Yes, I understand previewing a season after it’s already started doesn’t really make sense, but I think we can all agree the NBA season doesn’t REALLY start until after Christmas anyways, so let’s give the writer of this blog a little leeway, yeah? Cool.
Through the first 4 games of the NBA season, the Denver Nuggets look unstoppable. The same starting unit as last years championship roster has so far looked even better. The continuity of this roster is an absolute masterclass from the ownership on down of how to create a sustainable winner in the NBA. Let’s look at best and worst case scenario’s for this year’s squad.
Injuries. That’s one of the only things that could bring this team down. Unfortunately, with the history of Jamal Murray and MPJ, this possibility will never not be on the mind of Denver Nuggets fans. The worst case scenario sees either Jokic or Murray going down with a season ending injury. After that, you’d look at AG, MPJ, or KCP having something unfortunate happen to their health. Knock on wood this doesn’t happen, but we have to recognize what would be the worst case scenario for this team, and injuries to any of the starting five are #1 on that list.
Outside of injuries, what are other things that could bring them down?
-MPJ wanting a bigger role. The “disease of more” as Pat Riley famously coined. Do we have any indication MPJ is looking to play outside of what the team requires? Right now, no, but MPJ is an uber talented scorer and we’ve seen this a lot in the NBA where a player just can’t buy into their role. Hell, the Nuggets saw it last year with Bones Hyland. All indications point to the fact that MPJ has and will buy into the role the team needs from him, but hey, this is worst case scenario for a reason.
-Christian Braun regresses and Peyton Watson shows that he’s too young. Listen, I LOVE what I’ve seen from these two. This obviously was a bigger worry before these first 4 games where these two have showed up and showed out. Just saying though, the Sophomore slump is a real thing, and these two aren’t guaranteed immunity from that.
-Reggie Jackson plays like he did last year and the Nuggets are looking for a new backup point guard at the trade deadline. A real, and before the year started I would have said a probable, possibility. So far, Reggie has looked solid.
-Zeke is too small to play the backup 5. This will certainly be the case against bigger teams, but so far he’s more than held his own.
-The Monstars invade Ball Arena and steal the Nuggets superpowers. Listen, I’m not ruling it out.
The Denver Nuggets top the 2015-16 Warriors, winning the most games ever in a season, and subsequently go on to win the championship, becoming the undisputed best team in the history of the NBA.
Now you could say this is the best case scenario for any team in the league, I get it. The thing is, I actually think this is a real possibility for this roster. Do I think it will happen? Of course not. To become the best team in the history of the league would have to take not only the Nuggets becoming the best roster ever constructed, but also an enormous amount of luck. Injury luck, late game luck, etc…
So let’s look at what’s a more realistic best case scenario for this team.
-First, we need to see Jamal Murray become an All-Star. It’s way past due and although everyone realizes how dominant Murray can be come playoff time, him becoming a regular season All-Star will take this team to the next level.
-Next we see MPJ also become an All-Star. He has the elite scoring ability, but through the first 4 games he’s also shown how much he’s improved defensively and on the glass. If he can continue that all year, he should be an All-Star.
-AG becomes a first time All-Star. 4 All-Stars??? Yes, 4 All-Stars. If Jokic is the brain and Murray is the heart, Aaron Gordon is the soul of this team. He deserved it last year, so let’s get him in this year.
-KPC continues what he’s done these first 4 games and becomes a First-Team All Defensive player.
-Peyton Watson, Christian Braun, Reggie Jackson, and Zeke Nnaji do what they’ve done these first 4 games and become not only a serviceable bench unit, but a bench unit that buries teams, cushioning the lead every chance they get and giving the starters extra rest on a regular basis.
What’s probably going to happen
-The Nuggets will get 2 All-Stars in Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. One of either MPJ or AG will have deserved an All-Star nod, but they’ll be robbed because they play in Denver.
-They’ll win 55-60 games, cementing a top 2 seed in the West.
-Denver will have, if not THE best, one of the best starting units in the NBA.
-The bench will have growing pains but will overall be better than last years bench. No replacing Bruce Brown, but Jeff Green was a liability in the regular season and our bench already looks like they could at the very least be pretty special defensively.
-Jokic is a top 3 MVP candidate. Every advance metric will say he should win it, but it’ll most likely go to someone else.
-The Nuggets will be one the top 4 teams remaining and have as good of chance as anyone to win the championship.
No guaranteeing championships here. There are too many great teams in the league to say the Nuggets will definitely win another this year. The Celtics are loaded, Giannis and Dame are a scary duo, the Warriors, Suns, and to a lesser extent the Clippers and Lakers will all present their own unique challenges. All you can ask for is a chance, and the Denver Nuggets are one of only a handful of teams that can claim they have one.