Biggest offseason in Nuggets history? Malone thinks it’s make or break
The Denver Nuggets season ended a week ago, and now the organization has had some time to reflect on their first-round exit.
The back-to-back MVP has only won five postseason games during his reign, and some would say the team has come up short. Head coach Michael Malone would not say that.
“I don’t feel like we’ve come up short, especially when you take into account all the circumstances this year,” Malone said Wednesday. “I think with no Jamal Murray and once Michael Porter went down early in November that for me changed the outlook. Take two max players off any team in the NBA I think they’re gonna have a hard time winning 48 games.”
Short or not there has been a lot of fun around the Nuggets but no ring. And no matter how much fans have enjoyed the team, the team itself is only delighted with a title.
“It’s seven years; it has been great, but we have not gotten to the finals and we have not won a championship and that that is what we’re all doing this for,” Malone said.
The fact for the Nuggets is that they’ve never had a better player than they do right now in Nikola Jokic. At no other time in team history, aside from the shooting star that was David Thompson, have the Nuggets had a top-five player in the league. And that puts the pressure on the franchise to win. And given ownership won a Super Bowl in LA this year and are Stanley Cup favorites, it’s fair to think KSE is thinking Larry O’Brien.
“We’ve done a lot of really good things, four years in the playoffs, 48 wins this year, but think this might be the biggest offseason at least for me and my perspective, since I’ve been here,” Malone said. “My mindset is, everybody wants to just say, ‘well, it’s just Michael and Jamal coming back healthy’. I think that’s a starting block, but it doesn’t end there.”
Malone then explained further, getting at the core of the Nuggets’ thought process right now.
“We have a window, and I think windows are only open so long,” he said. “We have a 27-year-old phenom who will certainly hopefully soon be named back-to-back MVP. We have to capitalize while we have a special player in Nikola, and do everything that we can as an organization and I know we will, to put the best players around him to give ourselves the best chance to win a world championship. That is what motivates Stan and Josh Kroenke. That is what motivates Tim Connelly and Calvin Booth. That is what motivates me, is finding a way to put the best team together next season moving forward to try to win a championship.”
Jokic is poised to stay with the Nuggets long-term, saying he’d sign the super-max extension this summer when it gets offered to him. Jokic was the first player in NBA history to score 2,000 points, nab 1,000 rebounds and get 500 assists this past season.
The Nuggets will need to surround Jokic, Murray and Porter with shooters and defense, two things that the team will still need even when the latter two come back healthy after a season injured.
“You don’t have to watch basketball for five minutes to realize that joker likes shooters around him,” Nuggets General Manger Calvin Booth said. “He’s expending a lot of energy during the game. I think when he’s fresh, he’s solid defensively, but as the game goes on, the season goes on. Defense becomes a little bit more challenging so guys that can hold their own and not allow those rim attacks happen… look, everybody in this league is always trying to find two-way players and that’s why they’re hard to get.”
Booth will need to give Malone some of those two-way players if the Nuggets are to take advantage of Jokic’s prime.