The Golden Nuggets: NBA sleeper playoff team?
Last year was a very predictable NBA season, with the addition of former MVP Kevin Durant many people assumed that the Golden State Warriors would beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. Although the NBA Finals result seemed inevitable, one team caught the league by surprise and that was the Utah Jazz. In 2016 the Jazz won 40 games, ultimately coming up short of the playoffs with the 9th seed in the very competitive Western conference. The following year they won 51 games placing them 5th in the Western Conference, sending them to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
Similar to the Jazz the Denver Nuggets will be looking to do the same thing this upcoming season. Last year the Nuggets finished 9th in the Western Conference with a 40-42 record, falling just short of the playoffs. This off-season the Nuggets made a big splash in free-agency by bringing in all-star PF Paul Millsap this summer. Last season Millsap averaged 18 PPG, 7.7 RPG and 3.7 APG while shooting 44 percent from the field, his versatility will be a key weapon for the Nuggets this season.
Furthermore, for the Nuggets to be successful their young and upcoming players Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, and Jamal Murray must take a big step forward in their development. This will be another key, after trading their leading scorer Danilo Gallinari to the Clippers this off-season. Nikola Jokic who averaged 16.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG along with 6 triple-doubles and 39 double-doubles. Big expectations will also fall on Harris’ shoulders after the productive season he had last year where he averaged 14.9 PPG while shooting 50 percent from the field, and 42 percent from three. Last but certainly not least Jamal Murray will be looking build off of his 2016 Rising Star Challenge MVP performance and become an elite player.
I believe if these 3 players along with Millsap can build chemistry and stay healthy, the Nuggets will increase their win total by at least 8-10 games and end up as a 6th or 7th seed. One big advantage that the Nuggets have is their depth, and they added to thatthis off-season by drafting former stretch-four Tyler Lydon from Syracuse and former Big 12 All-American PG Monte Morris. Also off their bench is the high-flying rebounding machine Kenneth Faried, versatile wing Will Barton, former lottery pick Emmanuel Mudiay, and athletic Center Mason Plumlee. Along with that, more players expected to contribute are Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez and Trey Lyles.
Not many people believe the Nuggets will be a good team, but they have all the qualities of potential playoff team: consistent three-point shooting, elite rebounders, un-matched depth, and a true team identity. The Denver Nuggets finished 3rd in the NBA last year averaging 111.7 PPG and are more than capable of doing so again. Prepare yourself to see the Nuggets put on a show, and return to a franchise that is respected and will compete for a deep playoff run for years to come.