Featured Team of the Week: Denver Nuggets

I want to start a new segment that I'll be releasing every Wednesday, called “Featured Team of the Week.” During this I want to take a quick dive into a current team that is either overlooked, under performing, or had a hot week. These are going to be shorter blogs but I want to give my opinion on a team (can be any sport) and take a closer look at their performance over the past week or two. Obviously this is impossible right now, due to the fact that the four major sports leagues are not holding any games for the time being due to the Corona virus outbreak.Because of that I’ll be looking for some teams that have fit that same criteria that was mentioned above, but for the entire 2019-2020 season. 

For the first edition, I want to look at the Denver Nuggets, one of the most underrated teams in the NBA. At the time of the pause in the NBA season, the Nuggets sat third in an insanely competitive Western Conference, with a record of 43-22. The team finished last season second in the Western Conference with a record of 54-28, which was very impressive. 

For me the most surprising part about the team is how they were built from the ground up, unlike many of the other powerhouse teams in the NBA who go out and sign big name free agents. The team’s centerpiece is actually their center, a 7-foot giant from Serbia by the name of Nikola Jokić. Jokić, who was drafted by the team in the second round of the 2014 draft, has not only turned into arguably one of the best centers in the league, but one of the best all around players in the NBA. Strong drafts have been the main reason why the Nuggets have been able to grow into one of the strongest teams out west, despite their trouble to attract free agents. Another key piece on the roster is fourth year guard Jamal Murray. Murray was the seventh overall pick in the 2016 draft, and has turned into a great player who the Nuggets can rely on for scoring, along with sharing the ball with his teammates and creating plays. Murray is currently averaging 18.8 points per game and is shooting an impressive 89.3% from the free throw line, along with 34.5% from 3 point range.

The team also has a great cast of supporting players who start and come off the bench, complementing their top players nicely. These include veteran big man Paul Millsap, New Hampshire native Will Barton, and scrappy forward Jerami Grant. I think that the Nuggets have one of the best constructed roster in the NBA, with minimal holes to find, and plenty of depth to give their starters some rest when they need it. Up until last season the Nuggets had gone five straight years without reaching the playoffs, and their first round victory over the Spurs last year was their first playoff series win since 2009, when Carmelo Anthony was the star of the team.

I think that there are a lot of small market teams that can take a page out of the Nuggets playbook when it comes to building a team, although that is easier said than done. The Nuggets scouting department really should get a raise because they're the main reason that this team is where it is now, as they’ve found some diamonds in the rough over the past few years in the draft. It will be interesting to see if the roster is built to compete against a Clippers or Lakers team in a seven game series, but as of right now I think that they are an extremely underrated and rather forgotten team. I predict that Denver will have great success over the next few seasons because they seem to know what players fit well in head coach Mike Malone’s system, and many of them are signed with the team for the next few years. Keep an eye out for the boys from Denver, as they could make a run for the title very soon. (Picture Credit: SportsLogoHistroy.com, Forbes.com, Medium.com)

-Andrew Gardner UNH '23 

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