If professional sport teams were on Wall St. I’d be telling you to buy Denver Nuggets stock right now, this second. The Nuggets are a sneaky-fun team on the rise.
Granted, their 2016 season wasn’t great, but there are plenty of bright spots that have come out of a somewhat cloudy season. Emmanuel Mudiay failed to break the “rookie point guard struggles mightily to run an NBA team” mold, but he did get better and better as the season wore on and showed enough flashes of brilliance to maintain optimism in his future. Will Barton came out of nowhere to drop tons of buckets (a career-high 14.4 points per game) and finish fourth in Sixth Man of the Year voting. They’ve developed a great international pipeline and have two very talented young big men in Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic, who finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. There’s also versatile, veteran talent in Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari.
The Nuggets may not have made the playoffs since 2013, but things are definitely looking up. They also have not one, not two, but three first round picks this summer (Nos. 7, 15 and 19) and own Memphis’ first round selection, though it’s protected 1-5, next year. Throw in their two second round picks and the Nugget’s five selections is the second highest total in the league. The young talent will keep quickly piling up in the Nuggets’ warehouse.
If the Nuggets try to improve one thing this offseason it should be their shooting. Only three teams, the Grizzlies, the Lakers and the Celtics, finished the year with a worse percentage from deep. Mike Malone did a fine job in his first season in the Mile-High city, but any team that shoots that poorly is going to really struggle to contend in the modern NBA. A player like Buddy Hield would be a huge get if he fell to them at No. 7, but there are a few wings later in the draft (Denzel Valentine, Furkan Korkmaz, Timothe Luwawu) who would help as well. The Nuggets are also a potential dealer prior to the draft, either in an attempt to move up or stockpile an asset or two for the future.
Their cap sheet is also very clean. Denver could have close to $30 million in cap space this summer, but there will little need to use it. They can afford to maintain their flexibility and grow their young corner. Though if a young, capable shooter finds himself still on the market late, the Nuggets might take a chance on him.
Whatever they decide, if their talented young players continue to grow, the Nuggets will be back in the national conversation before you know it.