Jokic and Murray claim for themselves: a promising future for Denver

The elimination of the Nuggets in the conference semifinals does not prevent the team from drawing positive conclusions from the season; in Denver they begin to see the light.


Eliminations in the playoffs are always hard, but do not always imply negative readings. This is the case of the Denver Nuggets. The team of Mike Malone has played the final phase for the first time since 2013, when they were eliminated by the Warriors in a first round. At that time George Karl was the coach of the franchise, while Golden State was in the hands of Mark Jackson and already showed a great future with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in the template.

There are reasons to dream in the franchise. They have done, after much effort a competitive team, and have managed to make a regular meteoric season (54-28) that left them in second place in the Western Conference. In playoffs, they took out strength of weakness to recover in time and eliminate some Spurs tanned in a thousand battles. It seemed that they would also get to the Blazers, but a pájara very typical of inexperience in the final phase, coupled with a superb McCollum left them one step away from their first conference final in a decade.

Despite the elimination, is a good season for them. They have managed to increase their level and make a team around a Nikola Jokic. The Serbian will be (if not already) among the best players of the next few years. The Serbian has gone to 20 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists in the regular season, averages that will leave him in one of the best quintets in the league. In addition, has raised its level in the playoffs, where it has been up to 25 + 13 + 8, signing numbers that leave him at the height of stars like Magic Johnson in the year of his debut in the final phase.

Also Jamal Murray has up to the mark. The base has given the stature and has been one of the players that has scared away the doubts that the experts had in such a young team. The 18 + 4 + 5 of the regular phase have also been improved in the playoffs: 21 + 4 + 5, including two consecutive 34-point games against the Blazers in the third and fourth games of the tie.

These two players will be the base , the support, and the future of the franchise. They have been improving their numbers since their arrival in the League, and they are well surrounded by a young core (Gary Harris, Mason Plumlee, Torrey Craig) who, if they do things well in Denver, will continue to grow with them. They have just lacked some experience. Millsap has acted as the veteran of the group in the absence of an Isaiah Thomas who did not fit into the team's model (what will happen to him?), But it seems that is not enough, at least for now. The current base of the staff will continue to improve, and if the offices do things well, the arrival of a veteran could give an impulse that would have come very well in the current eliminatory. If you are going to have insurance for the next campaign it will be Michael Porter Jr. (number 14 of the last draft), who has been in the dry dock all year but who has already announced his presence in the Summer League and will be with your colleagues for 2019 / 20.

Beyond this, the reading is positive. A great future awaits them and the project has experienced its first playoff experience. Many had to live the Blazers to sneak into a historic West final for them. For Denver this first contact has left them, we insist, on the doorstep of the conference finals, beating the way to some Spurs that, regardless of their current talent, have more tables than half of the League teams. And that they are trained by Gregg Popovich. Let's not forget that data

It has not been easy to get here. For that, the franchise has had to reinvent itself and try several options that have not gone as expected before reaching the situation in which they are. The situation they wanted to be in.

From George Karl to Mike Malone: benchmark reference

The Nuggets have returned to the playoffs five years later. They did it after a reconstruction that was not without difficulties and that included a defeat on the last day of last season against the Timberwolves that left them with honey on their lips and in ninth place in the West. Before that, in 2013, Brian Shaw took the reins of the team replacing George Karl. The former assistant of the Lakers was until his dismissal in 2015, when Melvin Hunt arrived, who acted as provisional remedy until the end of the year. Drought seasons in which they tried to find the key that would allow them to be competitive again.

There is a time to stop talking about Karl. With experience in European basketball and after passing through Real Madrid, the coach ran for the Seattle SuperSonics as an ideal coach for a long-term project. He put Gary Payton and Sahwn Kempt in the 1996 Finalsand years later he reached the conference finals with the Milwaukee Bucks of Ray Allen and Sam Cassell.

A the Nuggets arrived in 2004 to lead a new project: that of today vilified Carmelo Anthony. The coach took the team to the playoffs in all the seasons in which he held the position. All of them with a positive record, and managing to overcome the 50 victories up to five times. He also advanced to a new conference final in 2009, in which they lost to the Kobe and Pau Lakers. It is the last to have played the franchise.

Karl came out in 2013 after the aforementioned defeat in the first round of the playoffs against the Warriors. It was the last great season of the coach: 57-25 record and Best Trainer of the Year award (the first and only of his career). Time later he signed for the Kings, where he could not handle Cousins. Today is without a team, but in Denver left a vacuum and a legacy that the franchise has been slow to fill.

It was about finding a new coach with whom to start a new project. Shaw did not carburize and Hunt's ephemeral step did not allow conclusions. Then, Mike Malone arrived. It was a risky bet. His only experience had been in Sacramento, where he was fired in the middle of the 2014/15 season ... being replaced by Karl, ironies of destiny.

Similarly inexperienced, Malone claimed and promoted the team, improving it every year, staying with the playoffs in 2018, and turning it into one of the best of the League in the current campaign. The rest of the story we already know. There are reasons to dream about the Nuggets. And Malone, Jokic and Murray know it.



Photos from as.com

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