Last year the Denver Nuggets won 46 games and finished one game out of the playoffs, and that was with Paul Millsap missing most of the season due to injury.
I think he’s right.
Adding a (hopefully) healthy Thomas to the mix, getting Millsap back for a full season, a year of maturity for Jamal Murray at the point, moving Will Barton into the starting lineup, and watch out for Trey Lyles to have a good year off the bench, all will help boost Denver.
However, Millsap is the key — he had the best defensive rating on the team and when he was on the court the Nuggets were 2.4 points per 100 possessions better. That’s the end of the court that matters, the Nuggets were 26th in the NBA in defense last season and that held back their elite offense. When Millsap was on the court the Nuggets were middle of the pack defensively — not great, but not terrible like when he sat. If Denver’s defense can just be average, with their elite offense they could push 50 wins this season.
The problem is, the Nuggets play in the unforgiving West, where one can make a case for 12 teams to win at least 46 games and make the playoffs. The margins for error are almost nonexistent. Injuries, a slow start or a mid-season slump, and how teams will handle the nightly pressure of playing good teams in the conference all will factor into who makes the playoffs and who just misses out. Denver could win 50 games, or it could struggle and implode. I expect the wins, but nothing is out of the question.