September 18, 2021
Denver has a stable mixture of veterans and younger gamers that make up their roster. They’ve an impressive chief in Michael Malone, who enters his seventh season as head coach. The Jazz will nonetheless be the favorites to win the Northwest Division however writing off the Nuggets could be a monumental mistake. They need to nonetheless be the second-best group within the division, with apologies to the Portland Path Blazers.
Malone has confirmed to be probably the greatest at maximizing participant personnel, using a group idea method to the sport. They’ve a generational playmaking huge man main the way in which however everybody appears to know their function and performs them to close perfection. Even after Murray went down in the direction of the tip of final season, the group bonded collectively and completed sturdy, getting out of the primary spherical of the playoffs and dropping to the eventual convention champions.
They’ll want Jokic to proceed his sturdy play, but when Porter Jr has his breakout second and Gordon is similar participant as final yr, this Nuggets group will nonetheless be a stable playoff group within the West. As soon as Murray returns to the ground and has some video games beneath his belt, Denver shall be an extremely harmful group within the postseason.