The Denver Nuggets posted their franchise’s highest win total since 2013 with a record of 54-28, and they ended up just one game away from reaching the Western Conference Finals for the first time since the Carmelo Anthony days back in 2009. Their success was in large part due to the play of All-NBA First Team center Nikola Jokic, who was consistently great all season long as he was in the top-10 in the league when it came to win-shares, value over replacement, player efficiency rating, and box plus-minus. Many were concerned that fatigue would hinder his play come playoff time, but Jokic instead took his game to another level as his regular season per game averages of 20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 7.3 assists rose in the playoffs where he averaged 25.1 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 8.4 assists all while maintaining his high efficiency ratings. As long as Jokic remains in the lineup, the Nuggets appear to be in a position to content for the foreseeable future.
Another player who raised his game in the playoff was point guard Jamal Murray, who’s stellar play earned himself a maximum five-year, $170 million extension with the Nuggets this offseason. Murray had shown flashes of all-star talent over his first three seasons in the league but had struggled to consistently put it all together over a long stretch of games. The extension shows that Denver believes that Murray can take that next step and be the point guard of the future for this team, and the glowing chemistry between him and Jokic will only continue to grow.
Given the large financial commitment they now have to Jokic and Murray, Denver had a relatively quiet offseason otherwise. They decided to pick up their team option on Paul Millsap, who is projected to remain in the starting power forward spot as a someone who can score on the block and also hit the corner three. Gary Harris will also return to be the starting shooting guard, and while he had a down year shooting the ball he still has the history and form to be a knock down shooter while also being the team’s best perimeter defender.
The only major acquisition the Nuggets made this summer is that they gave up a first round pick to the Thunder in order to trade for Jerami Grant, who is coming off his best year as a pro as he thrived as a versatile defender while showing off his improved shooting and scoring ability on offense. Head coach Mike Malone has options on what he could with Grant. He can either bring him off the bench to be the back-up power forward behind Millsap, thus grooming him to eventually take his place, or he can roll out a super-sized starting lineup and play Grant at the 3. As of now, however, expect the Nuggets to bring him off the bench so that they can keep lockdown defender Torrey Craig in the starting lineup and pairing Grant with 6th man Will Barton to give the Nuggets an extra spark off the bench.