The Denver Nuggets were one of the NBA’s most pleasant surprises this past season, winning 54 games and finishing in second place in the Western Conference standings.
But now that the Nuggets have gotten a taste of some success, expectations have risen in Denver, and some feel that the Nuggets are ready to take that next step into legitimate title contention.
For that reason, Denver will actually be facing some pressure going into the 2019-20 campaign, as this time around, people are actually expecting the Nuggets to be good.
So, here are the three Denver players facing the most pressure heading into next season:
3. Paul Millsap
Paul Millsap elected to opt in to the final year of his deal with the Nuggets, so now, the 2019-20 campaign will officially be a contract year for the veteran big man.
Millsap has been largely disappointing since joining Denver during the summer of 2017, as injuries limited him to just 38 games during his first season with the club, and this past year, he was solid, but nothing like he was during his time with the Atlanta Hawks.
Of course, Millsap is 34 years old, so this decline is natural, but this will probably represent his last chance to earn a multi-year deal.
If Millsap comes out and performs at a high level while remaining healthy next season, there will likely be a team out there willing to give him two years next summer.
If not? He might have to settle for one-year pacts from here on out.
2. Jamal Murray
A lot of people like Jamal Murray for his ability to take over games at moment’s notice, and that is great, but the fact of the matter is that Murray isn’t all that great. Not yet, anyway.
The 22-year-old did average 18.2 points per game this past season, but he posted a true-shooting percentage of just 53.8 percent, and we all know what a liability he is defensively.
If Murray truly wants to be a consistent impact player on the NBA level, he needs to start becoming a more efficient scorer. While part of that is shot selection, another part is becoming a more consistent perimeter shooter.
Murray is hardly a bad three-point shooter, as he has made 36.2 percent of his triples thus far in his career, but for someone who was billed as a sharpshooter coming out of college, it just isn’t enough, particularly given how little Murray gives Denver on the defensive end.
This coming season will be Murray’s fourth year in the league and may end up telling us a lot about which direction he is headed.
1. Michael Porter Jr.
Going into the 2017-18 NCAA season, Michael Porter Jr. was the consensus No. 1 prospect in the country, but a back injury doomed his entire freshman year at Missouri.
As a result, Porter slipped to the Nuggets at No. 14 overall, representing a classic boom-or-bust pick.
Porter may still very well be the most talented player in the 2018 draft class, but it’s not going to matter if he can’t get on the court.
He sat out his entire rookie campaign due to back issues, as he underwent a second back surgery last summer. Not only that, but he suffered a knee sprain during practice last month.
While his health is obviously beyond his control, Porter really needs to show something soon in order to validate himself as a real prospect going forward. He is expected to play this coming season, so this year could be a pivotal one for the 21-year-old.