After getting blasted by the Boston Celtics on Sunday, the Denver Nuggets entered Monday night with an opportunity to get back on track. Unfortunately for head coach Mike Malone, his team lost more than just its second straight game. Because based on the latest update on Jamal Murray, the Nuggets have officially suffered a knockout blow to their chances of winning an NBA title this season.
Denver recently made some big moves to bolster its lineup
With a roster headlined by Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets pulled off a series of trades last month to increase their overall talent and depth.
On March 25, Denver bolstered its frontcourt by acquiring Aaron Gordon. The 25-year-old former lottery pick never developed into a true superstar with the Orlando Magic, but he still showed enough skill to garner a trade package of Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton, and a protected 2025 first-round pick.
A day later, the Nuggets added another big man to the mix for a cheap price. The Cleveland Cavaliers received Isaiah Hartenstein and two future second-round picks in exchange for JaVale McGee. The 33-year-old center averaged 8.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks in 33 games before Cleveland shipped him to Denver.
With two new faces in the fold, the Nuggets went on an eight-game winning streak to make a leap up the Western Conference standings. But after falling to the Celtics over the weekend, the team started the week off in the worst way possible.
The Nuggets just suffered a knockout blow to their chances of winning a championship
Facing an up-and-down Golden State Warriors squad, the Nuggets struggled to contain a red-hot Stephen Curry. Down by seven with less than a minute remaining, Jamal Murray drove toward the basket in an attempt to squeeze through two defenders. However, the superstar guard crumpled to the ground in obvious pain as he clutched his left knee.
Medical staff offered Murray a wheelchair, but he opted to leave the court with the assistance of two staff members. Based on his reaction and the non-contact nature of his injury, speculation immediately arose that the 24-year-old may have suffered a season-ending setback.
On Tuesday, the Nuggets confirmed what many suspected. The team announced Murray sustained a torn ACL in his left knee. He will miss the remainder of the season.
After emerging as a star during the playoffs, Murray had taken his game to another level this year. Despite dealing with injuries, he averaged 21.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.3 steals in 48 games. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound guard connected on a career-high 40.8% of his 3-point attempts before suffering a truly brutal injury blow.
The Jamal Murray injury has massive short- and long-term ramifications
Unfortunately for the Nuggets, their chances of winning an NBA title just vanished. Without Jamal Murray in the lineup, Denver has no shot at beating any of the top teams in the West. After all, you can’t replace the production and leadership he provided on a nightly basis.
A healthy LA Lakers team most certainly has the pieces to send the Nuggets home in the playoffs. So do the LA Clippers, who currently sit in third place thanks to Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. And as long as the Phoenix Suns and the Utah Jazz stay healthy, they should have no trouble defeating Denver, either.
What’s more concerning, however, is the timing of Murray’s injury. His absence obviously knocks the Nuggets out of the championship hunt this season. But a torn ACL requires a recovery period of about a year. That means Murray could miss a significant portion (if not all) of the 2021-22 season.
Without him in the lineup, Denver doesn’t stand a chance at competing for a championship. Will Murray’s torn ACL force the front office to consider making a significant move this summer to land an established star? At this point, the Nuggets may have no choice.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.