Lastly, I think any Nuggets fan would admit that they’re tired of seeing their favorite team get bounced out in the first or second round of the playoffs. Particularly with how well this unit has played during the regular season, when healthy.
At full strength, Denver has proven that they can compete with just about any team in the NBA. So, for the 2022-23 season to be considered a success, this franchise should strive to at least make it past the second round and into the Western Conference Finals.
We’ve already spoken about how the Denver Nuggets compare to some of the other elite teams around the NBA. However, if they were to bow out early in the playoffs again next season, the consequences could be detrimental.
Assuming Jokic, Murray and MPJ can stay on the court and young players like Bruce Brown, Zeke Nnaji and Bones Hyland continue to develop, while Aaron Gordon and KCP provide some much-needed assistance on defense. This team has everything it needs to make a run for the NBA Finals.
They’ve got the best center (and arguably best player) in the sport with Nikola Jokic, one of the most exciting young talents in the association in Porter Jr., and an incredibly efficient pure scorer in Jamal Murray. That along with their strong supporting cast should be enough to have them competing with the likes of Phoenix and Golden State.
However, if they don’t and fail to make it deep into the playoffs, you can bet that GM Calvin Booth and Nuggets’ CEO Josh Kroenke, will not hesitate to shake things up. Jokic just signed his super-max deal to remain in Denver for the next five years and is clearly the heart and soul of this team, but past that, I feel like it would be fair game.
While Porter’s deal doesn’t expire until 2027, with the young forward owed $179 million in guaranteed money up until then, if he doesn’t play up to his potential as early as next season, I’d imagine the team does their best to get rid of him at all costs.
Similarly, Murray is owed an average salary of $31.6 million over the next three years and I’m sure he’s expecting his next contract to be even bigger. So, if he too doesn’t come back at full strength, then I’m sure his place within the organization is far from guaranteed.
The Denver Nuggets have poured a lot of money into this young core of superstars, not to mention the $86.6 million owed to Aaron Gordon, the $30 million owed to KCP and whatever Bones Hyland ends up commanding over the next few years. So, if this team doesn’t live up to their potential and at least make it to the Western Conference Finals, it would be hard to call it a successful season as I expect big changes would be just around the corner.