Nuggets

Nuggets Are “Rocky Mountain High” Following Playoff Run

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While the end result was not what they had hoped, Nuggets fans are overjoyed with how this season went for their team.  After narrowly missing the playoffs the year before, the young squad stormed into the season and battled the Warriors for the best record in the West until the end of the season.  This is even more impressive when realizing that the Nuggets are the youngest team in the league.  Denver entered this season with an average age of 24.72.  This team is ahead of schedule and has a lot to look back on fondly.  So let’s do just that.

Returning to the Playoffs

The Nuggets planned on this for years, rebuilding on the fly after a one-year run as the three seed in 2013.  Andre Iguodala left after one season with the team and George Karl was fired despite being coach of the year.  This left the roster in a state of flux that they only truly recovered from in the 2016-17 season where they finished 9th in the West for the first of back-to-back years.

This year, the Nuggets were determined to get back on track and never took their foot off the gas all season.  Even when veteran leader Paul Millsap missed eight games during the season with a broken toe, they continued to push and challenge everyone.  Michael Malone does everything in his power to empower the young stars on the team.

Vast Improvements

The most important place to start is the player in the running for MVP.  Nikola Jokic took major steps forward this season on the court and as a leader.  Drafted 41st overall just five years ago, being selected to the all-star game, top 5 in MVP voting and an All-NBA selection was unlikely to say the least.  Many have called him the “best passing big man of all time”.  He posted triple doubles throughout the year and in the playoffs.  Jokic has turned into the unlikely face of the franchise and will be the building block for this franchise moving forward.

Additionally, their other young players have taken steps forward as well.  Jamal Murray averaged a career high in points, rebounds and assists.  He is not the most consistent player, but he posted multiple 30-point games in the second round of the playoffs, boosting the team’s confidence in him as an offensive hub.  Gary Harris, Monte Morris and Torrey Craig all showed positive signs and made impacts throughout the season.

Issues Along the Way

Not everything went perfectly for the Nuggets this season, which shows just how bright their future is.  Millsap missed quite a few games with his aforementioned injury.  Harris also missed 25 games due to injury and free agent signee Isaiah Thomas failed to make an impact, but these red flags did not sink their season.

The biggest issue along the way was also something they knew about coming into the season.  As expected, Michael Porter Jr. did not play this season due to back problems that caused him to fall to the Nuggets at the end of the lottery last year.  Getting nothing from a first-round pick for a non-playoff team is usually disastrous, but they knew what they were getting in Porter Jr. and had confidence in their talented core to do some damage.

What the Future Holds

This team should look very similar next season.  Denver’s most critical decision will come with Paul Millsap’s $30.5 million team option.  They may very well choose to decline the option with hopes to sign him to a more team-friendly contract.  Trey Lyles, Isaiah Thomas and Tyler Lydon will be free agents, but none of them were big impact players for this team.  Denver currently does not have any picks in this year’s NBA Draft, but with Michael Porter Jr. due to play in Summer League, this will feel like adding a first round pick to their roster.

Nikola Jokic and Gary Harris are locked up long term.  For the first time in years, the Nuggets are heading into a season with stability and expectations.  They are one of the few Western Conference teams not in a state of flux this summer.  Hopefully some stability will be something they can build off of with their young stars moving forward.

About Corey Rausch

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