A buzzer-beater finish brought the Denver Nuggets' season to an end. The man who ended it all for the Nuggets: Russell Westbrook.
It was a disappointing loss at the end of their best season since Andre Iguodala parted ways with the franchise. That was 2012-13, the last time the team made playoffs. Incidentally, the Nuggets have seen no true superstar since Carmelo Anthony all of six years ago. The Nuggets have mostly operated on role players. In the near future, however, that will change.
Diamond(s) in the Rough
The identity of the Nuggets has yet to be found, but the core of the team will revolve around Nikola Jokic for the foreseeable future. Though his defensive qualities are lacking, he still offers a big body in the paint for offenses to fear. Jokic's offense, on the other hand, is even scarier. He's averaged nearly 17 points per game this season, along with about five assists.
It's becoming increasingly obvious that Jokic's ceiling is high, and that can be something the Nuggets exploit for the remainder of the sophomore's career. He's a catch, which makes sense of a lot of the trades the Nuggets made this season. Shipping Joffrey Lauvergne and Jusuf Nurkic was merely a ploy to unleash Jokic at full force, and although it didn't work out well, he's still the main building block of this franchise for years to come.
Meanwhile, rookie shooting guard Jamal Murray has also shown signs of big potential. He played a majority of the season coming off the bench, but it did not hurt his value. Murray has a small bundle of 20-point games already on his resume, and most recently he managed to score 30. His scoring potential peeked through this year, making him one of the few bright spots on the Nuggets roster.
Much like Murray, Gary Harris has seen himself emerge as a strong scoring option for the Nuggets at 14.8 points per game in 56 games. Injuries plagued Harris for most of the season, but he still made the best of his opportunities when playing and that's what counts.
The Vets of the Nuggets
Seeing Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler play a healthy allotment of games helped the Nuggets big time. Neither of them is a star player, per se, but they certainly offer some specialty to the team. Chandler boasts a strong two-way presence for Denver while Gallinari specializes in scoring. Flaws are expected, but that's where other players pick up the slack.
That being said, the Nuggets managed to build a solid core around these veteran guys in order to fill those holes.
If the Nuggets can continue to build chemistry, remain healthy, and score with intensity, they become a playoff roster without a doubt. They're missing something, though.
The Superstar Talent
Jokic could take this title himself but it wouldn't feel right. The Nuggets need a go-to option, someone who gets the ball in the final minutes and can seal the game for good. Jokic is a special talent, a skillful passer with some offensive technique, but it's not enough. Even the veterans are not entirely reliable in the clutch, which makes this team's need for a superstar much more apparent.
The good thing is Jokic's performance and the other, younger players' potential sets the tone for other players' considerations. Upcoming free agents can now look at the Denver Nuggets and expect big things, making their appeal that much better. Until then, the Nuggets likely remain a team that falls short of the playoffs year after year.