Photo courtesy of Getty Images/The Ringer illustration.
The Denver Nuggets have finally done it.
After years of trying to get over the hump, they made their first finals appearance, which led to their first-ever NBA Championship.
They went 16-4 throughout the course of the playoffs, culminating in a 4-1 victory over the Miami Heat. As expected, Nikola Jokic was named the Finals MVP.
The Nuggets were founded in 1967, and have made it to the semi-finals four times, but up until this year they had never made it to the finals.
A fair share of legends have spent time with the Nuggets. These include: Dan Issel, Alex English, David Thompson, Dikembe Mutombo and Carmelo Anthony. All of these players with the exception of Anthony are Hall of Famers; Anthony is expected to become one in the future.
Amongst these legends, Jokic is now the greatest Nugget of all time.
It was a tough road for Jokic and the Nuggets.
Despite being drafted in 2014, Jokic did not make his first playoffs until 2019.
The Nuggets were eliminated by the Portland Trailblazers in the second round in a Game 7 heartbreaker. But that was just the beginning for the then-up-and-coming Nuggets.
In 2020, the Nuggets emerged as a serious contender. Despite going down 3-1 to the Utah Jazz in the first round, they completed the comeback and found themselves in the same situation against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Nuggets then made history by being the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit twice in the same postseason.
Unfortunately for the Nuggets, they were eliminated in the Conference Finals by the Los Angeles Lakers, who went on to win the title. Despite this, Nuggets fans were hopeful that they would be back soon.
This was not the case, as Jamal Murray, the bonafide second option for the Nuggets, went down with an ACL injury in 2021. He missed the remainder of the 2020-2021 season and the entirety of the 2021-2022 season.
Jokic went on to win back-to-back MVPs during this stretch, but the Nuggets were not able to make it past the second round without their second option.
Murray is undoubtedly a star in the league, but has yet to make an All-Star appearance.
This season marked the Nuggets’ first healthy season since their Western Conference Finals run back in 2020, and they were able to finally show their true potential.
Key players such as Jokic, Murray, and then-rookie Michael Porter Jr. remained from that 2020 squad.
With the core intact, the Nuggets made moves along the margins to best support their core. They brought in Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with trades.
This gave them valuable defense and scoring to take the pressure off of the stars. They also brought in Bruce Brown in Free Agency, which also bolstered their defense.
All three of these players were instrumental down the stretch of game 5 of the finals.
The Nuggets ended the season as the first seed.
They had homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs, where they met the Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, and Miami Heat. They won each series without having to play a game 7, with the longest series being 6 games against the Suns.
During the playoff stretch, Jokic averaged 30 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 9.5 assists. Murray averaged 26.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 7.1 assists.
The Nuggets utterly dominated the postseason, and will enter the 2023-2024 season as the team to beat. This team is loaded with talent and is still on the younger side.
These Nuggets will continue to be a threat for years to come.