The Denver Nuggets are entering the 2022-23 season as one of the favorites to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy but as with every season, there are a few questions the team needs to address.
New general manager, Calvin Booth, finished the offseason earlier than other teams, opting not to have any traditional training camp battles for final roster spots. This makes it easier to evaluate the team since what we see now should be the team on opening night.
Let’s start with the biggest question facing the team as the Nuggets enter opening night:
Denver Nuggets: How will Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. return from their injuries?
Jamal Murray will play his first game on opening week since April 2021 when he tore his ACL at the end of a regular season matchup with the Golden State Warriors. When he plays, it’ll be his first NBA action in well over a year.
Similarly, Michael Porter Jr. played nine games for the Denver Nuggets in the 2021-22 season before a lingering back issue couldn’t be ignored and he had to have surgery.
If neither of these players is as elite as they have been in the past, the Nuggets’ title chances will take a major blow. Since Jamal’s absence, Nikola Jokic has won two-straight MVP awards but the playoffs exposed just how weak Denver is outside of its main star.
Since he took the long road to recovery, Jamal Murray will likely be his usual self, something I’ve written about extensively. I’m not worried about Jamal being his usual sharp-shooting self, especially since he’ll have a season of reps behind him when the playoffs start.
What I am concerned about is how MPJ looks on both ends. He has apparently battled through his back injuries in the past, showing flashes of an amazing scorer, and this most recent surgery should be the last but… the past few back issues were supposed to be the last.
What makes Denver a bona fide title contender is how elite they are on the offensive end. To start, there’s the Nikola Jokic-Jamal Murray two-man game, one of the more deadly combinations in the league. Add a 6’10” scorer with a sexy jump shot as a third option and it’s almost impossible to defend.
If MPJ can’t score at an above-average level, whether it be a lack of development or injury concerns, their title chances shrink drastically. Porter Jr. moves from disinterested to unaware on defense and if his shot doesn’t fall, it becomes hard for Michael Malone to justify his playing time.
We won’t know how healthy these two are until they start playing games but if they do look like their usual selves, Nuggets fans will have to hope that they can keep that health until the playoffs.