It’s opening day for the Denver Nuggets!
Yesterday, Denver Stiffs released full staff NBA predictions for the 2021-22 season, complete with division winners, award races, and playoff predictions. It’s a very good piece that featured some surprising selections, so definitely make sure to check it out!
Now, to focus in on the Denver Nuggets. The preseason is over, and the regular season is about to begin once again. The Nuggets will play the Phoenix Suns tonight on ESPN with the hope of redeeming themselves on national television after last year’s postseason sweep. Will they get off to a good start?
What does the Denver Stiffs staff believe is in store for your Denver Nuggets this season? Read on to find out.
Contributors for this piece included, in alphabetical order:
- Asher Levy - Contributing Writer
- Brandon Ewing - Deputy Site Manager
- Evan Fiala - Contributing Writer
- Gage Bridgford - Senior Writer
- Gordon Gross - Senior Writer
- Jena Garcia - Social Media Director
- Kayla Osby - Contributing Writer
- Peter Leensvaart - Contributing Writer
- Reid Howard - Moderator
- Ryan Blackburn - Site Manager
- Tommy Knowlton - Contributing Writer
Season Win Total - 51 wins, 4 votes
Analysis: There’s no telling how the Nuggets will react to an extended Jamal Murray absence. In a brief stretch without him last season, the Nuggets performed admirably, with Nikola Jokić maintaining his MVP numbers and Michael Porter Jr. soaking up the additional shot attempts in an efficient way. This year, the staff believes the Nuggets will maintain some level of success without Murray, with each win total at 50+ wins. The most common answer was 51 and looping in answers featuring 52 includes over half of the answers. 50+ wins is all but guaranteed to push the Nuggets ahead of the play-in mix. How many more wins above 50 Denver accumulates will likely determine if they get home court advantage in the first round or not.
Others receiving votes: 50, 52 (2), 53, 55 (2), 56
Points per game leader - Nikola Jokić, 9 votes
Analysis: Last season, the majority of our staff answered Jamal Murray as the most likely player to lead in points per game. Combined with Jokić’s growth and a slow start for Murray, that prediction became obsolete by Game 20. This year, the staff isn’t making the same mistake with Michael Porter Jr., because while he’s an elite scoring talent, there are too many variables to think that he’s likely to exceed Jokić’s production. The big MVP will have his hands full again this year, and without Murray to start the year, the Nuggets will need him to be more aggressive than ever in looking for his own shot.
Others receiving votes: Michael Porter Jr. (2)
Rebounds per game leader - Nikola Jokic, 11 votes
Analysis: Sometimes, it’s better to not think too hard on an answer. Ever since Jokić became a full-time starter in his second season, he has led the Nuggets in rebounds per game. No Nuggets player has come within three rebounds per game of Jokić ever since the 2016-17 season when Kenneth Faried still played a prevalent role. Jokić simply soaks up rebounds, and the Nuggets want him to rebound even more frequently because of his ability to run offense with the ball in his hands.
Other receiving votes: None
Assists per game leader - Nikola Jokic, 11 votes
Analysis: I mean, lol.
— Ryan Blackburn
Others receiving votes: none
How many All-Stars do the Nuggets have this year - One All-Star, 8 votes
Analysis: Another lesson to be learned from last season is how difficult it can be for players other than Jokić to receive credit for Denver’s success. Mike Conley was the third member of the Utah Jazz to be awarded an All-Star appearance, despite Murray putting up better scoring numbers as the second option on the Nuggets. It will be difficult for Denver to ever get anyone else into the All-Star game, and with Murray almost certainly out for the first half the year, the only bet is on the growth of Michael Porter Jr. and whether he can make a substantial leap. Most of the Stiffs believe he will be left on the outside looking in, though he could still make substantial progress and not be fully credited for it.
Others receiving votes: Just one - Nikola Jokic (3)
Player most likely to be traded - Bol Bol, 9 votes
Analysis: After watching Bol Bol have an up-and-down preseason, a couple of things are clear about his game: he’s talented enough to be on an NBA roster, but he’s probably not talented enough to be in Denver’s rotation every night. The mistakes he makes are so loud and debilitating, and the Nuggets can’t have effort waver in their second unit at any point this year. Bol needs time to play and develop his game in all aspects, and it’s unlikely that he will be able to do that in Denver. With the Nuggets potentially needing to add to their rotation at some point this season, Bol is a possible candidate to be moved at some point to help shore up another weakness on the roster.
Others receiving votes: Zeke Nnaji, Markus Howard
Breakout player - Tie between Michael Porter Jr. and P.J. Dozier, 5 votes each
Analysis: There are a couple of interesting candidates to “break out” on the Nuggets this year, and because being a breakout player is fairly ambiguous, the staff was fairly split on two candidates: Porter and Dozier. On one hand, you have the scoring savant in Porter, standing at 6’10” entering his third season in the NBA. He has a fairly straightforward path to a breakout, and the staff saw it that way too. On the other hand, you have the versatile two-way wing in Dozier, whose performance last season endeared him to head coach Michael Malone. Despite dealing with injury issues, a healthy Dozier has shown plenty of growth during his two seasons in Denver, and if things go right in the third year, he could become one of the most important players on the roster.
Others receiving votes: Bones Hyland
Letdown player - Facu Campazzo, 6 votes
Analysis: With Murray out for the first half of the year at minimum, there’s an expectation that Monte Morris will fill in as the starter while Facu Campazzo fills in as the backup. Unfortunately, the poor shooting performance in the preseason led some members of the staff to identify Campazzo as a potential letdown candidate. There’s plenty of pressure on his shoulders to captain the second unit and keep the Nuggets afloat without Jokić out there; however, the presence of Dozier, emergence of rookie Bones Hyland, and possible competition from Austin Rivers could lead to fewer minutes for Campazzo than expected. Even if he does play, he will need to shoot the ball efficiently to remain impactful, and there are questions as to whether he can do that again this season.
Others receiving votes: Aaron Gordon (2), Michael Porter Jr., Will Barton, JaMychal Green
Nuggets player most likely to receive an end-of-year award — Michael Porter Jr., 6 votes
Analysis: All-NBA was discounted in this exercise because Jokić is nearly a shoo-in to be a top three center performer this season. In its place, Michael Porter Jr. seemed to be the most likely award winner as a possible Most Improved Player candidate. He is currently the betting favorite at many betting websites, and he will have plenty of opportunities to prove himself to award voters this year. The other prime contender for an award is rookie Bones Hyland. All-Rookie teams weren’t eliminated from the voting pool, and Bones could have plenty of opportunities to be a helpful rookie on a contender this year, something that is generally rewarded. Bones also has an outside chance at Rookie of the Year if he ever finds his way into the starting lineup and has success.
Others receiving votes: Bones Hyland, 5 votes
How far does Denver make it in the playoffs — Conference Finals, 5 votes
Analysis: The Western Conference has shown some chinks in the armor over the last year or so in the wake of the Los Angeles Lakers title run in the Bubble. They, Denver, Golden State, and the LA Clippers all saw major injuries impact the strength of their teams. As a result, the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz took advantage of the vacancy and won a lot of games, including the Suns representing the West in the Finals last year. With Murray’s injury status unknown, the Nuggets could range from serious championship contenders to a version of last year’s team without Murray struggling haplessly in the second round. The majority of the staff believes Denver will advance to at least the Conference Finals though, and once there, anything can happen.
Others receiving votes: Championship (3), Conference Semi-Finals (2), NBA Finals