The Denver Nuggets should be among the top teams in the coming 2022-2023 NBA season, but can they be considered serious title contenders?
Assuming Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray fully recover from their injuries, the Nuggets should be the No. 2 team in the Western Conference behind the defending champions. The Nuggets are legitimate title contenders when both Murray and Porter are around reigning and two-time MVP Nikola Jokic.
Keep in mind that the main objective of the Nuggets for the 2022–2023 season is to eventually leave the group of six NBA teams that have never won a title. They understand that in order to do this, they must strengthen the supporting cast for 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 leader of this team. He can carry the Nuggets to a lot of success on account of his uncanny 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 won even a conference title.
Let’s look at two key areas the Nuggets still need to address if they are to take a big leap in the 2022-2023 NBA season.
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Needs Nuggets must still address to win 2023 NBA Finals
Fans and observers have long argued that the Nuggets need to bring in a talented 3-point shooter. Denver’s effort to use Bryn Forbes to address the problem this past season was a complete failure.
The Nuggets had a 35.3 percent 3-point shooting mark this past season, which was 16th in the NBA. They want a player who can position himself in the corner and make the crucial shot late in the game or a shot to douse cold water on any opponent’s run. Denver will also need to improve its perimeter defense.
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-and-D player.
For his part, Bones Hyland aspires to be a good perimeter player on both ends, but he won’t really guard opposing shooting guards or small forwards that much. His 36.6 percent 3-point shooting is not bad, but the Nuggets need someone who can shoot in the low-to-mid-40s — at the very least.
DENVER NUGGETS – BONES HYLAND
🦴 averaged 14.5/3.5/3.8 with 2.7 3PT and 1.2 STOCKS in 33 games with at least 20 mins as a rookie
🦴 shot 47/42/82
🦴 6 games of 20+ pts
🦴 Jamal Murray still working his way back pic.twitter.com/h1OCsinzPA
— Zak Hanshew (@ZaktheMonster) July 14, 2022
Remember that the Nuggets just traded their two top 3-point shooters — Monte Morris and Will Barton — to the Washington Wizards for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith. Of the two, KCP is the guy who can maybe best fill this role. His production, however, will need to be raised if he wants to move the needle big time for the Nuggets, though the returns of Murray and Porter will also bring much-needed 3-point marksmanship as well.
The best center in basketball is in Denver, but the Nuggets will need to recruit one or two other centers to offer some 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 solid backup center.
Denver went out and signed DeMarcus Cousins to a 10-day deal midway through the previous campaign, which ultimately evolved into a contract for the remainder of the year.
DJ in the house 🎧
Welcome to The Mile High City, @DeAndre 🏔 pic.twitter.com/RcNulHjlwI
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) July 12, 2022
Cousins was a useful acquisition. He contributed significantly in important contests. In Denver, he really rose to the status of a fan favorite. Although Cousins isn’t the same player he was with Sacramento, he was a decent contributor for the Nuggets.
Nobody would be surprised if the Nuggets re-sign Cousins to a low contract, but they quickly added veteran DeAndre Jordan at the start of free agency. DJ used to be a big-time shot blocker, but long gone are the days he’d block 2.0 shots per game and he simply isn’t the force he once was. There is a reason he has 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 participated 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 doesn’t have Jokic’s offensive awareness and versatility. The veteran is also not nearly as effective on defense as he used to be.
As such, the backup center remains a major area of improvement for the Denver Nuggets.