The Denver Nuggets are coming off a historic 2020-21 season which saw Nikola Jokic take home MVP. He was the first in franchise history to do so. They went through a lot of ups and downs last year, as Denver managed to get the 3rd seed but ended up losing to the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Semifinals. After three straight playoff appearances, the Nuggets look to get back there this year and seriously contend for a championship.
Denver Nuggets 2021-22 Season Preview
Offseason Moves for the Denver Nuggets
Denver’s front office decided to run it back this season. They re-signed Will Barton and JaMychal Green on two-year deals and brought back playoff hero Austin Rivers on a minimum contract. The only additions were journeyman Jeff Green and rookie Bones Hyland. Green will step into the rotation right away. Green is a veteran forward who can stretch the floor and help on defense. Denver decided to keep adding offense during the draft when they selected Hyland over other rookies who project to be strong defenders. Bones showed his skills in Summer League, where he averaged 19.8 PPG and 4.8 APG. He is a bit of a wildcard this season though as he will likely be in the G-League to start.
When Will Jamal Murray Return?
Coming off a breakout performance during the Bubble Playoffs, Jamal Murray came into last year looking to build on that success. He had a career year through 48 games averaging 21.2 PPG, 4.8 APG, and 4.0 RPG. Then on April 12th, Murray tore his ACL late in a game against Golden State. It was a devastating blow to the team and ended the Nuggets chances of winning a championship. A torn ACL usually has a 7-9 month recovery time, so don’t expect to see him on the court until January at the earliest. Murray’s absence was largely visible during the playoffs, where the Nuggets did not have enough offensive firepower to hang with the Suns. If Murray can shake off the rust by the end of the season, it will fully unlock the offense and Denver could be a frontrunner in the West.
Can Michael Porter Jr. become a Star?
What do the Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, and Los Angeles Lakers all have in common? They all have a big three of established stars in the league, and are the top three title favorites. A big three is almost necessary in order to win a championship in today’s NBA. Michael Porter Jr. is the player who can take the Nuggets to the top echelon of teams. In his second season, he averaged 19.0 PPG and 7.3 RPG as a third option. He is already one of the best 3 point shooters in the league, as he shot a staggering 45% on 6.3 3PA last season. Porter uses his height and elevation on his jumper to shoot over anybody, at any time. Porter is an elite off the ball threat, both as a shooter and a cutter alongside Jokic.
The rest of his game needs work, and the number one thing he needs to work on is his handle. Porter still doesn’t look like he is strong with the ball yet. If he can improve his handle, he can be another devastating isolation threat to go along with Jokic and Murray. His defensive focus also is lackluster, as there was too many plays last year where he simply lost his man or was out of position for help defense. Porter has shown flashes of being able to make defensive plays with his length and athleticism. There is no reason why Porter shouldn’t be able to average 25 PPG until Murray comes back. He’s is currently the betting favorite for Most Improved Player at +650. If he can take the next step Denver will have a big 3 that can stand up against anyone in the league.
The Nuggets have been a top three seed the last three seasons. Barring a Jokic injury, they will be in that range again this season. Jokic is good enough to carry a regular-season offense by himself, but the Nuggets have a good group of role players who will help him along the way. Porter, Barton, and Monte Morris are all starters who can create offense. They will be joined by recently extended Aaron Gordon in the starting lineup. Gordon gives the Nuggets a defender to use against the elite forwards of the West. The defense will likely be inconsistent, but Denver has a great offense and will use their homecourt advantage to put together another strong regular season.
Prediction: 50-32, 2nd Northwest
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