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  • Writer's pictureEast Spotlight Newspaper

Is This the Nugget's Year?

Thus far, the 2022-23 season has been as good as ever for the Denver Nuggets. They currently stand as the top seed in the Western Conference, which has been a rarity in the franchise’s past. After an injury-filled 2021-22 season, it felt like Denver did not live up to the hype as championship contenders that they should have. They finished as the 6th seed with a 48-34 record and lost to Golden State in a 5 game first round series. However, it was a common expectation that a healthy Nuggets squad would return to being an elite team, and they have done just that. A first place finish would be the highest ever for Denver. But a regular season finish is not what matters, it's all about the playoffs and the Nuggets are yet to reach the promised land. They are three seasons removed from a Western Conference finals appearance in 2020, but have never made it further. But with the back to back MVP leading their way and arguably the best team ever put around, this might just be their year.

Nikola Jokic is yet again spearheading the Nuggets’ success. He is currently averaging 25.1 points per game, 11 rebounds per game, and 9.9 assists per game, all while shooting an outstanding 62.6% from the field (ESPN). While putting up these numbers, Jokic is quickly becoming the favorite to win the MVP award this year which would make it three in a row. Having a superstar talent like Jokic has become essential to winning a championship in the modern NBA, which is good news for the top-seeded Nuggets. Denver is significantly better when Jokic is on the court, having a 120.1 offensive rating with him and a 110.9 without (statmuse). As long as this team has Jokic, they will be in the discussion to win a championship. Now that they finally have the right pieces around him, they are living up to their championship-favorite potential.

Aside from Jokic, Denver has star power from both new additions and some familiar faces. Star players Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. have returned to the lineup this season after missing the entirety of last year. Though he had a slow start returning from an ACL tear, Jamal Murray has been heating up recently, averaging 20.8 points and shooting 46.4% three point shooting in his last ten games (ESPN). Murray’s firepower was crucial in their miraculous 2020 playoff run, so having him back to form could potentially be the key to winning it all. As for Porter, he is a lethal three point shooter that perfectly fits next to Jokic. He is shooting 40.5% on three pointers (ESPN) this season, which goes along great with Jokic, who can set him up at will. His defensive play has been a question mark throughout his young career, but it has recently improved. In addition to Murray and Porter, Aaron Gordon is having the best season of his career. He can defend at an elite caliber and is also playing on the offensive side with incredible efficiency. As a guy who cuts to the rim and is aggressive on rebounds, AG perfectly compliments Denver’s other stars, forming one of the best starting lineups in the league.

Another key factor to the Nugget’s success this year has been the high-level play from their role players. Trading for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the offseason has proven to be a tremendous move. He shoots 47.4% from three (, which is good enough for second in the league. Caldwell-Pope also plays high-level defense, which makes him the perfect “3&D” player in the starting lineup that Denver sought to acquire in the offseason. They also signed Bruce Brown to a team-friendly, 2 year $13.28 million contract this summer, which has brought much needed bench scoring. Brown is a reliable player that can play with both the starters and the bench. Another critical player coming off of the Nuggets’ bench is Bones Hyland. Hyland is a fan favorite that brings a spark to every game. His consistency is a bit of a concern, but when he is on top of his game, he is unstoppable.

With everything finally coming together, this might just be the year for the Nuggets to take home their first ever NBA title. Surrounding the right amount of starpower and role players around arguably the best player in the league sets up for tremendous potential. A championship has never felt so close for the Nuggets, which should excite the fan base.

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