Monday, 15 Jul 2024

Nuggets Need More Than Healthy Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. to Contend

The Denver Nuggets are gearing up for the next NBA season, and while the return of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. is undoubtedly exciting, head coach Michael Malone knows that it will take more than that for the team to become true title contenders.

Defense is a key area that the Nuggets need to address. Whether it’s through changes in attitude or player acquisitions, the team must improve to reach their full potential. Despite missing Murray for the entire season due to ACL reconstruction and Porter for the majority of the games due to back surgery, the Nuggets managed to win 48 games, thanks largely to the outstanding performance of reigning MVP Nikola Jokic.

However, their playoff run was cut short when they lost to the Golden State Warriors in five games, with Murray and Porter watching from the sidelines. Malone recognizes that this upcoming offseason is crucial for the Nuggets. They need to build a supporting cast around Jokic that can help them take advantage of his prime years.

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Murray and Porter’s return is just the starting point. To achieve their goal of winning a championship, the Nuggets must make the most of the window of opportunity they have with Jokic in his prime. This includes making smart moves in the draft, trades, and free agency.

Malone emphasizes that the players themselves need to come back better than ever. Improving their individual skills and abilities is paramount. As a coaching staff, they also need to find ways to help the team excel.

One area of focus for the Nuggets is their defense. Malone admits that their performance against the Warriors was not up to par, and their overall defensive rating in the playoffs was below average. They allowed too many easy baskets, struggled to guard one-on-one, and lacked shot-blocking presence. These are areas that need significant improvement.

Malone believes that an elite defense is essential to become a formidable playoff team. It’s an area that the Nuggets will prioritize going forward. He acknowledges that having tough perimeter defenders, like Aaron Gordon and Austin Rivers, is a step in the right direction.

Looking ahead to next season, Malone stresses the importance of patience with Murray and Porter. They both missed substantial playing time this season, and it will take time for them to regain their rhythm and confidence. The organization has shown patience thus far, and that approach will continue as they ease the duo back into action.

In summary, while the return of Murray and Porter is cause for excitement, the Nuggets understand that they need to make significant improvements, particularly on the defensive end, to reach their championship aspirations. With the right supporting cast and a focus on individual and team development, the Nuggets have the potential to become a legitimate contender in the NBA.

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