Even though the Nuggets‘ magical postseason run came to an end Saturday, the team appears to have a bright future ahead, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. After overcoming 3-1 deficits in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Denver couldn’t do it again against the Lakers, but coach Michael Malone believes the experience in Orlando should benefit his players.
“I think we have something special brewing,” Malone said. “And I think most importantly, I think people around this country, around the world, who were watching the playoffs, this group of guys, you would be hard pressed to find a better story coming out of this bubble. A bunch of young kids faced elimination, looked it in the face and just kept on surviving and advancing.”
The Nuggets’ hopes for improvement will center around the development of rookie forward Michael Porter Jr., who averaged 11.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in the postseason. Porter should be a full-time rotation player next season, and fellow rookie Bol Bol may also have a larger role. In addition, Will Barton will return after missing the entire playoffs with a knee injury.
“I think all great teams and champions have to go through the pains of losing,” Malone said. “And nothing is handed to you in this business. And we’re making steps. We’re moving in the right direction with a great group of guys.”
There’s more on the Nuggets:
- Denver’s challenge for the offseason will be deciding how to handle free agents Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, Torrey Craig and Paul Millsap without exceeding the luxury tax threshold, notes Bobby Marks of ESPN. The Nuggets hold Bird rights or Early Bird rights on all four players and can go over the salary cap to keep them. However, the team already has $95MM in guaranteed money committed to five players. Marks states that Denver can spend $29MM without paying the tax — that figure drops to $20MM if Grant opts into a $9.3MM salary for next season.
- Reaching an extension with reserve point guard Monte Morris should be another priority, Marks adds in the same story. Morris has a $1.7MM non-guaranteed contract for 2020/21 that will become guaranteed whenever free agency begins. Marks believes a realistic extension offer would be in the neighborhood of $27MM over three years.
- Jamal Murray played Saturday’s game with a bone bruise on his right knee and another bruise on his right foot, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. The pain contributed to Murray’s off night with 19 points on 7-of-17 shooting. “I don’t like to tell everybody what I got. I just like to play through it,” he said. “I was in pain, but it’s cool. I was out there. I was struggling a little bit today.”