As part of a new series of articles produced exclusively for Sky Sports by NBA superfans from across the UK, we’re looking at the state of play for every franchise with preseason set to get under way at the end of this month
By Murray Grayston
Thursday 8 September 2022 09:23, UK
Denver Nuggets fan and journalist Murray Grayston assesses the 2021-22 season for his team, and then casts an eye ahead to 2022-23.
I’m Murray, a Denver Nuggets fan from Ayrshire in Scotland, probably not a sentence you will hear very often. I only actually came to basketball in 2016, due to playing the sport in school.
That made me want to follow the sport more avidly so I asked a slightly more clued-up friend which teams he considered ‘poor’, for want of a better word. As soon as I heard the words ‘Denver Nuggets’, I knew I had found my team. Okay, yes, I started following them because “Haha, chicken nuggets”, but it’s a decision I wouldn’t change for a second.
My first stand out memory was that

game against Minnesota. The final game of the regular season, which went to overtime with playoff hopes on the line – just wow! I sat up watching the game, already knowing it would be a late night, and was in absolute ecstasy as we took the game to OT. Then there was the agony of not just the game, but our season being over only a matter of minutes later.
At the other end of the spectrum you think about how good we were that season in the bubble, but the Lakers series was one step too far. I will say this, though, if that Anthony Davis buzzer-beater in Game 2 doesn’t drop, I really think we could have a chip. Maybe I’m looking through Nuggets-tinted glasses, though.
This season, with two of our best players returning, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call us contenders. Watch this space.
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a Nuggets fan, the question of my favourite player is easy, isn’t it? You cannot look beyond the man from the Sombor, Nikola Jokic.
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Yes, saying the now two-time MVP is my favourite is about as safe as you can get, but have you seen this man play? Everything about him screams “not an athlete”, but he’s considered the best in the world, and for good reason.
Liquid basketball, that’s how I’d describe it. I have never watched a player so smooth, and easy on the eye. His passing is what really impresses me, he makes other players better, the ideal team-mate. A man of his height and build has no right to do what he does, and long may it continue.
Other than the obvious, I love our young core. MPJ and Bones Hyland, those boys are going to make sure we don’t waste the Joker’s peak years, trust me.
All in all, with our second and third options out (Jamal Murray and MPJ) finishing as the sixth seed, under immense pressure of dropping into the play-in, I was pleased. There were even times I seriously thought we could be challenging higher up the conference.
As well as the MVP-level play of Jokic keeping us competitive, another star who really needs a mention is Bones Hyland. That boy is a talent, we really know our way around a late draft pick! I feel he may have proved he is the man to lead our second unit, which is exactly what we need.
Overall though, that was the one major let down last season: the supporting cast. The Joker put up monumental numbers, but he had to as he had no consistent help. With Murray and MPJ out, we needed a second and third scorer and, at times, Aaron Gordon and Will Barton filled the hole. But was it often enough? Not for me.
For the season overall, I can’t help but feel it could have been so much more, if not for injuries. Just on the face of things, the regular season was pushing more of a ‘B+’, for sure, but going out of the playoffs with a whimper left a bitter taste. It was another outstanding year for Jokic, but all he has to show for it is the MVP trophy. He’d trade that for a ring, I just hope we can get him one.
One of the main things was: Is the Joker happy? Will he put up with ‘wasting’ his peak years. Well, I think the front office have certainly addressed that. The seven-foot Serbian’s historic super-max contract has set us up with the NBA’s best talent, at the moment, until at least 2028. What’s not to love about that?
We have seen a lot of change in the offseason. For me, it was needed. It is too easy to become attached to players and forget their shortcomings. If I look at what we have replaced Barton and Monte Morris with, I feel the new additions could make a real difference for us.
Do I think Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is an immediate upgrade? Perhaps on the stat sheet it looks a sideways move, but in terms of his overall game I think it is a no-brainer. Barton is a good scorer, great on his day, but so is KCP, and defensively, I think that is where we will see a big improvement.
Morris was a good back-up point guard but, at the same time, I think Bones will be great and I don’t see a real necessity for Monte, as much as it pains me, if it holds Hyland back when Murray returns. In the meantime, Ish Smith will do a job for us. I’m not overjoyed with the pick-up, but an experienced head in that role may be exactly what our younger guys need.
Bruce Brown is another solid pick-up, and more defensive depth added exactly where we need it. His scoring has improved year-on-year, I don’t think we will need ridiculous numbers from him but I’m pleased to see it. What I like is the lateral thinking in a lot of our offseason work. These guys are all pretty defensive-minded. Mike Malone knows if this improves, we can outscore anyone, so I’m happy to see this being built upon.
The jury is definitely out on Deandre Jordan, and he may be coming into a cursed role, as Jokic’s number two. We have seen Mason Plumlee and JaVale McGee, both solid players, struggle in the limited minutes, even Boogie Cousins wasn’t perfect in the role last season. Jordan, though, can provide solidity.
Jeff Green will remain a Nugget as well, and he played the Paul Millsap role better than Paul Millsap for me. I like the way Malone is weaving experience into a relatively youthful squad, and Uncle Jeff is a big part of that.
We have also re-signed Vlatko Cancar and Davon Reed, solid options, but not really on the main rotation.
And I must mention, my guy, the man who inspires me that perhaps I could still make it, Facundo Campazzo. We haven’t waved our goodbyes yet, though we haven’t confirmed he has signed a new deal either. If he does go, man, I will miss him! He didn’t quite set the world alight, but boy he gave his all. Defensively, he was immense, I would hate to play against him, and when he did hit a three, it saddens me to think I may never hear “uno, dos, tres, para Facu” again.
The draft is always a weird one for Nuggets fans, we never know what we’re going to get. Regardless of where we got Christian Braun, Peyton Watson and Ismael Kamagate in the draft, then picking up Collin Gillespie, I will support the decisions made for now. Whether we can trust new GM Calvin Booth in the same way I would put my faith in Tim Connelly, of that I’m unsure.
What is surprising is our continued lack of ‘win now’ strategy in the draft. We have continued to look at project type players, which for me personally, is not an issue.
Outside a real top five or ten pick, were we ever going to immediately improve our roster? I don’t think so, and I’m happy with how things have gone. What I will question however, is acquiring four players, when rarely does even one rookie get a look in, in our rotation. Just look at Bol Bol, a great project player, but he didn’t get a look in and was moved on after making very little impact. Perhaps our new G-League affiliate will change things, though if any of the four have a Bones Hyland type impact this season, I’d be pleasantly surprised.
I think, for a team with the reigning two-time MVP, we shouldn’t be looking to contend for a title. Is there any team we should fear? Absolutely not.
There isn’t a 73-win Warriors type team in the league this year – and that team couldn’t even win it all that year. Someone has to win it and we have actually missed a few chances in the past couple of years too, so why not the Nuggets?
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MPJ and Murray will return. Will they come back firing straight away? Probably not, but we’ve shown we have the pieces in place to make the playoffs without them. The key is having those guys ready for the postseason.
The regular season, for me, is all about building some cohesion, and getting the new guys to gel, while we get our stars back to 100 percent. If we do that, this could be our year.
won’t win the MVP
(voter fatigue may well factor in and he shouldn’t have to carry the load all by himself this time)
Jamal Murray will be an NBA All-Star
The Denver Nuggets will be NBA champions – you heard it here first (probably)
Right now, I feel we have some of the most exciting players in the league to watch: the two-time MVP who defies every instinct you have; a dunk contest legend (Gordon, he was robbed of the title twice!) who will get you off your seat on a nightly basis; a fearless youngster in Bones who takes on shots no one in their first year should consider; a returning Jamal Murray whose finishes at the rim defy physics; and a shooter in MPJ who makes shots from the corner look like a free throw. The list could go on.
We rarely blow out a team either, man it’s hard as a fan, but it makes for some exceptional viewing. I would love to win by 30 every night, but that’s not the Nuggets way. I’ve watched enough overtime to do me for a lifetime, and I’ve seen buzzer-beating winners and losers. It’s tough, frustrating but ultimately, it is pure basketball.
And of course, as I have so boldly predicted, you will be watching the champions elect. I do stand by that, however, also somewhat expect this to be bookmarked, screenshotted, and for me to be ridiculed, come summer 2023!
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