The 2021-22 season for the Denver Nuggets was always going to be a bit of a weird one. At full strength, this team is ready to compete for a title but with Jamal Murray likely missing the entire season, the team was going through a bit of a gap year.
Entering the season, there was a cohort of fans that believed Murray would return and the whole season would be about staying in the race until the right time came.
Then there was another group that thought the best course of action was to play it safe with the injury, wait until Jamal is fully healthy, and focus on 2022-23. This avenue also gave Tim Connelly a season to see who he had on the roster, and see who’s worth keeping around for the eventual title run.
The Nuggets could see if recent signee Jeff Green would mesh well with the core, if Will Barton could find a permanent role on this team, if Zeke Nnaji can grow into a part of the rotation, and much more.
While it likely won’t end in a Larry O’Brien trophy, the season has been heaps of fun, and I didn’t even mention the fact that the league’s MVP (and favorite for this season’s MVP), Nikola Jokic came back even better than he was before.
So let’s recap the season that was for the Denver Nuggets.
Recapping the 2021-22 season for the Denver Nuggets: Early-season confusion
Before the season, Denver Nuggets fans were excited to see how Michael Porter Jr. could blossom into a star. The fourth-year wing had just signed a maximum extension right before the season and Connelly had locked up one of the most exciting cores in the league.
Down the end of the 2020-21 season, MPJ was thrust into a secondary role when Jamal Murray tore his ACL in mid-April and only got better. In 23 games without Murray, MPJ averaged 22.8 points while shooting 55 percent from the floor and 45 percent on 7.6 3-point attempts.
Some predicted a fall off from the Nuggets after the injury but Porter Jr.’s production essentially papered over Murray’s absence (not to say they were as good, this team is always better with Jamal, but it was easier when your third option steps up at the right time). MPJ continued his end-of-season streak into the playoffs and helped Denver defeat the Portland Trail Blazers.
But that wasn’t to be. Any hopes of a Most Improved Player campaign were quickly dashed as MPJ went down with a back injury and eventual surgery. Some thought it might be a quick turnaround but you never know with backs and the Nuggets had to move on – and fast.
There was a morass right after as some looked around and thought about all the options. Was it worth pushing as hard as this team could without Michael and ‘Mal? Should the team try and tank for a high draft pick?
The latter option was almost impossible because it was clear Jokic was on a completely different level, there’s no way you tank with an MVP.
So after about three seconds of pondering the tank, the Nuggets knew they were going to win as many games as they possibly could. How would that go?