The Denver Nuggets have a slew of improvements to make, as does every team. There is one specific focus that the Nuggets should have to find the most possible success.
Denver has had a decade of both success and failure. They tasted the bitterness of irrelevancy for a few years only to return to witness a clear bright future in front of them at the turn of the decade.
With the departure of Masai Ujuri as the GM, and the era of Tim Connelly, the Denver Nuggets have adopted a new identity.
The Philadelphia 76er’s labeled their rebuild as ‘Trust the Process’. In a similar sense , the Nuggets have branded their steady journey of immense progress by saying, ‘We don’t skip steps’. This methodology has led to the assembly of a formidable young core of players. This is a team which finished as the two seed last year, and was the eighth youngest NBA Playoff team ever. Tim Connelly has remained committed to building around the core of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris.
With a path so clearly set before them, what does such a team need to resolve for?
Resolution: Be patient
Patience is a virtue by which the current roster has been constructed. Via the draft, some shrewd trades, and one major free agent signing (Paul Millsap). The Denver Nuggets are on the brink of being a real contender, but as most see, are just short of that tier.
More than just a small part of this has to do with the youth of the team. The abundance of young talent has paid dividends for the Nuggets already, leading them to within one game of reaching the Western Conference Finals. Yet it was the lack of veteran experience which played a large role in falling short.
There’s two ways to remedy this particular issue.
The first and easiest is to ‘get older’, in a sense. To move younger assets to obtain older ones. Social media is crawling with proposals from various sources trying to deal higher end veterans like Jrue Holiday or Kevin Love to Denver. There is certainly nothing wrong with making trades to upgrade the team. However, a Jrue Holiday-caliber trade would require dealing away Gary Harris, and likely Michael Porter Jr, which is less than ideal if the identity of the team is to not ‘skip steps’. The team has already made statements to suggest that dealing part of the core is not their mindset.
If the goal is to obtain veteran players, the Nuggets need not do this at the expense of their young core. Ultimately, it is the young players which will create sustainability in the franchise. Deals for relatively inexpensive, yet beneficial players is a more ideal scenario.
There is an alternative to forcibly adding veterans. Again, Tim Connelly has constructed this roster around the core pieces of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris. These players are 24, 22, and 25 respectively. The core is only just entering their prime, (noting that NBA players peak around 27-28).
Keeping this in mind, there is absolutely no rush to push for immediate title contention at the expense of young assets. Once Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris are in their prime, other assets like Michael Porter Jr, Bol Bol, Jarred Vanderbilt will more than likely be viable rotation players, and the supporting cast of Will Barton, Jerami Grant, or even Torrey Craig will be young enough to still contribute meaningful minutes.
The window of championship contention for the Denver Nuggets is beginning to open, but even as the Nuggets see it approaching, they should not try to force this window open. The Nuggets, and Tim Connelly, are in a position to maintain sustainable success.
The Nuggets should hold fast to the same patience that has brought them to this moment. The ‘We Don’t Skip Steps’ mentality has prevailed for the team, and should continue to dictate the path of the front office if the ultimate goal is to not only win one championship, but to build a dynasty.