What’s Next for the Denver Nuggets?
When the 2019-2020 season started, the average NBA fan assumed the Denver Nuggets would be a playoff team, especially after coming off a second-round appearance in the playoffs the year before, and a 2nd place finish in the West. The Nuggets were also one win away from the Western Conference Finals. So, it was no secret that the team is talented.
But the 2020 season came with a lot more than most expected. From the pandemic pausing the season for months to the NBA having to implement a bubble to create a safer environment in order for the season to resume. That in itself brought up many questions regarding each team, and in this case, the Denver Nuggets were no exception.
Denver Nuggets: What Exactly is Next?
Denver Nuggets: Their Bubble Run
When the season resumed in the Orlando bubble, the Denver Nuggets were 3rd in the west. Exactly 1.5 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers and that remained the same going into the playoffs. What we got from the Nuggets’ playoff run was unreal. From being down 3-1 to the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers, to win both series in 7 games. The Nuggets ultimately went down 3-1 again against the Los Angeles Lakers, but that deficit was just too much to overcome and the history-making playoff run had come to an end.
For every Nuggets fan, there was a level of disappointment due to the fact that the team was eliminated from the playoffs. However, that disappointment quickly turned into optimism. That optimism comes from the fact that this young Nuggets team has an opportunity to seriously contend for a championship. After going into the playoffs with one superstar talent in Nikola Jokic, to witnessing the Jamal Murray coming-out party as the next cornerstone of the franchise, this team will be dangerous for years to come.
This Nuggets team has been steadily progressing the past few years. From barely missing the playoffs in a play-in game that was lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the closing seconds, to making it to game 7 of the second round against the Portland Trailblazers the following season, to now reaching the Western Conference finals against the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers. This should be seen as a clear indication that this team has the potential to improve once again. However, now comes the biggest obstacle, the offseason.
When the offseason comes around for any franchise, reality sets in with contracts, trades, and the NBA draft. All of these factors can make or break a franchise moving forward. And for the Denver Nuggets, this is very much a reality at this very moment. Although the two franchise players in Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are both locked-in for the next few years, the other players on the team are just as important to the overall success.
With the contracts of Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee coming off the books, the Nuggets have to find a way to make their possible departure a smooth transition. I believe the answer to both positions is already on the team. With Jerami Grant and Bol Bol, I think the Nuggets have the players who can replace both Millsap and Plumlee without losing a step. Although Jerami Grant currently has a Player Option, I am confident that the team will find a way to keep him for the foreseeable future. Especially after the impact, he had in the deep playoff run on both sides of the ball.
Even though the Nuggets have obvious talent from top to bottom, most people still believe that the team needs to make a move or two in the offseason. With Michael Porter getting vital playoff experience, and Will Barton coming back from an injury that kept him out of every game since the season resumed, the Nuggets believe that they have the pieces to compete already. However, no franchise will turn down the opportunity to improve if the price is right.
Potential Free Agents and Options
Names like Jrue Holiday, Bradley Beal, and Chris Paul have floated around the rumor mill for some time. Most people believe that any of these names would instantly put the Nuggets in the contender status. I do agree that any of those names would improve the Nuggets short-term, but at what cost? Acquiring any of those players would cost some current and future assets. I don’t think the Nuggets should part ways with Michael Porter or Bol Bol. Most teams would want them included in any trade.
With those two players, the Nuggets have youth and major star potential. To trade that level of talent for an aging player at the end of their prime, or already past their prime, may not be the best situation for the team moving forward. The future of this franchise will ultimately depend on whether ownership wants to continue developing through the draft, as it has been, or exceed the luxury tax, and go all-in on another marquee name to pair with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images