The Denver Nuggets should be among the best teams in the upcoming 2022-2023 NBA season, but can they be considered serious title contenders?
Assuming Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray fully recover from injuries, the Nuggets should be the No. 2 team in the Western Conference behind the defending champions. The Nuggets are legitimate title contenders when Murray and Porter are around title and two-time MVP Nikola Jokic.
Keep in mind that the Nuggets’ primary goal for the 2022-23 season is to eventually break out of the group of six NBA teams that have never won a title. They understand that to do this they need to strengthen the supporting cast of key player Nikola Jokic.
The nuggets are stacked.
Michael Porter Jr.
Zeke Nnaji pic.twitter.com/R5Aoty4uH0
— StatMuse (@statmuse) July 1, 2022
Jokic is obviously the anchor and the leader of this team. He can lead the Nuggets to great success with his incredible offensive skills. In the NBA playoffs, however, Jokic will need more help if the Nuggets are to make it all the way to the NBA Finals and maybe even secure an NBA title. Again, this is a franchise that has never even won a conference title.
Let’s look at two key areas the Nuggets still need to address if they are to make a big leap forward in the 2022-23 NBA season.
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The needs the Nuggets still need to meet to win the 2023 NBA Finals
Wings 3 and D
Fans and observers have long argued that the Nuggets need to bring in a talented 3-point shooter. Denver’s efforts to use Bryn Forbes to fix the problem last season were a complete failure.
The Nuggets had a 35.3 percent 3-point shooting mark last season, which was 16th in the NBA. They want a player who can get into the corner and make the crucial late-game shot or a shot to drench any opponent’s run with cold water. Denver will also need to improve its defensive perimeter.
Essentially, the Nuggets need their own version of Bruce Bowen, Otto Porter Jr, Mikal Bridges or even a Luke Kennard. They need a really solid 3-D player.
For his part, Bones Hyland aspires to be a good perimeter player on both sides, but he won’t really guard opposition fullbacks or small forwards. His 36.6 percent 3-point shooting isn’t bad, but the Nuggets need someone who can shoot in their 40s — at the very least.
DENVER NUGGETS – BONES HYLAND
🦴 14.5/3.5/3.8 average with 2.7 3PT and 1.2 STOCKS in 33 games with at least 20 minutes as a rookie
🦴 shot on 47/42/82
🦴 6 sets of 20+ pts
🦴 Jamal Murray still working his way back pic.twitter.com/h1OCsinzPA
— Zak Hanshew (@ZaktheMonster) July 14, 2022
Remember, the Nuggets just traded their top two 3-point shooters — Monte Morris and Will Barton — to the Washington Wizards for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith. Of the two, KCP is perhaps the guy who can best fulfill this role. His production, however, will need to be increased if he is to move the needle in a big way for the Nuggets, although the returns of Murray and Porter will also provide much-needed 3-point marksmanship.
The best center in basketball is in Denver, but the Nuggets will need to recruit another center or two to provide depth. The Nuggets’ decline when Nikola Jokic is out of the lineup is so palpable, and part of it is due to the lack of a strong backup center.
Denver walked out and signed DeMarcus Cousins to a 10-day deal midway through the previous campaign, which eventually evolved into a deal for the rest of the year.
DJ at home 🎧
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) July 12, 2022
Cousins was a useful acquisition. He has contributed significantly to important contests. In Denver, he really achieved fan-favorite status. Although Cousins isn’t the same player he was with Sacramento, he’s been a decent contributor for the Nuggets.
No one would be surprised if the Nuggets re-sign Cousins to a low contract, but they quickly added veteran DeAndre Jordan early in free agency. DJ used to be a great shot blocker, but long gone are the days of blocking 2.0 shots per game and he’s just not the force he once was. There’s a reason he’s bounced around the NBA so much since his Clippers days.
In 48 games last season, Jordan played for the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers. He averaged 4.3 points and 5.5 rebounds while playing 13.0 minutes per game and shooting 64.3 percent from the floor. DJ also appeared in three postseason games for the Sixers. He started two of them, averaging 10.3 minutes with 3.3 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.
Does DJ have what it takes to effectively spell Jokic? Probably not, since Jordan surely lacks Jokic’s attacking awareness and versatility. The veteran is also not as effective in defense as before.
As such, the backup center remains a major area of improvement for the Denver Nuggets.