How do the Denver Nuggets Take the Next Step?

Phase One of the Nuggets’ offseason plan is already complete: pay back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic whatever he wants. More specifically, pay him a supermax deal worth $264 million over five years. Otherwise known as the richest contract in NBA history.

Jokic is worth every single penny and then some. He’s a center who averaged nearly eight assists last season (7.9). He’s an offensive initiator who notched nearly one block (.9) per game, along with 13.8 boards. A few years ago, the term “unicorn” was thrown around to describe anyone over 6’10 who could shoot. Joel Embiid, Kristaps Porzingis, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Giannis Antetokounmpo were all part of this heralded group.

Going into this season Jokic will be looking to snag his third MVP trophy, in only three years.

Years later, Jokic stands out as the lone true “unicorn” of the group. That’s not to say he’s the best player among the lot (that honor probably belongs to Antetokounmpo) but in terms of a big man who plays as smooth as a Harlem Globetrotter?

Jokic is the only one. But getting Jokic the bag isn’t the only thing left on Denver’s off-season to-do list. Here are a few more ideas:

  1. Get Everyone Healthy

Don’t let last season’s first-round flameout fool you: this Nuggets team is uber talented. Their issue in 2021-22 was that their second and third most important players missed significant time. Jamal Murray took the entire season to rehab after a gruesome ACL injury in the second half of the 2020-21 season. And for good reason. Michael Porter, Jr. only played nine games, shut down early with back problems.

Had the Nuggets been more competitive, Murray might have tried to force things along in rehab to return last season. But what good would that have done? He would’ve needed a lengthy ramp-up process, and even then, the chance of reaggravating that knee was just too high a risk to take. So the Nuggets wisely kept Porter and Murray off the court and instead focused on next season.

As long as both players continue rehabbing, they should be good to go for the start of 2022-23. But until then, the focus should be on getting both guys feeling 100%.

  1. Dip A Toe In The Kevin Durant Sweepstakes

On day one of free agency, perhaps the biggest story wasn’t a player switching teams. Instead, the basketball world was (semi) rocked by Kevin Durant requesting out of Brooklyn. Durant apparently has his sights set on Phoenix or Miami. And Durant has good reason for wanting a trade to either the Suns or Heat. And it has nothing to do with the warmer weather and scorching team names.

The Heat and Suns are primed to win now. In Phoenix, Durant would get an older, but far more stable floor general in Chris Paul. In addition, he’d get to line up next to Devin Booker. In Miami, Durant would probably love the chance to play with Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler. But Denver should also be at the top of that list, and not just for Durant.

Denver boasts trade assets that should interest the Nets. Start with Michael Porter, Jr., who, when not injured (which is, albeit, rare), is a mega talent. Add in 2021 draft pick Bones Hyland, who had an excellent season, and the Nets are getting two young, talented players in return. Further, Durant would play in the Western Conference, meaning he would be out of Brooklyn’s hair come the postseason.

And Durant would get to play with Jokic and Murray, who are just a few years removed from a Western Conference Finals appearance. Is there any suggestion that Jokic couldn’t play with anyone, let alone one of the 15 best players in NBA history? Adding Durant would unlock an exciting level of Jokic’s game and instantly catapult the Nuggets to the top of the Western Conference. If it costs Hyland, Porter, and picks, the Nuggets should seriously consider it.

Think you know if the Nuggets are actually ready to take the next step?