The Denver Nuggets are coming off a terrific season, but injuries, lack of experience, and fatigue took a toll in the playoffs when they fell against the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Semifinals.
This franchise has historically underperformed during the postseason, but this time, they’ve put together a balanced and interesting group that they may have enough assets to change the status quo.
Their young players are poised for another breakout year, and several insiders actually think they have what it takes to clinch the first seed in the West next season, especially with their home-court advantage.
But how, exactly, will they line up to start the year? Let’s take a look:
Bench: Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig, Michael Porter Jr, Juancho Hernangomez, Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee
Point Guard: Jamal Murray
Jamal Murray got off to a slow start last season but trended up as the campaign went by. He’s already proven his ability to knock down shots from all over the floor and has made great strides as a backcourt defender as well.
While Murray is not an average pass-first kind of point guard and won’t be the team’s primary ball-handler, he’s a great off-ball player, a solid shooter, and a rising star that is years away from reaching his ceiling.
Shooting Guard: Gary Harris
Injuries made Gary Harris regress a bit last season but he’s had the whole summer to heal his body to the fullest. Now, he’ll pick up where he left off a couple of seasons ago when he was one of the best defensive shooting guards in the West.
Harris is not a spot-up shooter but he knows how to get to his sweet spots on the offensive end. He can finish below the rim at a high rate despite his height, can guard the 2 and the 3, and is a better passer than people credit him for.
Small Forward: Will Barton
We all know what Will Barton can give a team at this point of his career. He’s a streaky scorer that can cool off as fast as he can get hot, but when he’s in the zone he can’t be stopped.
Barton still needs to work on his decision-making, especially late in games, but he’s more than capable of scoring from all three levels, especially from beyond the arc. He is this team’s X-factor and offensive spark.
Power Forward: Paul Millsap
Paul Millsap has struggled with injuries and inconsistency since joining the Nuggets, but he is still one of the best power forwards in the league. He’s a deadly scorer in the post and has elite footwork to dominate in the paint.
He’s still a solid rebounder, especially on the offensive end, and is one of the smartest players in the league as well. While he lacks the range of modern power forwards, he can knock down an occasional three-pointer — so let’s hope he’s able to stay healthy this season.
Center: Nikola Jokic
Nikola Jokic is once again one of the dark horses to win this year’s MVP. He’s already the best passing big man this league has ever seen, a walking triple-double threat, and a guy that’s just unstoppable on the fast break.
Jokic can push the break on his own, hit a three, or find an open teammate as if he had eyes on the back of his head. Should he improve his defensive awareness below the rim, he’d be a top 6 player in the league.