DROP THE MIKE

It’s time for Nuggets fans to dream big; it’s NBA Finals or bust in Denver

Jan 12, 2023, 6:52 AM | Updated: 1:44 pm

It feels like something special is brewing with the Denver Nuggets. They are battling for Western Conference supremacy with the Memphis Grizzlies. The official NBA power rankings have the Nuggets at No. 1 in the entire league. Nikola Jokic seems like he’s gaining steam in a bid to three-peat as NBA MVP.

Add it all up and it feels like the Nuggets are poised to do something big. Like really big. Like go to the NBA Finals big.

Lets start listing all the positives.

Jokic is at the height of his powers. Every night is a masterpiece in the Joker reading the situation and doing whatever is necessary. Be the alpha dog and score 35? Check. Decide that it’s a good matchup for a bunch of guys to eat? Jokic takes five shots, scores 15 points and dishes out 16 assists. He just doesn’t care about stats. Most big scorers know their average and find a way to get there every night. Nikola just doesn’t seem to care about that. That’s unique.

Jamal Murray is rounding into form. Aaron Gordon should be an All-Star. Michael Porter, Jr. has been inconsistent, but I believe his game will only improve as the season moves along. The Nuggets’ bench has been impactful enough that Charles Barkley recently called the Nuggets “the deepest team in the NBA.”

But what I like the most is the way Michael Malone is coaching this team. Every message, every timeout, every postgame press conference is all about what the Nuggets need to do to win a championship. This isn’t about winning games in January. It’s the lessons and mindset that needs to be drilled home that will make the difference in May and June.

Give Malone credit for consistency. He said during his end-of-the-season press conference last year the Nuggets were in a championship window. He continues to drive that message home now. I love it. It reminds me of where Jared Bednar and the Avalanche were a year ago at this time. Championship or bust.

Speaking of the Avs. There is one potential weakness for the Nuggets. That Avalanche team last year was a team that was carrying around playoff scars. Nathan MacKinnon talking about how he hadn’t won bleep in his career after the loss to Vegas. That was a series the Avs felt they should’ve won and the loss left them wounded.

The Nuggets don’t have those type of playoff scars. Yes, they’ve lost in the playoffs but because of injuries and the way they lost it just didn’t feel… painful. Do the Nuggets need that kind of playoff pain to fuel them?

Ordinarily, I’d say yes. But look around the Western Conference. It’s there for the taking. Who scares you? Memphis? No. New Orleans? Come on. The Clippers? Please. Those bowsers? I suppose Golden State if they get healthy, but it’s hard to repeat and something feels off with the Warriors. So who’s left? Phoenix? It feels like their window has closed. Dallas? Luka and not much else.

My point is with the way the Nuggets are playing, Jokic, their depth, Malone’s coaching and the path through the West, it feels like this could be year Nuggets’ fans have been waiting their whole lives for – a trip to the NBA Finals.

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