The Denver Nuggets Skipped Over Being the Future of the NBA
The Denver Nuggets have now come back from a 3-1 deficit twice in the 2020 NBA Playoffs. The latest comeback will rightfully be viewed as a choke job by the Los Angeles Clippers, but what the Nuggets did was still incredible. Denver is a legitimate title contender with two stars early in their primes who are simply built for the playoffs.
After finishing with the third-best record in the Western Conference and sixth-best record overall, they looked like a young team that could compete for a title in a year or two. Instead, they're simply contenders in their second playoff run. And they've done it with two guys they drafted and smartly built around.
Nikola Jokic may be young enough to still be on the upside of his career, but he's simply one of the best players in the league. He's a traditional and untraditional big man all at once. He's 7-feet tall and built like someone the Jazz would keep on the end of their bench to foul Shaq six times a game twenty years ago. But he also plays point guard and is an incredible passer. He's stayed healthy for his entire career and seems to have the type of game that will translate well into old age, which is kind of dumb to even think about since he's only 25.
He can shoot threes, but he doesn't seem like he relies on them. He topped out at 3.7 three-pointers a game during the '17-'18 season. He shot four a game in last year's playoffs and he's shooting six during this postseason, making 44% of them.
Murray, a former 7th pick overall, averaged 9.9 points and 2 assists as a rookie. This year he averaged career highs of 18.5 points and 4.8 assists. During both playoff runs he has bested those numbers. We talked about Giannis Antetokounmpo's minutes while the Bucks got upset by the Miami Heat. No such issues for Murray, a 6'4" guard who is playing 39 minutes a game during the playoffs.
These guys are just awesome. And they've already done it. Showed up in big games with their backs against the wall and such. They're in the Western Conference Finals. They should compete for a title for the foreseeable future. Murray is signed through '25. Jokic through '23. Whatever happens against the Lakers, the Nuggets are here to stay.