30 Teams 30 Days
30 Teams 30 Days
30 Teams 30 Days
30 Teams 30 Days

30 Teams in 30 Days: Nuggets still have time on their side

Shaun Powell

Shaun Powell

Archive

Sep 25, 2016 12:23 PM ET

Will rookies Malik Beasley, Jamal Murray and Juan Hernangómez solidify Denver's future?

Since the Cavaliers won their first NBA title back on June 19, NBA teams have undergone a number of changes over the long summer offseason. NBA.com's Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise -- from the team with the worst regular-season record in 2015-16 to the team with the best regular-season record -- during the month of September as we look at 30 Teams in 30 Days. | Complete schedule

Today's team: Denver Nuggets

2015-16 record: 33-49

Who's gone: G D.J. Augustin, F/C Joffrey Lauvergne

Who's new: PG Jamal Murray, PF Juan Hernangomez, SG Malik Beasley, PFPetr Cornelie (via Draft)

The lowdown: The Nuggets haven't been a contender in almost four seasons, back when coach George Karl was pulling the strings.

For the most part, when it came to making moves and burning up the phone lines, the Nuggets decided to sit this one out. And it wasn't such a bad strategy. They're in no position to sweet-talk a big-time free agent, so the Nuggets chose to stick with the gameplan and build from within and through the Draft. That won't exactly stir the fans in Denver, but rather than risk being reckless, the Nuggets will go the home-grown route for now and then see what's up next summer.

Therefore, don't anticipate much in terms of bottom-line progress this season. While the Nuggets may be better than last season's 33-win model, it will take time for their young players to deal with their mistakes and find their rhythm. Best that Denver can hope is, come next spring, the team will be competitive and looking forward to 2017-18.

Nuggets president Josh Kroenke said when Denver is playoff-bound again, he wants a team with staying power and not a mid-level team that collapses in the first round. He's willing to open the wallet next summer, when the free-agent market will be more robust. That doesn't mean the Nuggets will get an A-list player, but they should have ample money to make it tough for someone to turn them down.

Until then, the Nuggets will be defined by the progress of three guards:Emmanuel Mudiay, Murray and Gary Harris, their No. 1 picks the last threeseasons.

The newcomer to that group brings plenty of potential. Denver had the No. 7 pick and only had to sit tight and see who fell to them: Kris DunnBuddy Hieldor Murray. It probably worked out best that it was Murray, who has perhaps the best shooting range of the three and is a capable off-the-dribble scorer.

What he doesn't bring is natural point guard instincts, so the Nuggets will likely stick him at two-guard. That was an issue, to a degree, last season with Mudiay. While Mudiay clearly had a solid skill set, his court vision and passing needed work (as did his shooting -- 36.4 percent). The Nuggets gave him 30.4 minutes a night anyway, as they should have, and need to take a similar approach with Murray. Let the kids play and learn and make their mistakes now, rather than later, when the franchise is ready to take the next step.

With their two additional first-round picks, the Nuggets took Hernangomez and Beasley, who are 20 and 19 years old, respectively. Hernangomez is an aggressive (if thin), lively forward and Beasley brings intriguing talent. They'll be pressed to get big minutes in the rotation right away.

Although the Nuggets are clearly leaning toward youth, they still have solid veterans who'll command much of the minutes and responsibility. Do the Nuggets plan to keep the likes of Kenneth Faried and Danilo Gallinari all season? Or will they dangle someone as trade bait by midseason? It all depends if those players and others are being pushed by the younger players, and what the Nuggets can reasonably expect to get in return.

Overall, the Nuggets are in decent shape. The salary cap is free of dead weight, the young players seem ready to develop and fan expectation is mild. There's no urgency or pressure. And the team is in good hands with coach Mike Malone, who has a good command of the locker room and connects well with the young players.

They can realistically expect to return to the Draft lottery at least once more before it's time to dream big. At some point, they'll need to pull the trigger on a trade or two, and sign a free agent, and hope one or two of their recent first-round picks transforms into a solid player (if not an All-Star).

That's quite a lot, but then, the Nuggets have a lot of time, if nothing else. That's their biggest asset.

Coming Next: Milwaukee Bucks

To check out the rest of the series schedule, click here.

Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him onTwitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. 


Copyright © 2019 NBA Media Ventures, LLC. All rights reserved.

Privacy Policy | Accessibility and Closed Caption | Terms of Use |

NBA.com is part of Turner Sports Digital, part of the Turner Sports & Entertainment Digital Network.

Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. A Time Warner Company.