Denver Nuggets 2022-23 NBA preview: Return of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr raises championship expectations

There was a seemingly endless “wait until next year!” feeling attached Denver Nuggets at recent days. The 2018 team lost what was game play in their regular season finale against Minnesota, but the promise of a future winner was there. The 2019 group kicked off the playoffs, but lost in seven games to Portland in the second round. With another year of experience, they advanced to the Western Conference Finals in the Orlando Bubble before falling short to older, more experienced Lakers. The list is steadily improving. The harshness of the battle grew. Then, Jamal Murray tore his ACL in April 2021 and another 18-month wait followed.

Well, next year has finally arrived. Nuggets have a competing roster here and now. They have a two-time Player of the Tournament in Nikola Jokic along with his Vices at Murray and Michael Porter Jr. They strengthened their defense, outfitted the bench with promising youth and fought countless playoffs. There is no reason to wait any longer. This group checked every square. It’s time for the Nuggets to compete for the championship, and here’s what you need to know as they try to do so.

Major changes

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Key Top: Can Denver Defend?

Every season nuggets tend to follow the same cycle. We enter wondering how high any team’s defensive ceiling is with Jokic in the center. The Nuggets’ performance slightly exceeded our expectations, and it was often noted how underestimated Jokic, specifically, is defensive. A number of different analyzes support this case. Then spring arrives and a team with multiple star guards puts them in a blender for two weeks and the nuggets are discarded.

None of this means that you can’t build a tournament-caliber defense around Jokic. He has specific stylistic weaknesses that he is more likely to encounter certain types of opponents. It just so happens that these opponents tend to be the kind of teams that will be waiting for Denver in May and June. It’s worth noting that Jokic didn’t have a healthy backing squad in recent playoff losses to Phoenix and Golden State. Nuggets will be so offensively good with the return of Murray and Porter that they simply don’t need to be amazing defense. Enough good – although it has to rise to that level because they haven’t been very good on this side of the floor in the last two seasons.

But this year’s roster is better equipped to protect Jokic defensively against anyone he has in his career. Bruce Brown and Quintavius ​​Caldwell Pope might be the two best defensive guards ever by his side. Aaron Gordon remains in place as the designated wing stopper. Porter spent last season in rehab, but age tends to help players on defense. This is a list you should be able to get to a good level at the end of the floor. If they did? Another Jokic offense could take them over the top.

Next: Belief in the Little Ones

The Nuggets have made two somewhat odd off-season moves. They chose not to sign a veteran point guard at free agency after dealing with Morris for Washington, and chose to sign DeAndre Jordan as their sole veteran reserve position. Jordan proved largely unplayable last season at this point in his career. Placing the base is a bit more complicated, especially with Smith back in the bargain.

But what Denver is signaling about these moves is faith in two kids in particular: walking bucketloader Bones Hyland and versatile striker Zeke Nnagi. At the moment, it looks like they’ll be primary backups for Jokic and Murray, not trivial roles, especially in Hyland’s case given the time Murray will likely miss as he rises back up to NBA pace. Finding Hyland’s easy shots last season was on a desperate list for points. It will be more complicated this season. Is Michael Malone bullying Murray and Jokic, or tying them together and letting Hyland mingle when he plays without either? History indicates that he will lean towards the latter.

Njie’s case is more interesting. He’s a better player than Jordan in full swing at the moment. He’s also a bit small for a midfield and a rather risky play in some matches. Will Malone divide his time between striker and centre? Or is he committed to surviving as a second central unit?

Another thing: history in the making?

Jokic has made it very clear over the past two seasons that winning the MVP award isn’t particularly important to him. Winning a third probably wouldn’t be the case, but it would be incredibly important from a historical point of view. Nobody has won a treble in a row since Larry Bird in the ’80s. Not LeBron James. Not Michael Jordan. no one.

Of course, there is a reason behind this that goes beyond basketball. Voters tend to judge past winners by their past performance rather than the field. It’s possible that both James and Jordan would win the top three in a row, but it wasn’t, at least in part, because of the narratives. However, Jokic is, in theory, positioned in his best season ever. He won his first two Player of the Year awards without ever making the top seed, which is somewhat rare in league history. The nuggets are positioned to dominate the regular season. If they did, it would be hard to deny Jokic no matter who shows up on the field.

Main Games

October 19 in Utah Jazz: Is Utah a particularly prominent opponent? No, but this will be our incumbent’s first look at Murray and Porter on the ground, and while they’ve never admitted it, the Nuggets will probably be very happy that he’s facing a team that hasn’t been trying to win the title all this season. This should be a relatively low-pressure environment for Murray and Porter as the Nuggets welcome them back to court.

January 28 in Philadelphia 76ers: Every time Jokic and Joel Embiid share the field, they seem to be playing for the MVP award. Djokic has outlasted Embiid twice in a row, but both play on perhaps the top lists of their careers. This game will have MVP effects.

March 31 – April 6 vs. Phoenix Suns / Golden State the Warriors: I’m cheating a bit here, but take a look at the end of the Denver schedule. Within a week, they played Phoenix twice and Golden State once. Aside from being the teams that knocked them out from the past two seasons, suns Warriors also compete with Nuggets for seeding. All three of these games will be important.

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