The Nuggets’ Good, the Bad and the Ugly: A special ‘thank you’

Mar 11, 2018; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) and center Nikola Jokic (15) help forward Will Barton (5) up in the second quarter against the Sacramento Kings at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets’ has come to an end after a heartbreaking 112-106 overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on the last game of the season. Denver finished the regular season with a 46-36 record, which surpassed what Vegas predicted, but it still wasn’t enough to put Denver back in the playoffs — a place they haven’t been since the 2012-13 season.

Now that the team’s season is finished, they head into an ultra-important offseason with many questions. So, for my final Good, Bad and Ugly of the 2017-18 NBA season, I give you a glimpse of the season in its entirety — and how this team went out kicking and screaming.

The Good: An inspiring season

If you take the see the growth and progression under head coach Michael Malone from the beginning of the season until the end of it, there are plenty of reasons for optimism. At the start of April, the team was sitting at 40-35 and in 10th place in the Western Conference playoff race — and without leading scorer Gary Harris due to injury. They won six in a row before falling in Minnesota. The team might not have accomplished their overall goal of making the playoffs, they did inspire. Their season ended on game 82, in overtime, against a team that found a way to dig just a bit deeper. Fans were finally tuning in and coming out to the Pepsi Center, the team had started to believe and play for one another — and that bodes well for next year.

The Bad: Paul Millsap’ injury changes everything

While most teams that don’t make the postseason are viewed as having an unsuccessful season, Denver’s situation wasn’t like most teams. Nikola Jokic had to miss six games due to a left sprained ankle, Gary Harris was sidelined at the worst possible time for 11 games because of a strained knee, and the team went through more than half of the season (44 games) without their $30 million man, Paul Millsap, due to a wrist injury that required surgery. Yet the team still showed improvement under Malone, as usual. In the three years that Malone has been with the team, there’s been nothing but progress. He’s went from 33 wins in 2015-16, to 40 wins in the 2016-17 season, and now to 46 wins in Year Three without their highest-paid player for the majority of the season. The team had to adjust on the fly with different playing styles, abilities and rotations — and they were still just a friendly bounce or two away from reaching the postseason. Don’t get me wrong, there were its fair share of disappointments, like losing at least once to the bottom five teams in the NBA in Dallas (twice), Phoenix, Memphis, Atlanta and Sacramento — those losses don’t happen to rock-solid playoff teams. Had Millsap been healthy, I’m confident enough to say that they would have won a few more games this year – they needed one more win.

The Ugly: It’s over too soon — again

Well, it’s all done. No more morning practices, no more late nights at the Pepsi Center. I want to personally thank the lovely staff involved with this team that made each game memorable and as easy-going as a reporter could ask. That extends to the coaching staff and players as well. But most of all, I want to say thank you to the readers and dedicated supporters of Mile High Sports. You gave us a platform for the year and kept us motivated. The 2017-18 season is over and now and even though we’re not even 72 hours removed from what will surely be a long summer –- we prepare for next season. That means T.J. McBride will have his formidable prospect breakdowns with players from the upcoming draft as well as what free agents makes sense, with other things, course. Newcomer Brendan Vogt was a revelation. Those two were incredible to work alongside this year — and their Denver Nuggets Daily Podcast became a must-listen each and every day. A special thanks to Aniello Piro, who jumped in willingly despite having so much going on with the most overwhelming beat in all of sports, baseball. Thank you to our MVP, Jeff Morton, who was always supportive and allowed us to express our thoughts in the most creative ways — because of them, this was most definitely my best year covering the team. I look forward to continuing what we have going and while there aren’t any games in the near future, the beat never stops.

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