Because dynasties are more prevalent in basketball than in most other major sports, it is easy to take for granted how difficult it is to sustain excellence in the NBA. The Denver Nuggets showed signs of vulnerability throughout the 2023-24 season and even in the first round of the playoffs, but they were still understandably viewed as the team to beat in the West. Ultimately, however, they could not recapture that championship spark.

The inconsistent play of Jamal Murray was an undeniable factor in the Nuggets being eliminated by the Minnesota Timberwolves. He did his part and then some in the 98-90 Game 7 loss (35 points on 13-of-27 shooting), but he was invisible, or rather painfully visible, in several crucial moments during the series.

While his place in postseason history is tough to question, Denver needed more from Murray in order to keep their back-to-back title hopes alive. Injuries likely contributed to the 27-year-old's lulls, as he incurred a calf strain and elbow issue in these NBA Playoffs.

With the franchise's offseason officially underway, the inevitable period of rumination can now begin. The front office is specifically pondering what it could have done to preserve the long-term health of its star point guard.

Should Nuggets have been even more cautious with Jamal Murray?

“This year {Murray} was a little bit more up and down,” Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth said, according to Bennett Durando of The Denver Post.

“Missed a lot of games with some soft tissue injuries and injuries of other sorts. I think to {head coach Michael Malone's} point, we all have to study and look at what we can do better. Maybe look at past history…Do you look at what other great players have done, other great guards have done after they won a championship?”

Booth believes it is important to do “some investigating” in terms of seeing how a high-usage backcourt talent typically responds to a long playoff run. Jamal Murray is a special case, though, considering he suffered a torn ACL in 2021 that kept him on the sidelines for 18 months. He reclaimed his past postseason form, but it might have come at a cost.

Nothing should be taken away from the Timberwolves, for they displayed incredible tenacity in Game 7, but the Western Conference Semifinals could look a bit differently if Murray is 100 percent. Calvin Booth seems to think so.

“If Jamal is in shape and in condition, he's a totally different beast,” the executive said. “He obviously wore down a little bit at the end of the playoffs. Anthony Edwards is maybe the best on-ball defender in the NBA. He was gonna have to be in condition to get off the ball and move around a lot more, run him around. I don't know if playing since last June, coming off the ACL, some of the soft tissue injuries he had, if he was in condition to do that in this series.”

How Denver can potentially move forward with Jamal Murray

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (5) defends Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) in the first quarter during game six of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Target Center.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Although Booth raises an interesting point, every team faces some degree of ailments at this time of the year. As mentioned before, there are many squads that manage to come back even stronger en route to repeating as champions. Still, the long-term durability of Jamal Murray certainly warrants the organization's attention.

The Nuggets could look to the Miami Heat and handle one-half of their dynamic duo in a similar fashion to how Jimmy Butler is managed. Limiting Murray's workload and playing time throughout the regular season to ensure he is fresh for the playoffs is probably enticing, but that strategy does not always pay dividends. Just look at Kawhi Leonard's tenure with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Moreover, Murray played in only 59 contests this past regular season and still suffered setbacks down the stretch. For what it's worth, he enjoyed the best statistical campaign of his eight-year NBA career– 21.2 points on 48.1 percent shooting from the field and 42.5 percent shooting from 3-point land, 6.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game. Thus, it was somewhat tough to foresee a decline.

The Nuggets may not need a drastic plan to address the Murray situation

The best strategy to employ with the 27-year-old from Ontario, Canada could just be to let Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. carry the bulk of the offense for stretches. Murray can pick his spots instead of forcing anything. While it might be difficult for a competitor of his caliber to willingly fade into the background on occasion, he is used to being out of the limelight.

The former Kentucky alum is still seeking his first All-Star selection, so he is not going to prioritize his individual accolades ahead of the team. Micromanaging the health of this building block might not be an immediate concern, however. Perhaps falling short to Minnesota this year will result in a rejuvenated Jamal Murray and Denver squad in 2025.

That is the type of positive spin the organization and its fans should put on it, anyway. Tweaking the roster a bit around the core is not a bad idea, either. Regardless of how this team proceeds, the Nuggets must maximize an offseason that is quite longer than they initially expected.