Nikola Jokic was the NBA’s MVP last season and this year, it would not be surprising to see him win the award again.
One of the best centers the NBA has ever seen, Jokic continues to evolve into a multidimensional threat on the offensive-end of the floor while also showing improvements on the defensive-end of the floor.
At just 27-years-old, Nikola Jokic has proven that he is one of, if not the best, players in the entire league and the 2021-22 season was arguably his best season yet.
Without Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray, two of the Denver Nuggets best players next to their MVP, Jokic was able to carry Denver to 48 wins on the season.
Losing in the first-round of the playoffs is definitely disappointing, especially if the Serbian big man does win the league’s Most Valuable Player award again, but if they can get healthy, the Nuggets are definitely going to elevate themselves into championship contending status next season.
Almost their entire core from this season, including Porter Jr. and Murray, are under contract for the 2022-23 season and with some younger players stepping up into big roles this season, there is a lot to like about this group heading into the offseason.
However, the Nuggets’ front-office will have some key decisions to make over the next several months, especially with Nikola Jokic up for a massive contract extension and the fact that Denver is committed to more than $160 million in total salaries for the 2022-23 season already.
Should we expect to see some massive changes to this roster heading into the NBA offseason?
Let’s take a look at each key member of the 2021-22 Denver Nuggets and evaluate whether or not the team should keep them or look to move on from them.
If he had not been injured this season, who knows what could have happened with the Denver Nuggets.
They would have definitely eclipsed 48 wins on the year and with a healthy Murray, the Nuggets could have potentially rivaled the Phoenix Suns for the top-spot in the Western Conference!
After all, Denver finished as the 3-seed in the conference during the 2020-21 season with Jamal Murray on the floor, so he has proven to be one of the more impactful guards in this league.
Murray is the heart and soul of this Denver Nuggets team and while Nikola Jokic is the leader, the former Kentucky Wildcat gives them a sense of direction. He is the security blanket on offense and we have seen glimpses of Murray's full All-Star potential the last couple of seasons.
Getting Jamal Murray back and healthy for the 2022-23 season is going to be essential for the Nuggets and with him on the floor, they are a Top-4 team in the Western Conference.
VERDICT: MUST KEEP, no questions asked
Coming over from Brooklyn prior to the start of the season, Jeff Green played an integral part in Denver’s success during the regular season without Michael Porter Jr. available.
His experience is exactly what the Nuggets were lacking in their second-unit a season ago and because of his versatility on the defensive-end of the floor, Green was the guy to step up into the starting lineup in the frontcourt next to Nikola Jokic late in the season.
Shooting just 31.5% from deep, Green did struggle from three-point range this year and he really did not contribute much offensively in the playoffs, averaging just 3.8 points per game on 26.7% shooting from deep against the Golden State Warriors.
In terms of finding veteran, experienced players, Denver probably would not be able to get much better than Jeff Green and his contract is very reasonable for next season at $4.5 million, should he opt into his contract.
Michael Porter Jr.’s back is definitely a “yellow flag” moving forward and as a result, having a player that Green who is pretty predictable is comforting for head coach Michael Malone and his coaching staff.
VERDICT: Not a big deal if he leaves, but it would be nice to keep him around
A fan-favorite in Denver, Facundo Campazzo has been a steady, reliable back-up guard or the Nuggets over the years.
However, his role moving forward is definitely going to be in question with the emergence of rookie Bones Hyland.
This season, Campazzo played in 65 games, averaging 5.1 points, 3.4 assists, 1.0 steals and he shot 36.1% from the floor in about 18.2 minutes per game.
The 31-year-old Argentinian guard is a positive locker room guy and has proven to be a useful mentor for some of the younger players on Denver’s roster.
Do the Nuggets need Facundo Campazzo to contend for a title?
No they don’t.
Defensively though, he has given them a boost in the past and like Jeff Green, he is a reliable veteran presence on the bench.
VERDICT: Don't keep
Jamal Murray being out the whole year definitely took a toll on the Nuggets’ chances to find postseason success, but in his absence, Monte Morris really found his identity in this league.
Morris averaged career-highs in minutes, points, rebounds and assists this season and next to Nikola Jokic, he proved to be one of the team’s better, more consistent offensive weapons.
No matter what role Denver needed him to play, Morris always stepped up and delivered.
Now, through five years in the NBA and being 26-years-old, Monte Morris is an experienced, youthful talent that the Nuggets can depend on in their backcourt.
Numerous teams around the league would love to get their hands on the Nuggets’ guard and make him their starting point guard, which is why Denver is lucky to have him as their back-up.
Being under contract for the next two seasons, the team should be in no rush to get rid of Monte Morris, even though moving his contract could give them some solid financial relief in terms of tax money.
VERDICT: Must keep
When Denver traded for Bryn Forbes back in January, they envisioned him being a perimeter scorer that they could utilize to spread the floor and give Jokic some help in terms of three-point shooting around him.
Well, this role was quickly given to rookie Bones Hyland this year, leaving Forbes deep on the Nuggets’ bench.
A career 41.3% three-point shooter, Forbes is not a bad player to keep around, but his price tag could be a little bit outside of what Denver can afford in free agency.
Bryn Forbes made $4.5 million this season and now set to become an unrestricted free agent, it is hard to see the Nuggets willing to offer him more than a minimum contract to be their 10th or 11th man on the bench.
His teammates really liked him and he fit in from Day 1, but the Nuggets need to allocate their money elsewhere in the offseason.
VERDICT: Don't’ keep
For years, we have been waiting to see Aaron Gordon burst onto the scene and show his full potential given his dynamic and athletic nature of play.
He has shown flashes of this full potential, but Gordon seems to be a finished product at this point in his career.
Gordon is definitely not a bad player and he proved to be very useful next to Jokic in the frontcourt this season, finishing the year ranking second on the team in scoring.
When he wants to, Aaron Gordon can be a lot to handle for his opponents simply because of his insane jumping abilities and physicality, specifically in terms of rebounding.
Crashing the offensive boards is the next step in Gordon’s evolution as a player in this league and he can continue to take a lot of stress off the back of Nikola Jokic by adapting to this role as the fourth- or fifth-best player on the court when Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray are healthy.
Moving forward, Gordon is going to be viewed as the Nuggets’ “glue guy” in the sense that he is going to be holding everything together on both ends of the floor.
He is not the best scorer, nor the best defender, but Aaron Gordon is an above-average role player that would be hard for the Nuggets to replace at either forward position because of how well he plays his role.
VERDICT: Keep, for now
Outside of Jokic, the Nuggets’ frontcourt was a mess this season with Michael Porter Jr. being out.
Jeff Green stepped up, as did Aaron Gordon at times, but the one guy Denver fans constantly waited on was JaMychal Green.
The 31-year-old big man was supposed to be a low-risk, high-reward type of veteran for the Nuggets and the rewards just never came this season.
At times, Green did play well and gave the Nuggets a big boost off-the-bench, but for the vast majority of the season, he was just a veteran presence on the bench that saw 12-14 minutes a game at best.
Moving forward, JaMychal Green’s role is hard to predict.
Experience is definitely a “plus” for him, but overall, $8.2 million is a lot of money to pay a player that is going to see very few minutes during the regular season and in the playoffs.
VERDICT: Don’t keep, look to trade if he opts into his 2022-23 contract
This season’s rookie class was very impressive and one of the rookies that did not get enough appreciation around the league was Bones Hyland.
Early on in the season, Hyland’s role was very minimal and he saw limited minutes as he looked to get acclimated to the Nuggets’ system.
As soon as the new year began though, the rookie guard began to solidify his spot in the Nuggets’ rotation and during the final month of the regular season, Hyland was one of the best rookies in the league scoring-wise!
Three-point shooting has quickly become a huge part of contributions to this team and being a “spark” off-the-bench, Bones Hyland is going to hold a very important role on Denver’s 2022-23 roster.
VERDICT: Must keep
Throughout his career, Will Barton has been great at being one thing – a key sixth man for his team.
Over the last few seasons, Barton has stepped up for the Denver Nuggets and has been inserted into the starting rotation, but he would be a much better option for this team coming off-the-bench because of his ability to create opportunities on the offensive-end of the floor.
Against other team’s second-units, Barton would have a “leg up” on the competition and his shooting splits can back this up.
The only problem with this idea is that Will Barton does not view himself as a “sixth man” in this league and as a result, Denver is going to be at a crossroads with him in the offseason.
They just signed the 6’6” swingman to a two-year, $30 million contract ahead of the 2021-22 season and now, the question facing Will Barton is “what is his trade value looking like," especially since he will be entering the final year of his contract.
$14.3 million is a lot to pay a player that has been as inconsistent as Barton on the offensive-end of the floor and while he is certainly capable of being a key, championship piece to the Denver Nuggets’ puzzle, it seems more beneficial to move on from Barton now and replace him with a well-suited role player that is more affordable.
VERDICT: Look to trade
“Boogie” Cousins has dealt with a lot in his career injury-wise.
The fact that he is still able to play at a high-level is encouraging and it was really nice to see him reunited with Michael Malone in Denver this season, dating back to their days with one another in Sacramento.
Finding a reliable back-up for Nikola Jokic has been a problem the Nuggets have had to face multiple times over the last few seasons, so why not keep DeMarcus Cousins?
He should be more than willing to take a minimum-like contract seeing as his overall value around the league is low and in 31 games this season with the Nuggets, Cousins looked like a really good fit.
His energy and competitiveness is exactly what they need coming off-the-bench and being a former All-Star, Cousins has a certain level of understanding for the game that Denver will not be able to find in other frontcourt options this offseason.
VERDICT: Keep on minimum contract
Michael Porter Jr.
Signing Michael Porter Jr. to a five-year, $172 million extension last offseason was a very risky move for the Nuggets’ front-office to make and so far, this risk has not turned into a reward for them.
Porter Jr. played in just 9 games this season before being shut down for the year with yet another back injury.
His long history of back issues is well-documented and undergoing yet another back surgery this season, Michael Porter Jr.’s longevity in this league is definitely up-in-the-air at this point.
Many within the Denver Nuggets organization are optimistic that the young forward will be ready for the start of training camp in preparation for the 2022-23 season, but Porter Jr. is always going to be viewed as a “yellow flag” moving forward.
Moving him at this point is out of the question, as no team in the league is going to want to trade for a player fresh on a max rookie extension that has long-term back concerns, so Denver really has no choice but to keep their former lottery pick and see how this all plays out.
Talent-wise, Michael Porter Jr. has proven that he can be an All-Star-like talent on the wing, but the question of whether or not he can stay healthy will loom large for the rest of his career.
VERDICT: Cautiously keep
A knee injury kept Zeke Nnaji sidelined for most of the second-half of the season, but the Denver Nuggets are high on what the young forward brings to the table.
Standing 6’9” with a 7’1” wingspan, the former Arizona Wildcat has shown flashes of being a two-way big man in this league.
He can step out on the perimeter and stretch the floor offensively, while also being a solid rim-protector and rebounder on the defensive-end of the floor.
As mentioned earlier, the Nuggets are always searching for back-up options behind Nikola Jokic and it is not hard to imagine that the team is going to work hard on developing Nnaji in the offseason to fill this need.
His third season in the league is going to be a big one and still on his rookie contract, there is no reason for the Nuggets to give up on their former first-round pick yet.
VERDICT: Keep, for now
Energy, experience and defensive intensity.
These are the three things you get with Austin Rivers and these are three things the Nuggets love about the veteran guard.
Denver signed Rivers this season with the mindset of having him be a “spark” off-the-bench and Rivers proved to fill this role this season.
Moving forward, keeping Austin Rivers around on a minimum contract is not a bad idea whatsoever, especially since he wants to be in Denver.
The veteran guard gets along with his teammates well and is a positive locker room voice, which is why the Nuggets should look to keep Rivers with one of their final roster spots this offseason.
The Nuggets are not going to be moving on from Nikola Jokic or looking to trade him… sorry Lakers' fans, he's not available!
So, let’s talk about what this offseason looks like for “The Joker.”
Not only will he be looking to improve defensively, but Jokic is going to be looking for ways to improve his stamina and durability.
Those two things are the only “weaknesses” that stand out in his game right now, but overall, Nikola Jokic could probably sit back and relax all offseason long and still enter the 2022-23 season as one of the Top-3 players in the entire NBA.
Not to mention, Jokic is about to become filthy rich this offseason, as he is entering the final year of his contract and is expected to receive a five-year supermax extension worth upwards of $254 million from the Denver Nuggets.
That’s a pretty nice paycheck for the possible two-time MVP to bring to his bank this summer!
On course to becoming the greatest player in Denver Nuggets history, Nikola Jokic continues to write his name in NBA lore and at some point in his career, it is not hard to believe that he will bring a title to the city of Denver.
There are no limits to what the 27-year-old center can achieve over the next decade.
VERDICT: Build his statue in Denver right now
Related stories on NBA basketball
- Complete 2022 NBA Playoffs Schedule, Results, Gametimes, TV, Point Spreads: The best two months in basketball are here as the NBA postseason has arrived, starting with the Play-In Tournament on Tuesday. Here is the complete schedule, with gametimes, TV information and point spreads. We will update this story daily with results and updated betting lines, so bookmark it and follow along for the next two months of a wide-open postseason. CLICK HERE.
- Gary Payton II Gives Warriors Huge Boost In Series Clinching Win Over Denver Nuggets: The Golden State Warriors closed out the Denver Nuggets 102-98 in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series Wednesday night to advance to the Western Conference Semifinals. CLICK HERE.