The Denver Nuggets have brought the 2022-23 NBA season to an end by winning its first championship. Fresh off of their defeat of the Miami Heat in five games, there will be little time to celebrate before looking ahead to the 2023-24 season.
But for now, the Nuggets are the newest team to the mountaintop. There are more than a few talking points regarding this season, each of which is worth taking a deeper dive into below.
New Heights for the Franchise
This season is both one of firsts as well as a tale of redemption. Let’s start with the latter first. Back in 2020, during what is now known as “the bubble playoffs”, each playoff team was locked inside the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. It was part of the effort to quarantine during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic without having to sacrifice an NBA champion.
During those bubble playoffs, the Nuggets reached the Western Conference Finals. Ultimately, they would succumb to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers just shy of their first-ever appearance in the NBA Finals. It would set the course for what would be to come.
Fast-forward to late May 2023. The Nuggets and Lakers are both back in the Western Conference Finals but it all felt different. The Nuggets came in as the top seed in the West and it showed. A four-game sweep would give way to the Nuggets’ first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history.
Before the Finals started, pundits largely favored the Nuggets. And how could you not? They steamrolled their way through the Western Conference, going an impressive 12-3 against the Timberwolves, Suns, and Lakers. The Cinderella story Miami Heat were waiting, but even that story didn’t feel like it could get in the way. And it certainly didn’t.
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) June 13, 2023
The Clown Prince of the Paint
The Nuggets begin and end with Nikola Jokic, aka Joker. The unassuming big man goes about his business like any 9-5 job. He simply wants to show up, put in a good day’s work, and go home to his family and horses.
It just so happens that he’s arguably the best player in the NBA. Not convinced? Prior to this year, Jokic won back-to-back MVPs and arguably should have had a third straight. It came down to voters simply wanting someone new, not necessarily fair to Jokic’s performance.
During the regular season, Jokic nearly averaged a triple double per game. His 24.5 PPG, 11.8 RPG, and 9.8 APG are the kind of numbers that only the most elite big men have ever come near. He does it with one of the most unorthodox shots and deft passing touches that a big man has ever had in the NBA.
In the playoffs, he was even more ridiculous. In 20 playoff games, Jokic averaged 30 PPG, 13.5 RPG, and 9.5 APG. Those numbers are even better than his MVP-caliber season, during a time when the competition is even stiffer than normal.
Jokic is just happy everything is done. He wants to get back home and see his racehorses perform. And eventually, he will look ahead to the 2023-24 season and put his best foot forward toward dominating once again.
YOU HEARD THE MAN 🗣️ pic.twitter.com/1pWIrSd2wb
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) June 15, 2023
The Tale of Jamal Murray
As important and endearing as the Jokic story is to this Nuggets season, Jamal Murray’s may be the more touching one. After a knee injury derailed his 2021-22 season, the latest in a long line of injury woes, Murray was certain that he was done in Denver. Tearfully, he asked head coach Michael Malone if he was going to be traded. Emphatically, Malone replied, “no way, you’re ours.”
Murray answered the bell in 2022-23 and showed why Malone stuck with him. He was very good in the regular season, appearing in 65 games while averaging 20 PPG and just over six APG, both well over his career averages. But it was the playoffs where Murray really broke out and made his presence known.
In the playoffs, Murray averaged 26.1 PPG, just over seven APG, and just shy of six RPG. He was outstanding throughout, having a few monster performances that made the Nuggets too much to handle between him and Jokic.
Actions speak louder than words 🗣️ pic.twitter.com/t0uNRPFS8K
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) June 16, 2023
The Nuggets and their fan base are already riding high. Even better, the future doesn’t look any less bright. Jokic will be back and likely contending for another MVP. Murray will be back as well. Most of this group, which proved to be overwhelming to most opponents during the playoffs, will be back.
It should be another year of contention for the Nuggets. Whether they can go from never having won a title to back-to-back champions remains to be seen. But what a story it would be for newcomers to the NBA mountaintop.
Festivities on film 🎞️ pic.twitter.com/KTCc3UOIZs
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) June 16, 2023