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Harrison Wind: Can Jamal Murray rise to the occasion?

I'd have to think that for an ultra-competitor like Murray, his disappointing 4 of 18 shooting performance in the Nuggets' Game 7 loss to the Trail Blazers last May still stings. Murray had some strong moments in his first playoff appearance last season, like when he scored 21 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter of Game 2 versus the Spurs to help captain a Nuggets come-from-behind victory that saved Denver's season, and when he tallied a game-high 34 points to lead the Nuggets to a vital Game 4 win in Portland a round later. But like many of his teammates, Murray came up short in Game 7.

He can redeem himself in the playoffs this year...if there is a postseason in the coming months...and also rewrite the script on a good but not great regular season. Murray's individual stat line looks almost identical to last year's, but he's raised his True and Effective Field Goal Percentages. He's upped his points per possession in the pick-and-roll slightly and the eye test says that Murray is making reads and passes in the half-court that he wasn't last season. His defense fell off after a strong start and Murray's 3-point percentage dropped for a second-consecutive season to just 34.5%.

For those who had high expectations for Murray's this year he probably didn't fully meet them, but a strong playoff run heading into next season when his max contract kicks in can alter the entire perception of his 2019-20 campaign.

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The Nuggets' former Director of Performance discusses Nikola Jokic's weight room work ethic and more.

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Brendan Vogt & Harrison Wind react after rewatching Round 2 Game 3 of the Nuggets’ 2009 playoff run — the one when Carmelo hits the game winner and one of the greatest shots in franchise history, and discuss how likely it is that Arturas Karnisovas leaves Denver for Chicago. Have a Denver Nuggets question? Reply in the comment section below.…

Steve Hess, the Nuggets' strength and conditioning coach for 20 years, joins DNVR for a chat about some of his greatest Nuggets memories.

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Who advances if the Nuggets and Rockets meet in the first round?

*If the league goes straight into the playoffs once the league returns.

Adam Mares: Rockets in six

It's basically impossible to know half of the variables that would impact this question. Are fans allowed into the arena? Are games played on a neutral site, negating home court advantage?

Setting those questions aside, I think what the Houston Rockets do on the basketball court is much easier to figure out and get settled than what the Denver Nuggets do. Houston's offense is basically an isolation offense with spot up shooters around the three-point line. Role players like PJ Tucker need only figure out the rhythm of their catch and shoot shooting while the lion's share of the responsibility rests on the talent of Russell Westbrook and James Harden. There is very little timing and chemistry to sort out.

The Nuggets, on the other hand, play a much more balanced style of basketball that is more dependent on chemistry and timing. So if the league jumped right into a playoff, do-or-die series, then I think the advantage would go to the Rockets.

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The 2008 trade that sent Allen Iverson to Detroit and brought Chauncey Billups to Denver gave the Nuggets' offense a defined pecking order and the franchise a much-needed leader.

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Brendan Vogt: Jokić, Murray, Barton, Millsap, Harris, Grant + three-man platoon of Craig, Porter Jr, Plumlee

Four bigs are one too many for a playoff rotation and given the importance of Jerami Grant to the Nuggets' title hopes, that leaves Mason Plumlee as the odd man out. The easy decision would be to omit him altogether, but he's a Malone-player through and through, and his head coach will find time for him if he can. There may be individual matchups where his size proves useful—like a series with the Los Angeles Lakers, for example. But he should see a fairly limited role, whether he plays or not.

The Torrey Craig/Michael Porter Jr. problem becomes more challenging to navigate in the postseason. There are some matchups, like a series with the Houston Rockets or the Portland Trail Blazers—should the Blazers sneak in—in which playing Craig is not just warranted but necessary. He excels in guarding smaller dynamic scorers, like James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Damian Lillard, providing a positive net value despite his offensive limitations. But Porter Jr., of course, raises the Nuggets ceiling with his immense talent and the myriad matchup problems his inclusion might present.

Less than a week after the All-Star break concluded, a reporter asked Michael Malone if he Porter Jr. will be a part of the playoff rotation. Without hesitating, he confirmed that is the plan. But in the games that followed, Porter Jr. couldn't buy much playing time. At this point, it's hard to see him as a fixture, but rather a member of a platoon.

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Harrison Wind: Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.
How do you define a team's core? It's a tough question, but for me it's the basis of your championship DNA. If you're the Nuggets, your core includes the most instrumental pieces on your roster that can seemingly take you to the top and can do so for years to come. That's Jokic, Murray and Porter with an honorable mention to Will Barton simply due to the number of boxes that he checks for this team.

Building around Jokic, Murray and Porter requires plugging a number of holes, mainly ones on the defensive end of the floor. Denver currently has Paul Millsap and Gary Harris doing so while Jerami Grant, Monte Morris, Torrey Craig and Mason Plumlee provide needed depth that any team with championship aspirations requires. But those parts can be interchanged.

There's a path forward for Denver that involves moving on from one of its core pieces not named Jokic if a trade for another All-NBA caliber talent develops, but Jokic, Murray and Porter have the respective ceilings to be the three best players on a Nuggets championship team.

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Which current Nuggets players will not be on the roster to start next season?

Adam Mares: Paul Millsap

There are plenty of reasons to believe Paul Millsap could stick around beyond this year. Last summer, Millsap talked about wanting to be in Denver for much longer and having a "story" that he wanted to tell his way. Back then, it sure sounded like that story meant finishing his career in Denver.

But do the Denver Nuggets need him? Jerami Grant was beginning to blossom as a front court running mate to Nikola Jokic and is only entering his prime. Millsap, on the other hand, was in and out of the lineup for the 3rd season in a row and starting to show signs of slowing down. 250 lb athletes don't always age slowly and gracefully. Often times, the decline is sudden and steep.

The Nuggets could re-sign Millsap with the assumption that he'd segue into a sort of end-of-bench veteran who is only sparsely called upon to play real minutes but Millsap likely sees himself as something more than that. Then there is the question of continuity vs. bringing in new voices, new talents, and new personalities. The Nuggets are in need of an edge. Millsap is smart, unselfish, and hard working, but he isn't exactly an intimidating force. If the Nuggets believe that they need some new blood in the lockerroom, Millsap might be one of the guys out the door.

Brendan Vogt: Mason Plumlee, Troy Daniels

The Nuggets were nearing a postseason in which Plumlee's ideal role is a limited one. Dever has already overpaid him, and he might desire a more significant role on another team, especially should one feel inclined to pay him like a starter. Three bigs are enough in the postseason, and if you have confidence in both Paul Millsap and Jerami Grant returning, as I do, then it makes a lot of sense for the two parties to move on.

Grant found a groove with the starters and proved so many who thought he'd be a great fit in Denver to be right. The front office has likely identified him as a candidate, if not the preferred power forward to slot alongside their young core. Millsap is entering the final phase of his career, and winning his first championship is, of course, vital to him.

He's on the record as wanting to finish what he's started here and doesn't hold back when speaking on this team's talent and capabilities. My read is he's identified this group as the one to help him get to the promised-land finally.

Troy Daniels shouldn't require much of an explanation. He's unlikely to see much time in a Nuggets uniform, if any at all, and entering unrestricted free agency.

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Each weekday, our DNVR Nuggets crew will be tackling one question about the Nuggets season in a round table format. Members, leave the questions that you’d like to see our writers answer in the comments section below and Harrison, Adam and Brendan will address them on an upcoming episode of the DNVR Nuggets Podcast. Brendan Vogt: all the stuff I…...

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Adam Mares: Michael Porter Jr.

This is our fourth round table and the fourth time my answer has centered around Michael Porter Jr. but think for a second about the string of bad luck this young man has endured. First, after spending most of his teenage years as the top prospect in the country, he suffers a back injury just minutes into his freshmen season in college. He has back surgery and misses almost all of that season, then misses his first season in the NBA as he recovered from a second back surgery. Now, in his first season back after two years off, the NBA cancels the season just as he was getting going.

Players develop the most between the ages of 18 and 25 so for Porter to basically miss a majority of the first 3 years of that range is really disheartening. People often say that what Porter need is time but time alone what allow him to reach his potential. What he really needs are repetitions. Live game, practice, workout, training. All of the things that help a player become the best version of themselves on the basketball court. For the third season in a row, Porter's development appears stunted by something completely out of his control.

Log in or become a member to view Harrison and Brendan's answers.

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Harrison Wind: Nikola Jokic's 30-point, 21-rebound, 10-assist night against the Jazz

With only seven players available in Utah following the trade deadline against reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, the Nuggets were going to need an all-time performance from Nikola Jokic in order to get a win. That's what Denver got.

Jokic became just the third player since the NBA-ABA merger (DeMarcus Cousins, David Lee) to post at least a 30-20-10 stat line and according to ESPN Stats and Info, Jokic joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players in NBA history (including playoffs) to tally 30 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists on the road before turning 25 years old.

Here's Denver's box score from that night. The Nuggets had just five of their top-10 rotation players available.

The Nuggets won 98-95 as Jokic toppled Gobert and the Jazz for the second time in less than a week. Thirteen of Jokic's 14 field goals came with Gobert as his primary defender and down the stretch, Jokic was incredible, scoring nine points in the fourth quarter, six of which came over the final five minutes of play. Jokic sunk the game-winner that night -- a fall-away 18-footer with Gobert draped all over him -- with just under a minute to go in regulation courtesy of his signature Sombor Shuffle.

It was the best game I've seen Jokic play across his five-year career.

Log in or become a member to view Brendan and Adam’s answers.

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The Nuggets announced Thursday that a member of their organization has tested positive for COVID-19.

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What was the most memorable moment of the Nuggets' season?

Adam Mares: Michael Porter Jr. against the Indiana Pacers

The most accurate answers to this question are either the night Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash or the night the NBA season was canceled. The Nuggets were at the forefront of both. When the Kobe news broke, word spread throughout Pepsi Center and the Denver Nuggets locker room for us all to see. When the season was canceled, the Nuggets were in the middle of a game against the Dallas Mavericks. Both nights will be nights I'll never forget.

But for a more Nuggets specific moment, it has to be the night Michael Porter Jr. broke out. To me, that night was January 2nd, 2020. Porter was fresh off of his first start four nights earlier but it wasn't until the game at Banker's Life Fieldhouse that I was sold on Porter becoming a star. The 25 points on 11 of 12 shooting tell most of the story but it was the variety of ways that Porter scored that stood out. Offensive rebounds, transition buckets, spot-up three-pointers, dribble drives to beat the shot clock, and what has become his patented step back three.  From that point forward, Denver's long-term trajectory changed. They had a second (maybe third?) superstar in the making.

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What grade would you give the Nuggets this season...if the season is in fact over?

Harrison: B

The right answer here is obviously 'Inc.' because whether or not this Nuggets season was going to be a success or failure was always going to be determined by what happened in the playoffs. And with no playoffs (yours truly believes this season is a wrap), we'll never be able to deliver this team a final grade. But looking back on what the Nuggets did accomplish, you find yourself examining a long list.

Denver could end the season with a 43-22 record, which was the Nuggets' exact mark through 55 games a season ago when they won 54 games. The Nuggets were also running away with the Northwest Division crown (Denver is 10-1 in-division while Oklahoma City boasts the second-best Northwest Division mark at 7-4.) The Nuggets also collected both of what will likely go down as the top-2 wins of the Michael Malone era, Jan. 30 in Utah when a seven-man skeleton crew beat the Jazz, and 24 hours later in Milwaukee when Denver toppled presumptive MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo on the second-night of a back-to-back.

But there was an undeniable dullness to this Nuggets season, especially compared to last year's campaign where Denver came out of nowhere to take the West's No. 2 seed. Some of that had to do with the fact that this roster with a playoff run under its belt was so obviously looking ahead to the postseason, probably from the day training camp broke in October.

Nikola Jokic was elite, once he decided to be elite. Jamal Murray posted very similar numbers to a season ago. Gary Harris took another step back on the offensive end of the floor but was still very good defensively. Will Barton rightfully returned to form. The Nuggets found an option in Jerami Grant at power forward who can give them reliable minutes for years to come.

The biggest disappointment? Denver saw what rookie Michael Porter Jr. could give them -- brilliant offense and uncanny playmaking -- but the Nuggets couldn't carve out a consistent role for the rookie. The Nuggets were very good this season, but it didn't feel like they took a considerable step forward.

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