2019-20 NBA Team Preview Series: Denver Nuggets
The 2019-2020 NBA season starts October 22nd and to get you ready for tip-off, Off the Glass is previewing all 30 teams. Today we look at the Denver Nuggets.
2018-2019 Record: 54-28, 1st in the Northwest Division. Beat San Antonio 4-3 in the First Round. Lost to the Portland Trail Blazers 4-3 in Western Conference Semifinals.
Season Recap: After losing a play-in game to Minnesota in 2018, the Nuggets continued their ascent under Mike Malone in 2019, charging to the top of the West standings and staying there all season, despite significant injuries to a few starters. Getting big contributions from youngsters Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, and Juan Hernangomez, a star turn from up-and-comer Jamal Murray, and a breakout superstar moment from Nikola Jokic - all under 25 years in age - Denver showed off a young nucleus the envy of many in the league: one sure to keep the Nuggets competitive for years to come. Heartbreak came in a Game 7 home loss to division rival Portland, though the Warriors were not as wounded as many thought at the time. A great season ended with a bit of a bitter taste, and a clear resolve for improvement in 2019-20.
Key Losses: Trey Lyles, PF; Tyler Lydon, PF; Isaiah Thomas, PG
Key Additions: Jerami Grant, PF; Michael Porter Jr., PF; Bol Bol, C
Preview: Hopes and expectations couldn’t be higher in the Mile High City, where a wide-open West appears ripe for the taking. Though a few teams appear to sport more potent duos than Jokic and Murray, few teams in the league offer more top-to-bottom talent than the Nuggets, who hope to use that depth to pull away in the regular season and force all teams to deal with the altitude in Denver come playoff time.
Denver is mostly keeping the band together, but replace frontcourt disappointments Lyles and Lydon with the 3-and-D prowess of Grant and the heretofore unseen Porter, who looks to come on strong after a redshirt season. There will be some rotations to figure out, but after juggling the roster so expertly last season, Malone is happy to have that problem to deal with on a team that has a good dozen players it’s comfortable putting out on the floor. In a league where ‘load management’ has become the norm, the Nuggets have willing reinforcements when they want to give players the night off.
The West hierarchy is as uncertain as it has been in some time, and the Nuggets are as good a bet as any to take advantage.
Player to Watch: Michael Porter Jr., PF
Team X-Factor: Health
Worst Case Scenario: Superstar centerpiece Nikola Jokic gets bitten by the injury bug and plays fewer than 73 games for the first time in his career; the rest of his teammates aren’t up to the task of replacing him and the Nuggets fall back out of the playoffs in the rugged West.
Best Case Scenario: The Nuggets stay healthy, and as the deepest squad in the West - and one with a chip on its shoulder after losing Game 7 at home last year - the Nuggets race out to the best record in the league and front-run to homecourt advantage. All roads run through Denver, and the franchise wins its first NBA title.
Actual 2019-2020 Prediction: 60-22, 1st in the Northwest Division