It’s been feast or famine for the Denver Nuggets over the last 14 years.
The Nuggets made the playoffs every year from 2003 through 2013, including going all the way to the Western Conference Finals in 2009. However, the Nuggets haven’t had a winning record, much less a playoff appearance, since former head coach George Karl was fired four years ago.
But the team improved last year under Coach Michael Malone, who enters his third year with the Nuggets. There’s a lot of buzz around the NBA about this young and up-and-coming team.
We had a few questions about the Nuggets this season so we asked Gina Mizell, who covers the Nuggets for The Denver Post:
1) The Nuggets have had some bad teams of late. Is there room for excitement in Denver this year?
“I think there is, based on how the team finished (last year). They were one game out of making the playoffs and now there’s a lot of expectations. So I think there’s definitely reason for this team to be excited and for fans to be excited.”
2) Does the free agent signing of All-Star power forward Paul Millsap make the Nuggets a stronger playoff contender this year?
“If you look at people around the league who really dissect this, they say Paul Millsap's signing was one of the most underrated player moves in the offseason. He’s a veteran who came over from the Atlanta Hawks and he’s a 4-time All-Star. He’s going to be a great compliment to someone like (Nuggets center) Nikola Jokic, who really had a breakout season last year and is becoming one of the biggest young stars in the NBA.”
3) What do the Nuggets want to see from the 7-foot, 22-year-old Serbian player Nikola Jokic this season?
“Just to keep progressing. He’s a very young player… he can shoot 3-pointers and he’s a great passer and has a unique skill set… and is still learning a lot at the NBA level. But what (coaches) really want to see is him improve defensively, and I think Paul Millsap will help with that. I think it will be very interesting to see how he handles expectations because he kind of came out of nowhere last year, and now teams are going to be game-planning to stop him and to attack him. So how he handles that is going to be a big key for this team moving forward.”
4) The Ringer thinks Denver will be high-octane and must watch this year. If that pans out, will that earn them a big home court advantage?
“Absolutely. This is a team that plays a fun brand of basketball. There are a lot of different players that are athletic and like to move the ball quickly, and so it’s not this like plodding (style). They like to keep it flowing. So there should be a lot of high-scoring games. But I think they will be a very entertaining game. If you're looking for something fun to do on any given night of the week when they’re at home, I think they will definitely entertain you.”
5) The Nuggets’ conference competition includes the defending champ Golden State Warriors and teams like San Antonio and Houston; will they be in the playoffs?
“Barring something unexpected happening, like a major injury or something like that, I do think this is a team that will sneak into the playoffs, or at the very least be in it right up until the end of the season, just like last year. I think they’re still a little bit away from really challenging in the Western Conference… but I think making the playoffs for the first time since 2013 would be a good start for the organization this season.”