The Denver Nuggets are coming off of a surprising 2018-19 NBA campaign in which they won 54 games and made it to the second round of the playoffs before being eliminated by the Portland Trail Blazers.
Now, the Nuggets are getting set to enter the 2019-20 season with high expectations, as they are returning their squad from this past year with a rather key addition in Jerami Grant.
But in a Western Conference that includes the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz, it’s going to be a battle for the Nuggets to make a push for the finals.
Here are four burning questions for Denver heading into training camp:
4. Will Gary Harris Stay Healthy?
A legitimate argument can be made that Gary Harris is actually the second-best all-around player on the Nuggets behind Nikola Jokic. The problem is, he is rarely healthy.
Over the last three seasons, Harris has played in 57, 67 and 57 games, respectively, and this past year, Harris struggled even when he was on the floor, averaging just 12.9 points per game while shooting 42.4 percent from the field and 33.9 percent from three-point range, a massive dip from his 2017-18 numbers.
So, it seems like that even when Harris was playing in 2018-19, he wasn’t right.
If the Nuggets want to truly contend for a title this coming season, then Harris has to stay healthy, and it would really behoove Denver if the soon-to-be 25-year-old were able to play 70 games for a change.
3. Is Jamal Murray Ready to Take that Next Step?
We have seen Jamal Murray have some big performances in isolated games, but in the grand scheme of things, he has really been nothing more than average thus far in his NBA career.
Yes, he averaged 18.2 points per game this past season, but he registered a true-shooting percentage of just 53.8 percent, and taking into consideration how bad he is defensively, the Nuggets need more than that.
As a matter of fact, Murray regressed significantly in terms of efficiency from 2017-18 to 2018-19, which is certainly concerning.
Murray is Denver’s No. 2 option on the offensive end, and the question remains whether that is enough to vault the Nuggets into championship-caliber status (I personally don’t think it is).
This is a pivotal year for Murray which may end up determining what type of player he will be in the future, and remember: it’s also a contract year.
2. How Much does Paul Millsap have Left?
Paul Millsap has hardly been terrible since signing with the Nuggets during the summer of 2017, but he also has not been what Denver expected, either.
Millsap played in just 38 games due to injury during his first season with the club, and this past year, he missed 12 contests and ended up registering 12.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.
To be fair, his efficiency was solid, as he recorded a true-shooting percentage of 57 percent, but overall, Millsap has not even been close to the player he was during his Atlanta Hawks days, which is not all that shocking given that he is now 34 years old and is also playing in a much tougher conference.
But we can’t underestimate Millsap’s importance to this team.
He is probably the Nuggets’ best defender, and he is the veteran leader on this club. If he continues to decline this coming season, it might end up being a big problem in the Mile High City.
1. Will Michael Porter Jr. Get on the Floor?
Considered by many to be the top overall talent of the 2018 NBA Draft class, Michael Porter Jr. did not play at all during his rookie campaign due to back surgery, and he also missed all but just three games during his freshman season at Missouri in 2017-18.
Porter was expected to be ready for the season opener this year, but a knee injury that sidelined him for Summer League has put that on halt, and it’s looking more like he will be prepared sometime in the middle of November.
There is no denying this kid’s talent, and if he can ever get on the floor, he may very well end up being the best player from that 2018 class, but that’s the thing: we don’t know if he is ever going to get healthy and stay healthy.
Back issues are no joke, and the fact that Porter had already undergone a back surgery during his teenage years is obviously a huge concern.
But man; if Porter can just get right, there is no telling how good he could become, and while it will definitely take him quite a while to find his footing in the NBA, he could very well make an impact this year if he actually plays.