Strike 2: Regardless of how this Nuggets – T-Wolves series, or the season as a whole, finishes out, the Denver front office will be faced with some tough decisions this offseason.

They may get away with standing pat after last offseason. Going with a young and cap-friendly bench might turn out okay this time. But given the stern (and youthful) competition they’re now facing in the NBA’s Western Conference, the Nuggets will need some new blood before they take the court again next fall.

Yes, they’ll still have the best player in the game in his prime. Everyone in Nuggets Nation knows full well that Nikola Jokic is the textbook definition of “Most Valuable Player.” He’s been recognized now for four consecutive seasons for fulfilling those job responsibilities. Nuggets fans know that on one of those occasions – last season – he got an MVP award for his performance during the playoffs, when not so coincidentally, his team also won the NBA title.

Jamal Murray will enter next season in the final year of his current “max” contract. Aaron Gordon will be in the final year of his contract, with a player option for 2025-26. Michael Porter Jr. still has three more seasons on his “max” contract. But Kentavious Caldwell Pope needs to be reupped before he hits the free agent market this July. He’s got a player option at just $15 million for next year, but it’s highly unlikely he’s going to stick around at that price.

Everyone else is inexpensive and/or too young to worry about just yet. But if you’re the Nuggets brass, you had better worry about the depth that you have behind that starting five.

Remember, the first two times Joker was honored with an MVP award for his amazing regular season performances, the Nuggets were bounced in the early rounds of the postseason. Now that he’s won his third regular season award for this recently completed regular season, and the Nuggets find themselves in a second round dogfight, time is about to tell if there’s a correlation.

The downside of having a do-everything MVP like Jokic is that his team – and the front office too – tend to become too reliant on one guy. In this case, it’s the moments within a game when he’s not on the floor; as Nuggets play-by-play man Jason Kosmicki describes it, the “non-Jokic minutes” that are a concern. Oftentimes, it’s been a really big concern.

It wouldn’t be fair to call Joker a one-man band of course, because he’s got standouts like Murray and Gordon playing with him. But even they can’t do enough to plug the small leaks that inevitably show up in those “non-Jokic minutes.” If the Nuggets didn’t have Joker, they’d likely be a mid-level/borderline playoff squad.

That should be concerning for the Denver front office, which has drafted and is developing numerous young and talented players, but no one that can come close to stepping in for Jokic now or in the future. What do they do in the upcoming draft? Do they chase a big name free agent? Do they resign KCP or risk a repeat of the Bruce Brown scenario? Would they consider letting Murray or Gordon walk away as a free agent?

Given their salary cap situation, the Nuggets may have to do something drastic, like consider trading away the awesome potential and max contract of MPJ. While Porter has been a key ingredient for this Nuggets team, has he played all the way up to max-contract status?

These are things to consider while we watch the Nuggets try to battle their way to another title. The competition keeps getting better. Can Denver?