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How the Denver Nuggets win their first championship... in 2022

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Youth and talent are slowly maturing with yet another stocked draft for your Denver Nuggets. How long might it be before that talent is ready to compete for a championship?

Juancho Hernangomez has had a fine Summer League campain thus far
Juancho Hernangomez has had a fine Summer League campain thus far
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The long game. In golf, investing, politics, and meeting a mate, the long game tends to pay solid dividends for anyone with the time and patience to wait out a greater reward at the cost of getting something which is smaller but available RIGHT NOW.

Your Denver Nuggets appear to be playing a long game of their own, drafting another bevy of young talent this season to match the hauls they've gotten in the last two. The Nuggets are young, boys and girls, and if they stay the course with the players they're drafting, those dividends are a few years from truly paying off. But how long does an impatient Nuggets fan have to wait for a little apex ROI?

Turns out it's about five or six seasons.

This cool article from Wages of Winss does a pretty good job of illustrating that your average NBA player peaks in performance around age 25, experiences a slow dropoff into his early 30s, and then suddenly tends to fall of a cliff. Statistically speaking, anyway.

As so eloquently illustrated by Gordon Gross' article this past week, it's been a while since the Nuggets were staring so broad a youth movement in the face.  How young are these Nuggets? Using Wages of Wins marker, the Denver Nuggets currently have 12 players on the squad who are 25 or below. Here's that list:

Player

Age

Age 25 yr

Jamal Murray

19

2022

Emmanuel Mudiay

20

2021

Nikola Jokic

21

2020

Jusuf Nurkic

21

2019

Will Barton

25

2016

Gary Harris

21

2019

Joffrey Lauvergne

24

2017

Petr Cornelie

20

2020

Juancho Hernangomez

20

2020

Malik Beasley

19

2021

Axel Toupane

23

2017

JaKarr Sampson

23

2018

Nikola Radecevic

22

2019

Now, a couple of those may see time overseas or with another squad, but as currently situated, there's a dirty dozen youngsters looking to make the cut... dirty diaper dozen?  Anyway...

How does that compare to a similar filter placed against the rest of the league?  The Nuggets currently sit second in the number of players 25 and younger, with only the Philadelphia 76ers exceeding that count, with 14 currently on their expanded squad. We'll see if that number holds once some culling has been done to make the appropriate team size. Here's the number of 25-and-under players currently associated with each team, listed in order of their conference ranking at season's end:

Cavaliers

6

Raptors

10

Heat

5

Hawks

6

Celtics

11

Hornets

6

Pacers

6

Pistons

10

Bulls

8

Wizards

7

Magic

9

Bucks

10

Knicks

4

Nets

9

76ers

14

Golden State

5

Spurs

6

Oklahoma City

11

Clippers

5

Trail Blazers

11

Mavericks

5

Grizzlies

10

Rockets

7

Jazz

9

Kings

10

Nuggets

12

Pelicans

5

Timberwolves

9

Suns

10

Lakers

8

It's interesting to see that several teams now exceed the double-digit mark in 25-and-under players, though the Knicks have gone so deeply into "win now" mode that they occupy the lists' floor, with only four players who are below that quarter line.

If the Wages of Wins article holds any water, and the Nuggets keep the strongest players occupying that dozen, Jamal Murray hits his peak in the 2021-2022 season, with only Will Barton starting to edge past his prime. Amongst that dozen are the very bright futures of a point guard, floor-stretching combo guard, two shooting guards, and twos-and-threes groupings of both forward positions and center.

With the bulk of the roster at it's peak, aging former powerhouses slowly sinking, and another green class of recruits a couple years behind, Denver will be sitting pretty for peak talent at a moment when few others in the league will be able to match it.

Could a glut of current youngsters, a gap in competition, and an eventual vacuum propel the Denver Nuggets to their first-in-history NBA Championship? Not today, probably. A short six seasons from now could be a very different matter, if the Nuggets have chosen wisely and are able to keep the core pieces together.

What say you, Nuggets Nation? Can such a broad talent investment strategy pay dividends in the end? I know you wanted a championship as of yesterday, and the long game can be a tough one to suffer through. If we wait it out, could we hit the jackpot just by playing out the string? Someone has to step into that abhorrent vacuum.