featured-image
DENVER, CO - APRIL 24: Jamal Murray #27 and Michael Porter Jr. #1 of the Denver Nuggets look on during Round 1 Game 4 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs on April 24, 2022 at the Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. See Bright Future Ahead For Healthy Nuggets Team

Writer and Digital Content Specialist

Denver Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly -- in his exit interview -- proclaimed that despite an abrupt end to their season, he had the utmost pride in his team for their fierce competitiveness in the face of massive obstacles.

Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. played a combined nine games this season. Staunch wing defender PJ Dozier played just 18 games before suffering a season-ending injury, ultimately getting traded midseason.

This led to a campaign in which Nikola Jokić had to play without his two main running mates. And as Connelly put it, head coach Michael Malone was forced to mix and match rotations in a way that was unexpected when the season began.

With all of these issues plaguing the team for 87 total games, 48 wins and a first round exit at the hands of the mighty Golden State Warriors can easily be seen as a victory. Of course, there are no excuses within the team, only the context by which this year is measured.

Now, the Nuggets get an offseason to return to full strength and prepare for a 2022-23 championship run.

This was the theme of the Murray and Porter Jr.'s exit interviews. Both spoke candidly, but positively, about their season spent behind the scenes.

Porter Jr. was particularly excited about how the injuries to him and Murray opened up doors for others, something that could a valuable asset next season. “Off the court, watching these dudes, seeing how guys’ roles changed, seeing the confidence Aaron Gordon gained over the season. Monte Morris, Bones coming in, and seeing how the team evolved without me and Jamal was pretty cool to see," Porter Jr. proclaimed.

"Kind of seeing the potential, because when me and Jamal do come back, those things will all play a big role. Guys gaining confidence when we were out, I think that’ll be valuable.”

With all of this in mind, the Nuggets star forward believes the sky is the limit in 2022-23. “I think when we are healthy, I think that we can be the best team in the NBA. I think that we have a championship in our future, for sure. That’s the goal.”

On a personal level, Murray focused on how he might improve as he works towards taking the floor in October. “I’m definitely more bouncy, definitely more bouncy than before. Definitely stronger, I’ve been lifting weights. That’s the thing, when it all comes together it’ll show.”

One thing that emanated from the two stars is their confidence for next season. Jokić has been remarkable holding down the fort in their absence, but the hope is he won't have to do so on such a large scale in the coming years.

Both players admitted that they are not yet at 100% strength, but remain positive about their chances to return next season and compete for an NBA championship.

Connelly, beyond the gratification he felt watching this year's team compete, praised the spirit within the locker room and what they feel they are capable of. “There’s an internal belief in that locker room, I think it’s based off the last three or four years of success, based off a bunch of guys that are really self-motivated and work extremely hard. We have a fantastic coaching staff, so we’d like to think we’re as good as anybody. We have to show that next year.”

The Nuggets organization is oozing confidence that they can return to being a top team. After three consecutive years of being a top-three seed in the Western Conference, they got the sour taste of being on the lower half of the bracket in 2022.

Now, with the focused shifted away from the Warriors series and on to a summer of recovery, the Nuggets have a real chance to cement themselves among the class of the NBA.