Last season, the Denver Nuggets were without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., their second and third-best players. Despite those huge losses, the team was much better than expected. Nikola Jokic carried the Nuggets to the sixth seed as he won his second MVP title, but the team eventually fell to the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs.
Denver Nuggets 2022-23 Season Preview
Jamal Murray’s and Michael Porter Jr.’s returns
Both Murray and Porter will be back next season, which will give the Nuggets a significant boost. Murray is still recovering from a torn ACL and Porter from back surgery, though. So, they will both probably be under minute restrictions at first and will need some time to find their rhythm again.
Their return will still be crucial to Denver’s success, though, because Jokic needs some support, even if Murray and Porter are not at their best. Jokic already carried the team on his back all of last season and spent the offseason playing Euro Basketball for Serbia. He is in great shape and looks ready for another successful season but cannot be expected to do all the heavy lifting by himself again.
Murray showed his potential in the 2020 playoffs against the Utah Jazz, when he averaged around 30 points a game and exploded for 50 points in two games. He was right on track to evolving into one of the most competent scorers in the NBA when he tore his ACL. If he manages to make a full recovery, he still has that same potential and will be the perfect addition to Jokic’s phenomenal performance for Denver.
Porter has always struggled with injuries, but while he was healthy in the 2020-21 season, he already improved his scoring and rebounding a lot. If he can continue to do that after his return, he will be a great asset to Denver’s championship aspirations.
The trio has not played together since April of last year, so they will have to find their rhythm again, but it will be good to see all of them on the court and healthy.
The Nuggets had a busy offseason that started with resigning Jokic. While that is definitely their most important signing, Denver also further improved their roster with some other notable additions.
For one, they added Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as a potential starting shooting guard. Caldwell-Pope is a defense-minded player with a great 3-and-D style who will benefit from Jokic’s passing and playmaking abilities.
Denver also acquired some veteran backup centers in DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus Cousin to address their frontcourt depth issues. There is still the question whether or not they can put together an effective scoring frontcourt if Jokic needs to sit.
Veteran Jeff Green opted into his player option for next season, and will offer Denver an experienced, solid all-around power forward. He will have to split minutes with Aaron Gordon, though, who provides versatile offense and defense.
Through the draft, Denver added rookie Christian Braun, who is still unproven at the NBA level but has a lot of potential. He joins Nah’Shon Hyland and Zeke Nnaji as the young talent Denver can develop for the future. Hyland already gathered some experience and proved himself as a point guard when he filled in for Murray last season. All three of them should see minutes in the regular season and Hyland probably also in the postseason if he can replicate the level of playing, he showed last season and to grow his game.
The Nuggets have been very consistent in the playoffs during the last few seasons. Coach Michael Malone is a big part of that success, as he built a hard-working, winning culture when he came to Denver in 2015. This earned him a contract extension earlier this year.
Now, with everyone back and healthy, Malone has the right pieces to work towards a championship. Denver already is in the conversation as a possible contender because of how far they got last season without two of their three best players.
At the same time, however, they are one of the biggest question marks in the league because all of their success depends on a healthy big three. Technically, they have the depth and talent with a good mix between experience and youth to compete, but can Denver really rely on everyone to be healthy and available?
Jokic is in his prime right now and even if Murray and Porter do not stay healthy, or it turns out that they are not ready to play at such a high level yet, he might carry the Nuggets to the playoffs again. If that is the case, they will probably see similar results to last season. If everything goes according to plan, though, and Murray and Porter are healthy, Denver will make some noise in the West and maybe even get to the conference finals.