In an era of big markets, iso-ball, and superteams, the Denver Nuggets are the odd man out, instead choosing to rely on the playmaking and chemistry of their stars in a place most wouldn't consider high value.
Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, one of the NBA's most iconic duos, have a lot of depth to their game, and the Nuggets have built them a roster that fully complements their dynamic. Instead of compiling as many stars as possible, or signing a bunch of veteran three-point shooters, Denver is a team with a variety of players, personalities, and talents that has kept them relevant for years now.
So when Murray went down with an ACL tear in early April, it was to the disappointment of many, including rival teams, who feel Denver's title chase is an important part of the NBA landscape.
"I can't tell you how many people from other, rival teams [contacted] me lamenting how sad they were that Murray got hurt," said ESPN's Zach Lowe. "Because they could see that [Denver is a real threat to win the title]. [But also because] what they represent about other ways to build a championship team is important for the NBA.
Simply put, it's no good for the league to have large markets, with heavy-loaded rosters completely dominate the competition. When you have teams like Denver, Milwaukee, and Utah competing at a high level, and seemingly capable of winning a title, it keeps people guessing, and the balance of power in check.
It's important for teams like Utah and Denver to be able to win it all.... And Denver is still gonna be a real problem., MPJ is playing out of his mind. They are still a problem... But it's going to very hard to pick them if they draw the Lakers.
Ultimately, the Nuggets will still be in the playoffs this year, so it will be interesting to see how far they get with Jokic and Porter leading the pack.
And while their chances of making it deep into the bracket are slim, it's never wise to count this team out completely.
Either way, they're going to be a threat for the next few years to come.