Additions: Bol Bol, Jerami Grant, Tyler Zeller
Departures: Isaiah Thomas, Trey Lyles
The Denver Nuggets enter a season with high expectations for the first time in a while. After a surprising 2018-19 season that saw the Mile-High warriors pull off a 54-28 record en route to the second seed in the West, the expectation is to take it a step forward this season.
Big man Nikola Jokic has turned into a dominant force and an all-around player who Denver hopes can lead the team to greater heights. Still only 24, Jokic has not even entered his prime, and headlines this team alongside 22-year-old Jamal Murray, who signed a lucrative extension in the offseason.
The Nuggets’ depth is part of the reason the team was on the verge of the WCF last season. Now, to reach that stage and potentially the Finals, this team needs to continue playing with the chemistry and efficiency of last season. The West will not be easy to win, considering the presence of the L.A. squads, Houston, Portland, Utah, Golden State, and other sleepers. Yet, the Nuggets have the talent and depth to snatch one of the top four seeds in the conference.
The roster returns largely intact, with key additions including draft pick Bol Bol, who is injured and a two-way contract player. Another includes adding F Jerami Grant, who came over from the Thunder and adds to the depth.
The major loss was G Isaiah Thomas, who left for the Wizards. This loss may seem significant, but Thomas was not a major factor for the Nuggets last season.
The Nuggets return a young, yet rising core that features Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris. Everyone in this main core enters the season at age 25 or under. Veteran PF Paul Millsap has also been a solid addition for the Denver the past two seasons, having played 70 games last season while averaging nearly 13 points and 7 boards.
Rounding out the returning depth is Will Barton, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig, Mason Plumlee, Monte Morris, and Juancho Hernangomez. This may not seem like the most elite supporting cast at first glance or on paper, but the Nuggets have found ways to win with this group, as evidence of last season.
This list also excludes the impending debut of the 2018 draft pick Michael Porter Jr., who spent last season on the bench nursing an injury. Now, Porter Jr. looks to finally make his NBA debut and provide solid contributions to the team, hopefully, reminiscent of the skills he had shown off to make him a highly-touted prospect coming out of college. It remains to be seen whether the gifted talent will make a significant impact immediately, and whether he garners a spot in the starting lineup or bench unit. Either way, his presence on the court strengthens the Nuggets.
For a team that has not made the Western Conference Finals since 2008-09, this year presents an ideal chance to do so. Having home-court advantage is a stark pro for a team that plays at high altitude, and the Nuggets have the firepower to go head to head with the Lakers, Clippers, Rockets, and other Western foes, some of which don’t have the bench strength of Denver.