30 Teams in 30 Days: Nuggets brace for bounce-back season with healthy group

Two-time Kia MVP Nikola Jokic hopes to have Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray again on the ground in 2022-23.

(*30*)Denver Nuggets

(*30*)2021-22 file: 48-34

(*30*)Key additions: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope & Ish Smith (commerce), DeAndre Jordan & Bruce Brown (free company), Christian Braun (2022 draft)

(*30*)Key subtractions: Monte Morris, Will Barton, JaMychal Green (commerce), Austin Rivers (free company), GM Tim Connelly

(*30*)Last season: Gutted by the damage losses of their second- and third-best gamers, the Nuggets nonetheless gained 48 video games and took a sport in the primary spherical towards the eventual champion Warriors. This was completed, in fact, with a historic season by Nikola Jokic, who cemented his place at some point in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame with a second straight Kia MVP award. Jokic led the Nuggets in each necessary statistical class in what was a legendary one-man efficiency. He’s nonetheless in his prime at age 27, and with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. slated to return in 2022-23, the Nuggets entered the offseason feeling frisky about their outlook and future.

(*30*)Summer abstract: He is, for now anyway, the reply to an ever-changing query — who’s the best paid participant in NBA historical past? Just 5 years in the past few if anybody would guess {that a} pudgy, former second-round decide would declare that monetary crown.

But this summer season the Nuggets did the inevitable and backed up the Brinks for Jokic, who scored a five-year, $270 million supermax extension. It was cash properly spent, as a result of Jokic is just not solely coming off a pair of MVP seasons, however has confirmed to be reliable and durable and nonetheless evolving as a participant. There are few weaknesses in the sport of the 7-foot middle, who’s blessed with courtroom imaginative and prescient, passing potential, dribbling, taking pictures vary, low-post strikes and an honest presence as a rim protector on protection. Seriously, what’s to not admire?

The Nuggets have been gifted with Jokic as a result of a sharp-eyed govt (Connelly) noticed some promise with the forty first decide in 2013 and used it to take the unknown Serbian. Connelly left for Minnesota this summer season, however he did a radical job in constructing a staff that reached the 2020 Western Conference finals and the staff nonetheless boasts two stars and stable position gamers.

The Nuggets promoted his assistant, Calvin Booth, who was proactive in his first summer season sitting in the large chair. He despatched a pair of necessary rotation gamers, Morris and Barton, to Washington primarily to get Caldwell-Pope, a troublesome defender armed with a dependable 3-point shot. Caldewell-Pope brings championship expertise, having gained a title with the 2020 Lakers, and a defensive mindset that’ll be wanted in Denver. With Murray coming off knee surgical procedure, Caldwell-Pope will settle for the more durable defensive backcourt assignments.

Relive a few of Nikola Jokic’s greatest performs and moments from his Kia MVP season in 2021-22.

The Nuggets additionally acquired Smith in the commerce and the well-traveled veteran level guard is sensible and reliable with the ball, and an improve from Rivers.

Denver drafted Braun at No. 21 and the 6-foot-6 guard brings dimension, however until he’s unexpectedly stable from the beginning, he’ll in all probability spend a lot of his rookie season on the bench or in the NBA G League.

But let’s get to the true problem of the offseason: How’s the therapeutic course of with Murray and Porter, who have not shared the identical courtroom since April of 2021?

Porter is the larger concern solely as a result of he dealt with a recurring again problem that required a second process. He’s been dogged by his again since his lone season at Missouri when he lasted simply three video games, which precipitated him to fall to Denver at No. 14 in the 2018 draft. Keep in thoughts, additionally, that the Nuggets gave him a rookie max extension, so there’s lots at stake right here with his well-being.

The indicators this summer season concerning Porter have been cloudy and there are indications that he can have minutes restrictions initially. The final time he was healthy in 2020-21, he averaged 19 factors per sport and shot 54.2% general (and 44.5% on 3-pointers).

Murray final performed in an NBA sport on April 12, 2021 and, final season, the Nuggets rapidly dismissed any likelihood of him returning for their first-round collection with the Golden State Warriors as a result of his long-term well being was extra necessary. He has ramped up greater than Porter, although, and is scheduled to scrimmage at coaching camp and, barring any setbacks, ought to be prepared when 2022-23 suggestions off.

And that, actually, is what the Nuggets have been banking on this summer season, greater than any commerce or draft or free agent signing. Jokic was a tremendous solo act final season, probably the greatest ones in current NBA historical past. But he needs, and wishes, firm this upcoming season.

(*30*)Up subsequent: Miami Heat | (*30*)Previously: Houston Rockets

(*30*)> 30 groups in 30 days: Complete schedule

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Shaun Powell has lined the NBA for greater than 25 years. You can e-mail him right here, discover his archive right here and observe him on Twitter.

The views on this web page don’t essentially replicate the views of the NBA, its golf equipment or Turner Broadcasting.

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