The fall season brims hope for many as the weather signals change. Green leaves transform into a yellow/orange hue while the weather begins to moderate itself into the 60s and 70s this time of year in the mile high city. As the weather indicates change, so does the National Basketball Association.

Every team has visions of holding the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the year, but only a handful have what it takes. This year, the Denver Nuggets are among the handful. They have been among that handful for a couple of years now, but this year has a different feel to it. Yet again, don't they all?

Nikola Jokic is fresh off another MVP season, while the Nuggets return two of the brightest young stars in this league with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. It is one of the best offensive trios in the league with infinite possibilities for the season ahead.

We know what Jokic brings to the table, but for those that may have forgotten Jamal Murray is one of the most electric and clutch guards in this league. He has the ability to score from any platform and area on the court, and his chemistry with Jokic creates an elite pairing in this league.

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With a healthy and effective Michael Porter Jr., the Nuggets become one of the most feared offenses in the league. Not only do teams have to focus on the Jokic/Murray pick and roll, but if MPJ is left open for the slightest second you will hear the sweet sound of the ball hitting the bottom of the net.

On paper, the Nuggets have what it takes to make a deep Finals run, but as we know in Denver, it has never worked out like that. The Western Conference is always a gauntlet, and now the Eastern Conference has become as challenging as we have seen it in years. They will need consistency, toughness, and luck just to position themselves with a chance. Yet it’s the season of change and transformation. So cheers to another season of Nuggets basketball, and ‘tis the season of hope as the Nuggets look to evolve themselves into the first champions in franchise history.


One of the cases for a Nuggets championship run is the changes to their roster. GM Calvin Booth noticed this team was too soft defensively to compete with the elite teams, so he remedied those issues by signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown. KCP is going into his 10th NBA season at the age of 29. He brings championship pedigree from his time with the Los Angeles Lakers along with a career 11.6 PPG and nose for defense. Bruce Brown enters his 5th NBA season at the age of 26. He is a physical, athletic defender at the guard spot with the ability to knock down perimeter shots.

One of Denver’s largest defensive issues was guarding the elite perimeter players. So by signing both KCP and Bruce Brown, they add length, intelligence, and physicality. Not only will they help on defense, but they are reliable three-point shooters. KCP shot 39% from three last year and 41% the year before. Bruce Brown shot 40% from deep last year along with a 50% field goal percentage. Defensively, these two address Denver’s needs, but offensively they are a perfect fit. The Nuggets don’t need more scorers who operate with the ball in their hands constantly to earn 15-17 points like Will Barton. We love you Will, but the Nuggets need role players that can catch and shoot while the defense focuses on Jokic, Murray, and MPJ. This creates a more free-flowing offense with constant moving and cutting which is certainly a welcome sight to Jokic and Michael Malone.

Furthermore, by all accounts, Bones Hyland and Zeke Nnaji appeared to have improved their game as well. Zeke looks like a completely different player. He is more confident than ever before, and he is introducing a more physically dominant version of himself this year. Bones is getting another year in this offense, but he is also settling into the true role of a backup point guard. With Monte Morris gone (we will all miss you Monte), it affords him the trust of the coaching staff, and he certainly has the ability to prove them right.

We can talk about the additions of the rookies Christian Braun and Peyton Watson. New guys like DeAndre Jordan and Ish Smith, but the true and largest improvement to this team is health. They are finally healthy and that is the best news fans could hope for. Who knows what the rigors of the 82-game schedule will bring to this team, but for the first time in a long time, the Nuggets have their full squad.

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Question marks

With that being said, the Nuggets are still far from a perfect team. They have elite talent, but will that talent translate to series wins in the playoffs? Now that this team is healthy, regular season wins are not enough. One series win is not enough—hell even two series wins might not be enough. One question I have of this team is what is their identity? If they are a high-scoring, movement-based offense, they better be able to outscore elite offensive teams like the Warriors and Grizzlies. If they want to be balanced, they better be able to defend these high-scoring offenses with a constant offensive presence at the other end, avoiding the collapses where they go five minutes without scoring a basket.

The identity will most likely reveal itself near or maybe even after the All-Star break, but they must introduce themselves to the rest of the league early, and indicate to other teams this is not the same ol’ Denver Nuggets. The bubble Nuggets were a team others thought to be soft until Paul Millsap and the crew put their foot down and started playing physical basketball in the face of adversity. Even the 2008-2009 Western Conference team had a level of badass to them which earned the name “Thuggets.”

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When you look at the most successful Nugget teams, they all had a level of physicality to them. They did not take no for an answer and there was no fear in sight. When they faced the stars of the league they did not look up to them. They looked straight in their eyes, and said “I don’t care who you are, I’m going to take your lunch money today.” No, I don’t condone bullying, but the Nuggets have been bullied for decades. The rest of the NBA landscape appears to always think of Denver as a soft, finesse basketball town. While that is not the case, the Nuggets have rarely been able to prove the doubters wrong. This year could be different.

That being said, championships are not always won based on the more physical team. A diverse skillset combined with consistent execution must be achieved to be considered a champion. Denver appears to have the talent paired with the right coaching to reach such success, but do they have that hungry dog mentality to fight and grab what they think is theirs for the taking?

As many Nuggets fans know, something always seems to hinder this team from a championship. During the 2013-2014 season, Denver was knifing through the competition with serious hopes of a Finals appearance until Gallinari tore his ACL. Two years ago, Denver had the full squad of Jokic, Murray, MPJ, and Aaron Gordon. Michael Malone even noted when they beat the Clippers in LA that year, he thought they were the top team in the league. Then Murray tears his ACL and the championship hopes were over.

If the Nuggets are the championship team fans hope they can be, they will have to fight adversity like they never have before. It is certainly a tall order, but I think they have the right group this year. They seem to have the right blend of offensive and defensive talent on paper, but we will have to see how that plays out on the court.

A dark cloud appears to loom over this franchise just waiting for the worst possible time to strike lightning over their title chances, but can this be the year the cloud disperses and the basketball gods shine favorably on the Denver Nuggets?

The last couple of years has been filled with “what if this” and “what if that”, but for the time being, there are no more excuses. Everybody has been waiting to see what this team can achieve fully healthy and this is their chance. But to be completely honest, whether they win a championship or not, I’m just excited to watch this team play basketball again.