The Denver Nuggets season came to an end via a second-round sweep courtesy of the Phoenix Suns. Although the Nuggets finished the season third in the Western Conference with a 47-25 record, they had a limited ceiling in the playoffs due to the absence of guard Jamal Murray. Playing a legitimate championship contender in the Suns ultimately sealed their fate.
The Nuggets were aggressive at the trade deadline in an attempt to round out the roster around Murray, Michael Porter Jr. and the league’s Most Valuable Player winner Nikola Jokic. They brought in veteran big man JaVale McGee to spell Jokic when needed and added Aaron Gordon to an already versatile group of forwards. Gary Clark was also acquired as a depth guy.
It was good to see them act aggressively in an attempt to capitalize on the momentum they built during the bubble last season. The Murray injury left them no chance to win it all this year. Still, the future is very promising for the Nuggets.
Make sure to check out all of our other NBA Team Season Recaps.
The Nuggets were living up to the expectations they created for themselves by making a run to the Western Conference finals last year, up until Murray got injured. Everyone knew their fate was sealed at that time regarding a championship. They closed out the year 13-6 without him.
Nikola Jokic continued to amaze while Porter Jr. took a step forward. Both players are rightfully discussed in the team awards section later on. Murray also played well prior to being lost for the season.
One of the many reasons for their sustained success over the course of the season was the play they got out of role players. From Facundo Campazzo providing both entertainment and value to a handful of support players averaging around 10 points per game, the Nuggets have a very cohesive group.
MVP – Nikola Jokic
There is no other choice for the obvious reason that Jokic is the Most Valuable Player in the league. He took home the award behind per game averages of 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds 8.3 assists in a dominant season. He played in every single game for the Nuggets. Jokic is the motor that keeps the team running on a daily basis.
Defensive Player of the Year – Paul Millsap
Veteran forward Paul Millsap is not the player he once was, though he has evolved and made himself an extremely valuable role player for any team looking to win games. His defense is his greatest strength as a forward that can viably match up with a variety of players on opposing teams. The Nuggets top three players are offensive-minded and Millsap is the guy that allows them to get by defensively as a team.
Sixth Man of the Year – Monte Morris
Monte Morris has quickly become one of the more underrated players in the entire league. He was vital for the Nuggets bench this season. As the only player off the bench to average double-digit scoring, Morris also led the team in assists per game off the bench with 3.
Most Improved Player – Michael Porter Jr.
Like team MVP, this is another easy one due to a player simply giving no other option the chance to be considered. Porter Jr. was expected to break out in a big way this year by most people. He did exactly that. The expectation of it does not take anything away from the actual results. Porter Jr. went from 9.3 points per game last season to 19 per game this year.
His opportunity certainly increased as did his playing time, but the fact remains that he became a much more important player to his teams’ success than he was last year. He also shot the ball better, showing increased efficiency in his increased playing time.
Biggest Disappointment – Gary Harris
The Nuggets didn’t have many individual disappointments this season which leads to Harris taking the spot despite being traded away at the deadline. His disappointing season also played a role in the team moving on from him via trade. In 19 games with Denver, he shot 32 percent from behind the arc. He needed to step up for them this year and failed to do so.
The Nuggets front office will have to decide how they are going to approach this offseason based on what this team could have done instead of what they actually did. The Murray injury cost them a chance at contention that is reasonable to want to see play out next year. Additionally, the Nuggets enter the offseason with 15 players under contract for next year.
Any additions to the team will have to come via trade and would cost them a player that in some part contributed to their success this season. A name that could be moved to change things up would be Will Barton, but it’s hard to see how much better they can get for the return he would demand. it could be a quiet offseason for the Nuggets as they decide it’s best to run things back next year with a hopefully healthy roster.
One thing we are learning is that the NBA’s best are vulnerable. The Denver Nuggets should see they have a chance as currently constructed.
Follow Garrett Brooks on Twitter @Garrett_Brooks1
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images