The Long Two: Where do the Nuggets go from here?

The Long Two: Where do the Nuggets go from here?

What do the Denver Nuggets need to do this offseason?
For as much as the 2019 and 2020 postseason exposed about the skill and resolve of Denvers finest players, this years playoffs exposed a number of the lineups faults– most notably on defense, where Michael Porter Jr. and Nikola Jokić were consistently assaulted by a ruthless Suns backcourt. Both Jokić and Porter have actually materialized protective strides in their young careers, however the playoffs present a various obstacle than the regular season in both intensity and specificity of a challengers gameplan. The Nuggets can make it through a 72-game schedule by concealing their weakest protectors on off-ball offending players or staying in sound position versus a challengers family pet plays. Its significantly more difficult to mask a weak spot in the playoffs, not to mention 2, and Phoenix found astonishing success by exploiting Porters upright gait and Jokićs sluggish lateral motion and lack of resistance at the rim.
Those kinds of limitations from such central offensive pieces require a more specific vision for how their team need to build around them. Aaron Gordon, a shrewd mid-season pickup before Murrays injury, could eventually become the sort of rim protector needed to secure Jokić, but his talents are more beneficial on the boundary. Michael Malone used Gordon in nearly every possible match in the playoffs, but still, the Nuggets did not have adequate point-of-attack defenders to slow two of the NBAs best backcourts. (Murrays return will do little to improve the teams point-of-attack defense.).
Barring a major shakeup (i.e. trading one of Murray or Porter), Denver does not have much trade ammunition, and with Jokić and Porter already signed through 2023 and 2025, respectively, and Porter soon due for a substantial raise, the Nuggets will have limited means of enhancing the personnel around its three stars. The Nuggets can use the biannual and mid-level exceptions to upgrade on the margins, however its unlikely either nets a player who moves the needle for a group with such particular, pushing needs.
None of these constraints always prohibit the Nuggets from emerging from this defeat as bona fide champion competitors– or even favorites. Internal improvement from Jokić and his supporting cast could raise Denver in the Western Conference hierarchy even without external relocations.
However the front office should assess this lineup– and its future– honestly and act accordingly prior to next season. The Nuggets might have had their weak points exposed, however that should inform them exactly what they need to fix.
Kevin Durant, in complete control.
The luster of Kevin Durants Game 5 masterpiece wasnt just in the way he dominated his specific match, or how easily he entered whatever shot he desired, but in the degree of proficiency he revealed over each aspect of the video game. Durant has actually always been able to control a private match, typically with incredible ease, while the other elements of the video game– pick-and-roll passing, beating double teams, controling weak-side defenders, off-ball movement– have actually waxed and subsided throughout his career. Hes flashed however never regularly displayed the sort of meticulous control over a video games every belongings that the NBAs other elite playmakers do.

When Milwaukee single-covered Durant (or miscommunicated switches), he penalized them with untouchable jumpers:.

The Nuggets were shorthanded and worn down in their loss to the Suns, but theyll still need to make significant enhancements this offseason to reach the NBAs top tier of title contenders.
Getting swept by a legitimate champion competitor while missing out on three crucial rotation players shouldnt send the Nuggets into crisis mode, however it must be cause for honest self-evaluation. Perhaps the only silver lining of Denvers swift second-round defeat to the Suns is the clearness it must offer the franchise moving on.

The Nuggets are an extremely good basketball group with the ruling league MVP and three more starters under 27 years old on the lineup; their objective needs to be winning a championship as quickly as possible. The Nuggets can get through a 72-game schedule by hiding their weakest defenders on off-ball offending players or staying in sound position versus a challengers animal plays. Michael Malone used Gordon in practically every possible match in the playoffs, but still, the Nuggets did not have enough point-of-attack protectors to slow two of the NBAs best backcourts. Disallowing a major shakeup (i.e. trading one of Murray or Porter), Denver doesnt have much trade ammo, and with Jokić and Porter already signed through 2023 and 2025, respectively, and Porter soon due for a big raise, the Nuggets will have restricted methods of enhancing the personnel around its 3 stars. The Nuggets can utilize the mid-level and biannual exceptions to update on the margins, but its unlikely either nets a gamer who moves the needle for a group with such particular, pushing requirements.

Playing as hard as Durant performed in such a main offending function for a complete 48 minutes is exceptionally demanding, and it remains to be seen how he and James Harden (who played 46 minutes in Game 5 while plainly hobbled by a hamstring injury) react to such heavy work the rest of the series. But even if Durants superhuman effort isnt completely replicable in Game 6, it still moved the Nets within a single win of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, with Durant still at the peak of his powers.

The Bucks did little to cool Durant off when he got going, sticking to their default drop coverage rather of sending out tough doubles or even bringing Brook Lopez a step or 2 higher on the floor. Brooklyn leveraged that versus its opponent by setting high ball screens near halfcourt designed to give Durant a long runway to the rim:.

On the rare occasion that Milwaukee successfully denied Durant his spots, he reacted not with resignation to a stalled possession, however with fast return to the ball and into a threatening position:.

On Tuesday night, those pieces all coalesced into 49 points, 17 rebounds and 10 helps in 48 minutes while missing out on simply 7 of his 23 shots, without the high-end of another super star (or 2) to relieve his work. This was Durant at his best, picking apart among the finest defenses in the NBA as both a scorer and a passer, burying objected to pull-up jumpers of his own and setting up wide-open ones for teammates. He read whatever Milwaukee tossed at him and made the best decision at practically every turn. When the Bucks shaded towards him, he consistently discovered the right pass:.

The Nuggets are an extremely great basketball team with the ruling league MVP and 3 more beginners under 27 years old on the roster; their objective should be winning a champion as soon as possible. Jamal Murrays terrible ACL injury irreversibly decreased the trajectory of Denvers season in April, but Murray (and Will Barton and P.J. Dozier, who missed out on many of the playoffs as well) does not fully account for the difference between a champion run and a second-round sweep.