What does it take to win a championship in the NBA?
Do you need a superstar player who will can compete for the MVP award, do you need key second and third scorers or do you need bench depth?
Well, there really is no set blueprint on what a team needs in order to ultimately win the NBA Finals, but all three of those things listed above can go a long way in a team finding success late in the year. For the Denver Nuggets, they currently have all of these and are entering the 2022-23 season flying under-the-radar.
Nikola Jokic is coming off a year in which he won his second consecutive MVP award after averaging career-highs in points (27.1), rebounds (13.8), steals (1.5) and blocks (0.9), Denver added experienced wing depth with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown and most importantly, both Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are set to return to the court.
Murray ended up missing the entire 2021-22 season due to a torn ACL he suffered on April 12, 2021 and Porter Jr. has not played since November 6, 2021 due to lower back surgery.
Up-and-down their roster, the Nuggets have superstar talents and a great blend of experienced an youthful depth heading into the new season, setting them up to be real title threats out in the Western Conference even though the Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers continue to dominate the championship headlines this offseason.
“We are definitely very happy with where we are at as a team in terms of our roster,” Nuggets assistant general manager Tommy Balcetis told Fastbreak on FanNation in an exclusive offseason interview.
Ranking sixth in the league in offensive rating and 15th in defensive rating, the Denver Nuggets found quite a bit of success on the floor last season even though they were missing both Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray, two of their Top-3 talents.
“The biggest thing for us over the last year was that injuries kind of plagued us,” Balcetis went on to say. “If we are healthy, I feel like we could compete with anybody in the league given the guys that we have.”
Perhaps what makes the Nuggets a true threat in the Western Conference besides their talent on the floor is the fact that they have built an overall winning culture.
Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Denver ranks sixth in the league in total wins (281 wins) and head coach Michael Malone has really been a huge part of their success, which is why the team gave him a new contract extension in March.
“This extension is well deserved for Coach Malone and one we are very excited to announce,” Nuggets governor E. Stanley Kroenke said in a statement.
When you look at the NBA as a whole over the last several years, what sticks out about the Denver Nuggets is how consistent they have been. They made the Western Conference Semifinals in 2019, the Western Conference Finals in 2020 and then the semifinals once again in 2021.
Some may look at the 2021-22 season as a “step backwards” for this franchise seeing as they lost in the first-round of the playoffs and finished the regular season as the 6-seed in the West, but the only thing that went right for the Nuggets a season ago was Nikola Jokic’s dominant performances.
At full-strength, this team can be very dangerous and we saw glimpses of that when they went on their run to the Western Conference Finals in 2020. The only difference between this upcoming season and the Nuggets postseason run in 2020 is that Denver has more overall depth and they are more experienced.
Winning back-to-back MVP awards has helped Jokic grow as a leader for this team and both Murray and Porter Jr. will be returning to the court as “new” players who will supply this team with extra energy from the very start of the season.
The Denver Nuggets are right on the cusp of being the best team in the Western Conference and the 2022-23 season presents a clear path for them to prove that they are true championship contenders.
Brett Siegel joined Fastbreak on FanNation as a credentialed NBA journalist in April 2022 after previously covering the NBA for NBA Analysis Network and working with Louisville Basketball, aiding in daily operations, scouting and recruiting. From playing to coaching to covering the game as a media member, Brett has been involved with the game of basketball from many different perspectives. Breaking the news of All-Star Andre Drummond signing with the Lakers in 2021, yearly NBA Draft news and other key stories around the league, Brett is always on the phone, getting the latest news and rumors around the NBA. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @BrettSiegelNBA.