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Nuggets President Tim Connelly With Some Interesting Remarks Regarding The Offseason And Next Year

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[Denver Post] - On if next season is “playoffs or bust”: 

“I think we’re there. How many times can you be the bridesmaid? Our young core, three of our best players are 23 (Gary Harris), 22 (Jokic) and 21 (Jamal Murray), and they’ve proven they’re capable of doing it at the highest level. I think all of us are, quite frankly, sick of this time of the year having a press conference.”

On how the Nuggets will approach the offseason:  

“This is the most confident I’ve felt in our core group since I’ve been here. I think we have the makings of a team that can enjoy sustainably high-level success. Certainly when you’re on the outside looking in, you have to address some needs. I think there’s gonna be some pretty interesting financial decisions that we’ll make this offseason. But standing in front of you guys now, I think I finally can say with full confidence, we have a core that can be really good for a long time. They all want to be here and they’re all about the right things.”

Going through and reading some different stories this morning, this was one that really stood out to me. I’m absolutely fascinated by the Denver Nuggets, mostly because of what was said above. They have that young core of Harris/Murray/Jokic that can absolutely carry a team to the playoffs in the West. I mean they missed the playoffs after losing game 82 this year on the road. Sure, they also probably missed the playoffs because they lost to the Grizzlies (twice), Hawks (twice), Kings, Mavericks and Nets, but also because they lost at Minnesota in game 82.

But, back to the interview with Connelly. I thought he was pretty candid and addressed a lot of different things regarding the team. The Nuggets do have a really interesting decision to make this offseason though. They have a team option on Nikola Jokic and can pick him up for cheap for one more year, with the risk of possibly losing him in free agency next season. On the other hand they can sign him to what will likely be a max deal this offseason without any risk of another team coming in. Jokic, just 22 years old, has really broken out the last couple of seasons and is a large part as to why the Nuggets are even in this position. We’ve seen the Jokic situation before, most notably with Gordon Hayward and the Utah Jazz. I’m sure the Nuggets will be keeping that in mind as they head into this offseason. As for Murray and Harris? Harris is already locked up through the 2021-22 season. Murray is still on his rookie contract through next season before a club option in 2019-20 and then a player option in 2020-21.

Another statement that Connelly made in the interview is that they are looking for two-way players to build around the three-man core. Part of that could be Paul Milsap, who was signed last offseason but dealt with injuries for the majority of this season. There are a handful of guys out there that the Nuggets could possibly go after including their own Will Barton. Some other unrestricted free agents that could make sense? JJ Redick, Trevor Ariza, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Corey Brewer – players along those lines.

The Nuggets already announced that Michael Malone will be back next season as head coach. He’s improved every year he’s been there going from 33 wins to 40 to 46 this past season. I’m wildly intrigued by the Nuggets next season, because I think they do have the potential to turn into a contender at some point. This core is young enough and likely going to be together for the future that we can see them develop into something here. Another jump, let’s say to like 48 wins and in the playoffs, would be huge next season for a young team like this. Throw in the fact they’ll likely have the 14th pick and could land someone like a Robert Williams, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lonnie Walker, Zhaire Smith type player to add to that young core and that can really defend and I like this team even more.