Is it actually championship-or-bust for the Denver Nuggets?

Monte Morris #11 of the Denver Nuggets talks to Will Barton #5 of the Denver Nuggets against the LA Clippers during the first half at Ball Arena on 22 Mar. 2022 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Clarkson Creative/Getty Images)
Monte Morris #11 of the Denver Nuggets talks to Will Barton #5 of the Denver Nuggets against the LA Clippers during the first half at Ball Arena on 22 Mar. 2022 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Clarkson Creative/Getty Images) /

Josh Kroenke held a press conference for the first time in seven years and addressed some of the major questions about the Denver Nuggets. The overall takeaway was that the basketball team is entering a “championship-or-bust” era, but are they?

He told several reporters that the idea is to compete for a title as soon as next season and that the win at all costs mantra was something the Nuggets’ haven’t had for a long time.

"“We have a two-time MVP, we have two more All-Star-caliber players coming off injuries. And I think that we are poised in a way that perhaps this organization hasn’t been in the past.“And that excites me. But that brings a lot of pressure. We’re no longer the underdog that’s kind of the lovable guys that are bouncing along from Denver, Colorado. I think that when we get healthy and show what we’re capable of, we will have a target on our back.”"

The Denver Nuggets have a roster on paper that should compete for titles, an MVP in Nikola Jokic, two burgeoning All-Stars in Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray, and a solid core of young players around them.

But is it really championship-or-bust for this team and what does that look like for a team that is yet to bring home a Larry O’Brien Trophy?

What does “championship-or-bust” mean for the Denver Nuggets’ offseason?

Essentially, urgency.

The Denver Nuggets let Tim Connelly, the architect of this Nuggets team, walk last month as the Minnesota Timberwolves offered him a larger salary than Denver was willing. Because of this, Calvin Booth has been promoted to the lead decision-maker role and he has to learn on the fly in a high-pressure environment.

Kroenke addressed the elevation of Booth and only had good things to say:

"“I’ve always thought very highly of Calvin; I think he’s going to do a wonderful job for us.“I’ve had some great conversations with coach [Michael] Malone in the wake of Tim’s departure of exchanged messages with Nikola and Jamal. I think everybody’s very excited. They’re obviously sad to see him go but very excited for the future.”"

Whatever your opinion of the Connelly departure, it’s done now and the Nuggets have to live with what they have.

Booth doesn’t get the luxury that other new front office members usually get like a rebuilding team or lesser expectations. He has to quickly jump into one of the more important offseasons in Denver Nuggets history and try and hit on very minor moves.

Assuming the front office gives Nikola Jokic his maximum possible extension, something that has been reported on by several outlets now, and they keep the core of MPJ, Murray, and Aaron Gordon, the only moves Booth will have at his disposal are minor trades, the 21st overall pick, and Denver’s mid-level exception.

However, the nature of “championship-or-bust” suggests that Kroenke is happy with a more aggressive offseason where the front office makes whatever moves possible to upgrade this roster, not just stand pat.

I don’t think we’re in that situation right now. We haven’t seen how far this team can go when fully healthy. In the 2020 bubble, Jerami Grant was still in a Nuggets uniform and in the past two playoff runs, Denver has had to compete without a full roster.

It’d be worth Denver’s while bringing in some more perimeter depth and shooting, but with the core all under 30-years-old and with several years remaining under contract, Denver can slow play this and really see what needs to be addressed at full strength.

For argument’s sake, let’s say the Denver Nuggets bring back Gary Harris with the mid-level exception this offseason. He’s a solid 3-and-D option on the wing but throughout the course of the season, Michael Malone might prefer to play another ball handler like Bones Hyland or Monte Morris alongside MPJ and Murray.

If that’s the case, Denver might’ve wasted one of their few remaining assets on a position that didn’t need the investment.

We simply just don’t know what this roster looks like at full strength so there’s little benefit in making any major decisions this offseason.

That might not be the sexiest offseason for some of the Nuggets fans out there that want to see this team swing for the fences and shake this team up, but it’s the best course of action for the organization.

On top of that, recent successes have shown that the roster doesn’t have to be complete by opening night. The Boston Celtics traded for Derrick White and moved on from Dennis Schröder and Josh Richardson by the deadline, reshaping their roster successfully for a NBA Finals push.

The Toronto Raptors traded away Jonas Valencunis at the 2019 deadline to acquire Marc Gasol, completely reshaping their defense before winning their first-ever NBA championship against the Golden State Warriors.

I used to be of the mindset that continuity matters a lot when it comes to title contention but it’s clear that teams can adjust mid-season and make a push.

Fast forward to the 2023 NBA All-Star game and we’ll have a much clearer view of what this team looks like, what its strengths are, and what it needs to improve on.

While it might be a “championship-or-bust” season for the Denver Nuggets, it doesn’t mean that it’s a “championship-or-bust” offseason. There are moves that could be made but there’s also merit in standing pat until you know what you have.

dark. Next. Can you win a title with an offense-first big man?