When you take a look around the current NBA landscape, there are plenty of young and exciting teams to be on the watch for this season, including the Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks. But with the way they’ve drafted the last few years, the Denver Nuggets may be the most exciting and promising of them all.
The Nuggets are an unproven team at this stage of their development, but the talent is there. In terms of potential, Emmanuel Mudiay and Nikola Jokic give the Nuggets a one-two punch most franchises can’t match up with, and they’ll both be under the age of 22 to start next season.
Add in this year’s draft class of Jamal Murray (19), Juancho Hernangomez (20) and Malik Beasley (19), and it’s hard to imagine a roster with more young assets than the Denver Nuggets — and that’s without even mentioning Gary Harris, Jusuf Nurkic or Will Barton.
But with all that said, the Denver Nuggets will need to find strong veteran leadership from somewhere. Luckily, Tim Connelly and Michael Malone look to have taken care of that, too, with the trio of Darrell Arthur, Jameer Nelson and league favorite Mike Miller to balance out Denver’s youth with a whole lot of experience.
In some ways, it was a bit of a surprise when Arthur opted to re-sign with the Nuggets this summer on a three-year, $28 million deal, despite having more profitable offers elsewhere. And with such a deep front court, Arthur likely won’t get as many minutes as he could have on another roster. Whether it’s Kenneth Faried, Juancho Hernangomez, Danilo Gallinari in small-ball lineups or Jokic in big lineups, there are a lot of people looking for minutes at the four, and someone’s going to miss out. Arthur’s desire to remain in Denver exemplifies the type of person that he is and the love and trust he has for this city.
A year ago, the Nuggets were in a similar position with Jameer Nelson, who went on to re-sign with a 3-year, $13.5 million deal. Despite Nelson’s declining production on the court, his importance to the Nuggets organization appears to be vital to the development of younger players, as he was a key piece in rebuilding Denver’s locker room under Malone last season.
But of all the veterans, there may not be a more respected, important player than Mike Miller.
I know, it’s a bit difficult to say a player that played only 373 minutes last year was one of the most valuable players on the team, but hear me out: Leadership means everything, and Miller is one of the most-respected mentors and locker-room leaders in the NBA.
When highly sought after free agent Dwyane Wade had a visit with the Nuggets, who did they bring? Mike Miller.
With players such as Arthur, Nelson and Miller bringing that much-needed mentorship role to the Nuggets locker room, Denver doesn’t have to worry about their young talent being led astray.
The Nuggets will surely have a few bumps on the road next season. There will be times when they’ll be rattled and pressured. There will be times when young players like Murray, Beasley and Mudiay go through slumps. But having that experienced veteran leadership will be key.
The Nuggets are heading in the right direction, and they’ve done the necessary things to get to this point in their development. With Josh Kroenke at the top, Tim Connelly making decisions and Michael Malone doing the driving, the Denver Nuggets have the infrastructure to be a contending team in the NBA.
So, with all the young talent driving the Nuggets’ future, it’s only right that we give praise to the pieces that keep the team connected on their quest to bring the playoffs back to Denver. Sometimes it’s about more than just basketball, and the fans should recognize that.
With such a young and inexperienced team heading into what appears to be a promising season, leadership will be the key.