The injury issues are piling up for the Denver Nuggets. Jamal Murray began the season on the shelf after suffering a torn ACL this past April. Michael Porter Jr. remains out with a nerve issue that could require back surgery. Now, the Nuggets will also be without vital reserve guard P.J. Dozier.
Dozier suffered a potential season-ending injury during Tuesday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, one with both a personal and collective cost. The setback might impact his financial future and serve as the nail in the coffin to the Denver Nuggets’ NBA title hopes.
The Nuggets fear P.J. Dozier tore his ACL
Denver already entered Tuesday’s game against the Blazers short-handed, as Nikola Jokic joined the list of inactives because of a wrist injury that has sidelined him for the last three games. Rookie Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland, who has impressed since his debut, also missed the contest with an ankle issue.
The injury bug hit the Nuggets even harder.
The Blazers led by three points near the end of the first quarter when Denver guard P.J. Dozier met Portland big Tyler Zeller at the rim. He landed awkwardly on his left knee and remained on the floor. The Nuggets removed him from the game, with TNT’s Stephanie Ready reporting in-game that players on Denver’s bench immediately expressed concern.
Indeed, it appears Dozier’s season could be over. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported early Wednesday that the Nuggets fear the 25-year-old suffered a torn ACL.
If further testing confirms a tear, Dozier will miss the remainder of the season and likely the first month-plus of the 2022-23 campaign. Unfortunately, the timing of the injury might also result in him losing out on some money.
Dozier’s injury could impact extension talks
P.J. Dozier deserved to see some dollars come his way. As a former undrafted player, Dozier bounced around before establishing himself as a key reserve in Denver. Nuggets head coach Mike Malone repeatedly sings his praises.
However, it’s unknown how this injury could change Dozier’s financial future.
The former South Carolina product was already playing on a partially-guaranteed contract this season and could be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the campaign. Mike Singer of the Denver Post reported Dozier was “in line” to sign an extension this spring. Even if he signs a new deal with the Nuggets, though, it’s unlikely Dozier cashes out like he otherwise could if healthy.
The off-court consequences are yet to be determined. But the on-court ramifications of Dozier’s absence should be far more noticeable in the immediate sense.
The Nuggets lose one of their best defenders
Dozier does not wow in counting stats or advanced defensive metrics. But he continuously guards elite wings and is exceptional as a help defender with good length and athleticism.
One of the best examples of this is Dozier’s defense on Los Angeles Clippers star Paul George — who is showing his true star power without Kawhi Leonard — this past May. He helped hold PG to just 5-of-21 shooting from the field, showing sound on-ball guarding ability while typically being in the right spot positionally for defensive rotations.
Additionally, Dozier started growing into his own as a more aggressive slasher late last season. He struggled to score efficiently through the first 18 games but had upside as an athletic player capable of making plays at and around the rim.
The Nuggets desperately needed that kind of versatile player who comes off the bench and guards multiple positions while also being able to score and rebound. Instead, Malone’s group is that much more depleted.
Dozier might not be a star, but his absence robs Denver of crucial depth. The injury could all but eliminate any fleeting chance the Nuggets might have had of winning an NBA title.