Why Is Everybody Counting out the Denver Nuggets?
A breakout team of the 2018-19 season, the Denver Nuggets may start the NBA year on the outside looking in. The transformed Western Conference is making people believe that the Nuggets will regress.
These predictions may be premature, however, as the young Denver team has another year under their belt, a chip on their shoulder, and some additional talent that could sustain them for success.
Denver Nuggets’ 2018-19 season
The Denver Nuggets went from fringe playoff team to one of the league’s best in one offseason. A large cause of this was the emergence of star center Nikola Jokic, who showed an ability to score both inside and out, rebound with the rest of the NBA big men, and make plays like a point guard. This skill set was a nightmare for opposing teams, and Nuggets head coach Michael Malone took full advantage of it.
Jokic was supported by the Nuggets’ young guard Jamal Murray. The 22-year-old had a breakout season with 18 points per game and nearly five assists. Giving Denver a deep squad, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Malik Beasley, and veteran forward Paul Millsap ran a free-flowing offense that other teams struggled to handle.
Unfortunately, the 2018-19 season only advanced them to the second round of the playoffs. For a team in their first playoff run, however, the Nuggets’ loss only motivates the team to prove its worth.
Regression or progression for the Nuggets?
After last season, some experts don’t believe the Nuggets will come in second within their division, let alone the West. Denver lacked major moves in a conference that made many big splashes. This makes some believe the Nuggets allowed too many teams to bypass them and grew too confident in their current crop of talent.
Some of the arguments against the Nuggets do not involve them at all. Teams like the Lakers and Clippers went from lottery teams and low-seeded playoff clubs to contenders with big moves. However, it’s not wise for NBA fans to count out the Nuggets.
With the exception of Paul Millsap, most of the team’s young core is returning with another year of growth to unleash on the league. Jokic, as good as he was, could make another leap this year. Murray could have an All-Star season if all goes well.
Even if the team sinks past second place, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve regressed. The Western Conference may have more competitive teams than the past, but this means that some teams could improve as the record doesn’t show it. Furthermore, Denver could have some hidden cards up its sleeve — all with little risk and ample rewards.
Hidden Nuggets talent
Making a splash doesn’t mean as much for a team that was already better last year. In fact, the big splashes made by the Lakers and Clippers did more to help those teams catch up to the Nuggets than they did to hurt Denver.
The Nuggets didn’t make any huge moves, but they have exciting prospects. Jerami Grant is coming off of a career year in Oklahoma City. In Denver’s free-flowing and generous offense, he’ll add a lot of depth.
On top of this, the Nuggets sat on a wild card last year in Michael Porter Jr. Last year’s lottery pick does have valid injury concerns, but many believe Porter will be a star if he can stay healthy. Similar things could be said about their young, injured big man, Bol Bol, who they picked up in the second round of the draft this year.
Yes, the Nuggets could regress this year. But those who count them out entirely could be in for a rude awakening.