What is the one thing you are going to remember most about the 2019-20 Denver Nuggets?
Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717): The resiliency of this Denver Nuggets team is something out of a fairy tale. Every time they were counted out what would they do? Respond by doing something miraculous. It all began when they won in Utah on a second night of a back-to-back with only SEVEN healthy bodies. Fast forward to the NBA bubble and the Nuggets found a way to overcome a 3-1 deficit not once, but TWICE. This Nuggets squad defied all the odds and that is something I will never forget.
Gage Bridgford (@GbridgfordNFL): I’m going to remember Jamal Murray arriving. We’ve been looking for Murray to take the next step in his development, and he finally did that. His playoff run was something special that we hadn’t seen, and he was one of the NBA’s best players in the bubble. Other moments were big, but, after a rough first half of the year combined with some social media mistakes at the beginning of quarantine, Murray put all of that behind him to arrive as the next big star on the NBA stage.
Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn): I’m going to remember coming back from down 3-1 twice and the ultimate self-belief and resilience needed to accomplish such a feat. There’s a reason so few teams have done it in NBA history, and the 2019-20 Denver Nuggets doing it twice is very representative of who they are and who they are trying to be. They’ve had the talent all along to match up with the best teams in the NBA, but they needed some extra juice to push this group over the top. Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray were integral to that success. Jerami Grant rose to the occasion rather than wilting. Michael Porter Jr. legitimized the hype. Every other piece of the roster had their moments as well, from Paul Millsap to PJ Dozier. It was one of the most impressive seasons in Denver sports history.
Daniel Lewis: I will never forget that the Jazz and Clippers blew 3-1 leads against the Denver Nuggets. The mental toughness to rally in consecutive series facing that steep of a climb makes the Red Rocks Amphitheater stairs look like a moving sidewalk at DIA. They did so because Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokić played at superstar levels, carrying their team to two series wins in the bubble. That is by far and away my favorite part of this season. I’ll never let Jazz fans forget it either.
Do you expect Jamal Murray to continue on his superstar path next season?
Ewing: I have always been one of Murray’s biggest supporters, so I really wasn't surprised by how he played in the bubble. There is no doubt Murray rose his game to a different level, but I think he was just showcasing the superstar player he truly is. I expect Murray to be an all-star next season and average a career-high in points per game. No matter what Murray brings the Nuggets in the regular season you know he is doing to do in the postseason, which is all that really matters in the end. The Blue Arrow is just getting started.
Bridgford: I don’t expect Murray to continue at that level of efficiency, but I have zero doubts that he can maintain that level of play at slightly reduced efficiency. If Murray goes from shooting 50-45-90 to 45-38-85, are we really going to bash him? The answer is no. Murray can make a push for All-NBA next year, and the Western Conference is going to be exciting with him in it.
Blackburn: This really is the ultimate question, but it’s one that I don’t really need answered because I know what version of Murray the Nuggets are getting in the playoffs. The regular season and playoffs have been diverging for a long time in terms of their importance for evaluating talent, and it’s more important that Murray showcased what he could do in the group of games that matters most. For the regular season, I think he averages around 22 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds on 48-38-90 splits. Not quite 50-40-90 but close enough that he should make his first All-Star appearance and make a run at All-NBA.
Lewis: Absolutely. This is a superstar point guard. He grabbed the spotlight in the playoffs and showed that he has to be considered in the conversation of best point guards in the league. This is a player who has found success, realized what it takes, and can do it consistently against the best teams. He makes it look so easy, I don’t think he will slow down at all next year.
What is one question you have surrounding the roster moving forward?
Ewing: The overall roster construction is my biggest question surrounding this team moving forward. Are the Nuggets going to be able to sign Jerami Grant to a long-term contract? Will players like Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee return? What is Denver going to do with Gary Harris and Will Barton? There are a ton of question marks that are going to make for some tough decision by the Nuggets front office this offseason.
Bridgford: Can Bol Bol become a rotation player? I believe that Bol can do that, but I’m not sure if he can actually do it for an entire year. He was making decent plays in small spurts in the bubble, but they need him to become a rotation guy on an every night basis. If he can do that, this roster becomes a lot more dangerous.
Blackburn: Beyond Grant at forward, the biggest question is the decision at shooting guard. Whether it’s Gary Harris, Will Barton, or someone else, that player needs to be championship caliber heading into the 2021 playoffs. If the Nuggets trust their current cast to fill that void, then that’s justifiable. The unfortunate reality is that neither Harris nor Barton have been quality playoff contributors the last two years, and that may shape Denver’s decision.
Lewis: What is the identity of the team next season? The Nuggets never really figured out who they were this last season until they were down 3-1 against the Jazz. The team could experience a lot of turnover next season, and they will have to figure out who they are again. It helps that they know “we’re a team built around Jamal and Nikola,” but they will have a lot of discovery before they know what their best self is. Will they be better offensively? Will they be a cohesive defensive team? Will they finally figure out how to blow out teams so they can rest against bad teams? Will they know how to turn it up against good teams? It’s impossible to tell now.
Who is one free agent or player in a trade you’d like the Nuggets to go after this offseason?
Ewing: I am kind of giving up on the dream for a trade to acquire either Bradley Beal or Jrue Holiday. Those are two players I think could really elevate this Nuggets team, but it will more than likely be impossible to acquire them. That’s why my one free agent to sign — besides obviously re-signing Jerami Grant — would be Derrick Favors. Not only would Favors give the Nuggets a big body off the bench, but he would be an upgrade both offensively and defensively over Mason Plumlee.
Bridgford: I’m copping out here, but I don’t care. Re-signing Jerami Grant should be the top priority for this team this offseason. Grant is the modern power forward that this team needs, and he even wants to stay in Denver. They have enough money to bring him back, but that’s about the only money they have. Additionally, with bringing him back, they don’t have to give up any young pieces like Michael Porter Jr. or Bol to do that. If Grant walks, they better make a pretty big move that I can’t think of right now.
Blackburn: Echoing Gage here, but Jerami Grant is the highest level of priority for the Nuggets competing at a championship level next season. Expecting his position to be replaced by one or multiple players is extremely unlikely, and diluting the talent the Nuggets can offer in a postseason matchup hurts the Nuggets greatly. Going outside of the organization, there are some bigs that may fit the bill of improving Denver’s overall level while also giving them options against the Los Angeles Lakers and Anthony Davis going forward. The name I have circled right now is Derrick Favors, but we will see if other names pop up in the same vein.
Lewis: Aron Baynes. I think he has a lot to offer Denver, and will provide a veteran presence to a team that is still very much a young team. He sets powerful screens, can lead a strong defensive unit, can shoot a little, and is a great chemistry guy. The world needs more Australians, and so do the Nuggets.