Los Angeles, May 18: The Denver Nuggets surprisingly finished second in the Western Conference this season, but fell to the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round of the NBA playoffs.
Denver's young team accomplished more than what most expected them to, and there is still room for growth.
Here are three reasons the Nuggets can be even more dangerous in 2019-20.
The Nuggets selected Michael Porter Jr. with the 14th pick in the 2018 NBA draft, and he might have been the steal of the night.
The 6-10 forward was considered to be the consensus top pick in the draft by many out of high school, but an unfortunate back injury kept him sidelined for most of his freshman season at Missouri. Concerns over his health likely caused him to drop, and while the Nuggets held him out for all of 2018-19, a healthy return this year could take them to the next level.
Porter has all the tools necessary to be a difference maker. He is long, can score from all three levels, handles the ball, has quick feet for his size and can create opportunities for his team-mates.
The Nuggets had the least production from the small forward spot this season. In fact, Denver only had one player even listed at the position. Porter will likely spend the bulk of his minutes there, and he could genuinely make the team better in almost every aspect of the game. This year's summer league will show how much he has progressed in a year of training.
It is safe to say this season's Nuggets could only go as far as Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic could take them. These two were Denver's most vital pieces in 2018-19, and they likely are not finished products just yet.
Murray, 22, averaged 18.2 points and 4.8 assists. Both of these stats are only second to those of Jokic. The Serbian big man led Denver in points per game (20), rebounds per game (10.8), assists per game (7.2) and steals per game (1.4).
Denver entered the season as the second-youngest team in the NBA and had the second-least experience. But they won 54 games and only trailed defending champions the Golden State Warriors in the league's most competitive conference.
The Nuggets were tested in not one, but two seven-game series in the playoffs. If given time to develop their skills and mindsets, the Nuggets could be more lethal moving forward.
Some coveted talent is hitting the market this summer and Denver could take advantage of that. Their bench point production ranked in the middle of the pack last season, and while they could use some improvement, the Nuggets could scour the free-agent waters for a big catch.
Trey Lyles, Isaiah Thomas and Tyler Lydon's contracts have expired and Denver have a team option on the final year of Paul Millsap's three-year, $90million deal. Should the Nuggets part ways with Millsap – who posted his lowest scoring numbers since the 2007-08 season – they have a ton of options who could replace him.
Tobias Harris, Julius Randle and Nikola Mirotic come to mind as possible fill-ins, but guards could also prove to be valuable. Regardless, the Nuggets have proven they can win a lot of games and many could consider joining a team that appears like they will be competitive for years to come.