Nuggets

Turbulent Air Aplenty in Mile High City

on

After securing Aaron Gordon mid-way through last season, the Denver Nuggets looked like legitimate title contenders.

The former Arizona Wildcat looked to be the missing piece to Denver’s puzzle, with many picking Michael Malone’s side to make it out of the Western Conference.

However, a devastating injury to Jamal Murray in April saw the Nuggets lose one of their most desired stars. Denver eventually finished third in the West, soldiering into the second round of the playoffs.

Although the season didn’t end the way they envisioned, the Nuggets quickly diverted their attention towards the new campaign. With Murray sidelined until 2022, all eyes were now on Nikola Jokić to guide the team towards success.

CHOPPING AND CHANGING

Heading into free agency, Denver saw veteran Paul Millsap depart the team to join the Nets. Other outgoings included JaVale McGee and Shaquille Harrison – who both stayed within the league.

Millsap’s replacement was forward Jeff Green, with the 35-year-old joining from Brooklyn on a two-year contract. The Nuggets also were boosted by re-signing the likes of Will Barton, Aaron Gordon, JaMychal Green and Austin Rivers to new contracts.

More notably, Denver also re-signed Michael Porter Jr. to a maximum extension which will see him earn up to $207 million across five years.

With Porter now tied up until 2027, Gordon until 2026 and Murray until 2025, the Nuggets look set for the future.

Especially when you add an expected supermax contract for the Joker next year.

Consequently, Porter (the former 14th pick) has now become the third drafted Nugget to sign a maximum contract. He joins fellow stars in Nikola Jokić (41st pick) and Jamal Murray (7th pick), who look set to make a ‘big three’ in Denver.

A SLOW START FOR MPJ

Until Murray’s return, Porter was expected to fill the Canadian’s boots and become the second scorer on the Nuggets. Following his new contract, even more pressure was mounted onto the shoulders of 23-year-old– who needed to elevate his game once again.

However, Porter endured a tough start to the new campaign, averaging just 9.9 points in his opening nine games. More shockingly, the Missouri Tiger also shot just 20.8% from three-point land, a mere shadow of his usual self where he has averaged 41.9% across his short career.

After just nine games, the Denver forward left the game against Houston due to injury. Since then, teammate Austin Rivers has admitted that Porter has suffered lower back pain since the start of the season.

Thinking back to the 2018 draft, Porter was one of the most desired picks with many expecting him to be a lottery choice. But there were concerns over MPJ’s back injuries and whether that could hinder his progress throughout his career.

The Nuggets took a gamble on Porter with their pick at 14. This could go down as a steal should he reach anywhere near his ceiling in the coming years. As a result, Denver sat Porter out of his first year and hasn’t looked back until now.

Porter has been sidelined for nine games and could potentially miss the rest of the season.

WILL ‘BUCKETS’ BARTON TAKEOVER

As one Nugget struggles, another thrives.

At least that’s the case with Will Barton, who has stepped up in Porter’s absence on the court. To start the season, Barton is averaging 16.3 points on 46.2% shooting – both of which are career highs.

With the 30-year-old on a team surrounded by injuries to star players, he has proven his worth in recent weeks.

Barton’s best game of the season came against the Indiana Pacers on November 10th. The Nuggets guard dropped 30 points in a win despite Murray, Porter and Jokić all being absent.

Whether he’s the first-choice scorer or even a facilitator on a star-studded team – Will Barton has proven he can rise to the occasion in Denver.

As his chemistry with the Joker continues to blossom, it will be interesting to see how the pair thrive in the coming weeks.

ANOTHER ROLLERCOASTER SEASON

Regardless of the circumstances, the Nuggets are guaranteed to provide drama across the course of a season.

Whether it be pulling off improbable playoff comebacks or even simply watching Nikola Jokić play basketball, Denver provides entertainment and is one of the most exciting NBA teams to watch.

Up until his recent wrist injury, the Joker was playing out of his skin. Although we have yet to see just how good they are when fully healthy, we can expect a season of ups and downs in the Mile High City.

Loading
Loading...

About Ryan Bellenie

Recommended for you

Powered by themekiller.com