The NBA’s Dearly Departed-Denver Nuggets Edition 

As teams in the NBA Playoffs get eliminated, Murphy’s Multiverse takes a look at their prospects for next season. The Denver Nuggets were just eliminated by the Golden State Warriors in 5 games. What will it take for them to take the next step?

Notable Free Agents

  • Guard Austin Rivers
  • Center Demarcus Cousins
  • Forward/Center JaMychal Green (player option)

Projected 2022-2023 Starting Lineup

  • PG Jamal Murray
  • SG Will Barton
  • SF Michael Porter Jr
  • PF Aaron Gordon
  • C Nikola Jokic

The Nuggets will go into next season with the likely back-to-back MVP in center Nikola Jokic. Most importantly they will have a healthy Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. The goal should be to take the pressure off of Jokic to do everything as he’s had to this past season. Murray’s scoring ability and ball-handling will allow that to happen. MPJ will also take some of the scoring load as well and make this a better offense. Aaron Gordon will slide into an easier situation of being the fourth option as opposed to being the 2nd best player on the team. The question is will it be enough to contend for a title?

Consider this, with what we saw against Golden State it’s fair to ask if this Nuggets defense can be good enough. Against any pick and roll-based offense, Nikola Jokic will be targeted. On the other hand, it’s Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Jordan Poole. That’s a unique set of talent and shooting. You always have to be careful in overreacting to the results as opposed to the process itself. Jamal Murray will be coming off of a torn ACL, and MPJ still has his back issues. You will have to work those guys in carefully and judiciously. 

Offensively Nikola Jokic is a system unto himself. If you add the lost talent this year they’ll be fine on that end. Defensively will be a work in progress. Can they find an additional wing that can defend in bench lineups or in crunch time? Or how about MPJ stepping up to be a two-way player. Sometimes the best improvements are in-house, and there’s a path for Denver to be a threat to get to the Finals with the right moves. 

All of this takes health, a little bit of luck, and consistency from your best players. The western conference will always be a challenge, but maybe soon enough the Nuggets will strike gold.

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