Denver Nuggets 2024 NBA offseason preview: Expect the former champs to run it back

2023-24 season: 56-26

Highlight: While it'd be easy to point to Nikola Jokić winning the MVP award, the fact the Nuggets saw improvement from their young role players is a highlight in and of itself given future implications.

With the league still in championship shuffle mode. There hasn't been a repeat champion since the Golden State Warriors won in 2017 and ’18.

The Nuggets had a strong year, with health primarily on their side minus Jamal Murray missing 23 games. Michael Porter Jr., who's been notorious for missing time over his career due to back issues, played in 81 games. Jokić, Aaron Gordon, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope all cracked over 70 games, which in today's league is quite an achievement.

The Nuggets helped themselves by opening the door to their younger players and managing the minutes of their starters (only Jokić played more than 32 minutes per game), laying the foundation for how they wish to operate moving forward.

Peyton Watson, Christian Braun, and even Julian Strawther got a fair amount of burn this season, combining to play over 4,000 minutes. That type of youth investment is rarely seen from reigning champions, but the Nuggets are keenly aware of the need to maintain and nurture depth. With the Milwaukee Bucks having become a frightening example of a team that grew too old and too thin on the bench after their championship, the Nuggets are attempting to build for the future and extend their competitive window.

As such, it shouldn't come as a surprise if the team rolls back virtually the same roster next year, with minimal changes.

That said, with Reggie Jackson now 34 and not playing any type of significant role in the postseason, the Nuggets could stand to upgrade their backup point guard spot.

DENVER, CO - MAY 19: Nikola Jokic (15) of the Denver Nuggets steamrolls Rudy Gobert (27) of the Minnesota Timberwolves en route to scoring an easy basket during the second quarter at Ball Arena in Denver on Sunday, May 19, 2024. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)
Nikola Jokić and the Denver Nuggets should remain title contenders. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

The aforementioned backup point guard could use some attention, but the same could be said of the backup center position, where neither Zeke Nnaji nor DeAndre Jordan is the answer. If the franchise could persuade Jonas Valančiūnas to sign cheaply, with the promise of deep playoff runs, that'd be a slam dunk for the Nuggets.

The Nuggets have plenty of options. In the first round, Weber State guard Dillon Jones could be a good addition for the second unit. The 6-foot-6 guard almost averaged a triple-double his senior season and has a high IQ. UConn's Cam Spencer is another player who fits Denver's playing style and could be someone they select in the second round. The 6-4 guard was one of the toughest in the NCAA tournament and averaged 14.3 points and 3.6 assists per game. — Krysten Peek

Draft picks: Nos. 28 and 56

The Nuggets don't have a ton of wiggle room under the second apron, which means it isn't out of the realm of possibility to see them move off Nnaji's $8.8 million salary to provide some leeway to make upgrades.

Ultimately, if no trade materializes, the franchise could decide to simply use its two draft selections as a way to find cheap talent that may fill a need down the line. The fact the Nuggets do have two selections is crucial to their future cap sheet.

Key free agents

None, unless Caldwell-Pope opts out of his $15.4 million salary.

Do you really need to ask? The Nuggets have the best player in basketball, and he should have at least another 5-6 years left of MVP-caliber play. They intend to make the most of it, and that means the goal will be the same for the foreseeable future.

The defending champs met a worthy adversary in the Minnesota Timberwolves, falling one game shy of reaching the Western Conference finals. Jokić's time as the 1.01 in fantasy is at risk with Victor Wembanyama's arrival, but I wouldn't fault anyone for selecting Jokić with the top pick. Jokić, a three-time MVP who rarely gets hurt, has a floor of 25/11/8. He's an all-time great and one of the best in the history of fantasy basketball.

Murray finished in the top 30, and while he played less than 60 games, he was uber-efficient from the field for a guard, posting a 48/43/85 shooting split in his eighth NBA season. Murray outperformed his ADP, as did Michael Porter Jr. Porter tallied over seven rebounds per game for the second time in his career, but I'd likely draft him around the seventh round as his ceiling is capped playing third wheel in Denver.

Gordon and Caldwell-Pope flirted with top-100 value at various points in the season and offer reliable backend depth for fantasy managers.

While Braun and Watson may currently be relegated to dynasty formats, their potential for fantasy success is undeniable. They are intriguing options, especially if any injury occurs, adding an element of excitement and anticipation to their future in fantasy basketball. The Nuggets may not see significant changes, but the path out West is growing more challenging by the year. — Dan Titus