Top Ten Denver Nuggets Storylines Heading into Season Opener


By John Burns ’23

The NBA and the Nuggets are back in action tonight at 7pm!

Here are my top-ten storylines, expectations, goals, and questions for the finally healthy roster.

  1. Nikola Jokic.

    The team couldn’t have a better headliner. The Serbian center has proven himself as a unanimous top five player in the league, and comes off back-to-back MVP outings. His unique style of play, court vision, and shooting make him as deadly as an offensive threat as they come. It’s his selfless play style, though, that gives the team such an edge. Jokic’s usage rate has gone up every season since his rookie year- but with a reloaded roster, its possible his role will focus more on facilitating, and involving the plethora of talents that fill out this roster. Jokic’s availability has never been in question, and the Nuggets can continue to expect reliable, top-tier performances from their big man. If he can somehow continue to improve…

  1. The Murray dilemma.

    Jamal Murray is an elite, all-star level talent. Unfortunately, an ACL tear has kept him out of the last Nuggets two playoff appearances and could limit his usage again this year. The stud pick-and-roll point guard is a perfect pair with Jokic, and the two combine to make perhaps the best one-two punch in the league. Murray’s availability will be crucial for a deep playoff run, but Coach Mike Malone has repeatedly stated that Murray will not be starting off with heavy minutes. If Murray can trust his knee, and get back to his heroic Bubble Murray status, the Nuggets might just be the team to beat in the west.


  1. The fabulous five.

    Prior to Murray’s injury in the 2021 season, the Nuggets traded for Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon. When Gordon was on the floor with Murray, Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr. and Jokic, the team was laughably good. They led the league in offensive net rating, and commanded an undefeated record with those starters. Unfortunately, the streak ended when Murray went down injured in Golden State. Barton was shipped off to the Wizards, and the team hasn’t a clue of what the opening night starters will be. Lineups will be figured out and locked in later in the year, but for early season success the team has to be ready to play with a variety of player combinations.


  1. Booth SZN.

    Newly promoted General Manager Calvin Booth has done a seemingly excellent job of refreshing the Nuggets roster. Bruce Brown was a fantastic under the radar addition, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a perfect fit next to Jokic. Ish Smith is a bench stud, and DeAndre Jordan has already bought into his role as an enforcer. These guys bring in a veteran presence that will keep them locked in during both the regular season and playoffs. Booth and the front office were given multi-year extensions this off-season, and his moves will continue to shape the team as a contender- or pretender.


  1. Regular Season Record.

    The west is absolutely stacked. The Clippers, Timberwolves, and TrailBlazers will all be better, and heavyweights such as the Warriors, Suns, and Grizzlies will continue to give the Nuggets trouble. Every game counts, and with expectations high to finish as a top-three seed, they need to lock into the early games more than ever. Malone has a history of staring slow, but with a veteran locker room there is no excuse for early season blunders. Besides, by front loading wins, the Nuggets can aim to rest their starters later in the season.


  1. The Wembanyama sweepstakes.

    It’s no secret that roughly ten NBA teams will be tanking this season for the best prospect since LeBron himself. This means that wins are easier to grab than ever- but the Nuggets have to want them. This team has a history of taking nights off against the bottom feeders of the league. Instead, Jokic and the vets need to drill in the importance of winning, and winning big. The Boston Celtics (the odds on favorites for this year’s title) made a historic in-season turn around last season. The sign of their success? Blowing out teams, and never taking their foot off the gas. The Nuggets need to focus on back-to-backs, and need to approach the games they are favored to win with diligence.


  1. Drama queens.

    There is a lot of personality on this roster. MPJ is the guy I see as the biggest head case. He has a tendency to check out of games, and needs to understand that he isn’t the first, or second, and on many nights even third best player on the team. His opportunities will come with effort, and he needs to stop forcing bad shots. There is an all-star version of MPJ that could come out- and with his elite shooting, versatile body, and rebounding efforts it’s not even a long shot. However, the drama queen inside could quickly rise to the surface, and the team will not function to its full capacity without a bought in roster.



    The bench this year is extremely exciting. Ish Smith and DeAndre Jordan are fantastic new additions, but it’s the sixth-man of the year candidate that adds so much depth. Bones Hyland in his second season has all the tools to make a jump to stardom. The undersized guard is remarkably athletic, and he can shoot from 30+ feet like nobody else. He’s cocky, confident, and a crucial hot hand for the bench. In seasons past, the bench has lost the Nuggets games. This year, the expectation is for them to extend leads and win quarters. Malone has a history of not trusting rookies, but Christian Braun and sharp-shooter Jack White will be important pieces if used right. Still, this is Bones’s unit- and he has to take control.


  1. Defense?

    Or lack thereof I suppose. The Nuggets aren’t a defensive juggernaut. And they don’t need to be. The best defense is a good offense, and the Nuggets have a spectacular plethora of shooters, cutters, rebounders, and playmakers. Aaron Gordon, Bruce Brown, and KCP are all excellent defensive players who can all be on the court at the same time. The Nuggets have lineups and weapons to both slow down other teams, and respond with elite offense. The scoring slows down in the playoffs, so the team will need to be ready to put their best efforts into both sides of the ball come late in the season.


  1. Kronke, its time.

    The owner himself. Nuggets fans have been at ends with the notoriously cheap owner for years. Perhaps that’s changed, though. Kronke is coming off both Los Angeles Rams and Colorado Avalanche championships. The natural question is if can he complete the greatest run by an owner ever- and win a ring in three major sports, in back-to-back fashion. Fans have been in low attendance for years due to high ticket prices, and the lack of television availability is brutal. Kronke isn’t known as a man of the people. While that isn’t scheduled to change anytime soon, a Denver Nuggets championship would certainly go a long way. Pay the bills, and reap the benefits.