Now that the season has come to an end for the Denver Nuggets, it is time to write the obituary for the 2020-2021 season that was. Looking back on each team that made the playoffs will give a chance to look at what went right and what went wrong. It will also allow us to look ahead to what’s to come during the offseason to come.
The Denver Nuggets saw their playoff hopes go up in smoke before they could even get started. However, this is just the beginning.
It is hard to look back on this season and be critical of what happened with the Denver Nuggets. Their best player made the leap and became the MVP of the league. Their best young piece progressed to looking like a realistic second option on a championship team. They even made a win-now trade at the deadline that immediately paid dividends. So why are they here, having been swept out of the second round of the postseason.
As much as it often comes across as an excuse, injuries completely derailed what was turning into a magical season for the Denver Nuggets. Specifically, Jamal Murray tearing his ACL on April 12. He was averaging career highs in points (21.2), tied in assists (4.8), steals (1.3) per game and 3-point percentage (40.8).
The lineup of Crawford, Nikola Jokic, Aaron Gordon, Michael Porter Jr. and Will Barton is the type that championships are built around. Barton joined him on the sidelines soon after and only recently rejoined the team.
Even beyond that negativity, this season was a tremendous step for the Nuggets. Jokic proved throughout the season that he can carry a team to a title, averaging 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game. The future is immaculate for the Nuggets with their core mostly in place. However, without their roster in place, there was no getting past the juggernaut Phoenix Suns.
What Comes Next
The fully healthy version of the Nuggets should not be too adversely affected by free agency this summer. Jokic is under contract for two more seasons and Murray has four more years on his current deal. The only pending free agents for this team are Paul Millsap, JaVale McGee, Austin Rivers, PJ Dozier, Shaquille Harrison and Markus Howard.
When it comes to their typical eight-man rotation, the biggest question centers on Will Barton. He has a player option for this summer and has occasionally complained about his role compared to the young blossoming star, Michael Porter Jr. Barton is an essential piece to the puzzle for the Nuggets and if he would choose to explore options elsewhere replacing him would not be an easy task. Luckily they have their own first-round pick and the team has proven more than capable of finding gems later in the draft and developing them.
The biggest issue for the Nuggets is the fact that Murray will likely be missing most if not all of the regular season while he recovers from injury. Prioritizing veterans to hold down the lead guard duties will be essential to continue to contend throughout next season. When Murray returns to form there is no reason to doubt this team as a contender.