Evaluating The 2021 Denver Nuggets

July 14th, 2021

By Alan Lu

The Denver Nuggets won 47 of their 72 games in the regular season, and they were led by 2021 MVP award winner, Nikola Jokic, who had a tremendous year that showed off his strong scoring and rebounding skills that was capped off by his fantastic playmaking skills.

On the other hand, their star point guard, Jamal Murray got hurt late in the season and ended up missing the playoffs.  The Nuggets managed to squeak by the Blazers to win in 6 games in the first round, but they ended up getting swept by the Phoenix Suns in the second round. 

They received strong seasons out of not only Jokic, but from Aaron Gordon (who they received in a midseason trade) and Michael Porter Jr., Austin Rivers proved to be a helpful signing, and Facundo Campazzo had a solid rookie season.  On the other hand, young, promising  7-2 center Bol Bol seemed to have stagnated in his development, as he didn’t see much playing time nor play nearly as well as he did last year in the Orlando Bubble.

Denver Nuggets’ superstar point center, Nikola Jokic turned in a very strong season, and he was named the MVP of the 2020-21 NBA season this year.
(Photo:
David Zalubowski/Associated Press, via The Denver Post)

C Nikola Jokić
2021 (DEN): 72 GP, 26.4 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 8.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 57 FG%, 39 3PT%, 87 FT%, 31.3 PER, 65 TS%, 15.6 WS, .301 WS48

He had a really good season this year, and he was named the MVP of the 2020-21 NBA season.  He struggled with his three-point shot in the playoffs, but overall, Jokic played very well in the Nuggets.

2021 Season Grade: A
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting center on the Denver Nuggets
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 4 stars (4.5 stars potential)

Jamal Murray played very well when healthy, but he then got hurt later in the season, which caused him to miss the entire 2021 postseason.
(Photo:
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press, via The New York Times)

G Jamal Murray
2021 (DEN): 48 GP, 21.2 PPG, 4.8 APG, 4 RPG, 48 FG%, 41 3PT%, 87 FT%, 18.3 PER, 59 TS%, 4.6 WS, .129 WS48

He was having a very good season this year, as he thrived offensively before getting hurt, which forced him to miss the rest of the playoffs.

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting point guard on the Denver Nuggets
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 3 stars (4 stars potential)

Denver Nuggets’ rising star forward, Michael Porter Jr. had a strong season this past year, as he really excelled offensively for his team.
(Photo:
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images, via SB Nation’s Denver Stiffs)

F Michael Porter Jr.
2021 (DEN): 61 GP, 19 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.1 APG, 54 FG%, 45 3PT%, 79 FT%, 20.6 PER, 66 TS%, 6.9 WS, .173 WS48

He played really well, as he was terrific at shooting and scoring the basketball.  He did miss some time due to COVID-related reasons, but Porter was very good for the Nuggets, and he is a rising star that could contend to make All-Star teams in the future.

2021 Season Grade: A
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting forward on the Denver Nuggets
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars (4 stars potential)

Aaron Gordon added a new dimension to the Denver Nuggets, as he gave them a versatile defender that also could be a rim runner and an extra ball handler on offense, but he also struggled with his three-point shot when he was with them this year.
(Photo:
Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports, via Fansided)

F Aaron Gordon
2021 (ORL/DEN): 50 GP, 12.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.2 APG, 46 FG%, 34 3PT%, 65 FT%, 14.5 PER, 55 TS%, 1.9 WS, .066 WS48

He is an athletic combo forward that excelled at attacking the basket, and he also excelled as a facilitator and defender, but he struggled to consistently knock down threes this past year.

2021 Season Grade: C+ (C w/ORL, B- w/DEN)
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting forward on the Denver Nuggets
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

G-F Will Barton
2021 (DEN): 56 GP, 12.7 PPG, 4 RPG, 3.2 APG, 43 FG%, 38 3PT%, 79 FT%, 11.8 PER, 54 TS%, 2.2 WS, .061 WS48

Barton played fairly well, as he showed off solid offensive skills, and he can provide scoring and some all-around skills for his team.  He struggled a bit with his outside shot in the playoffs, but he generally did a decent job in his role this year.

2021 Season Grade: C+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

Barton has a player option that he can exercise for next season.

G Monte Morris
2021 (DEN): 47 GP, 10.2 PPG, 3.2 APG, 2 RPG, 48 FG%, 38 3PT%, 79 FT%, 14 PER, 57 TS%, 2.9 WS, .115 WS48

He had a solid season this year for the Denver Nuggets. He’ll need to improve his defense, but he excelled as a reliable shooter and table setter for his team.

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Denver Nuggets
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

F Paul Millsap
2021 (DEN): 56 GP, 9 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.8 APG, 48 FG%, 34 3PT%, 72 FT%, 16.4 PER, 57 TS%, 3.2 WS, .133 WS48

He is a versatile combo forward that provided a veteran presence for the Denver Nuggets.  He did a better job of passing and defending, but he didn’t shoot or score the ball as well this year. 

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

Millsap will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

Denver Nuggets’ point guard, Facundo Campazzo turned in a solid season this year, and he showed off very good playmaking and defensive skills this past season.
(Photo:
Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press, via The Denver Post)

G Facundo Campazzo
2021 (DEN): 65 GP, 6.1 PPG, 3.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 38 FG%, 35 3PT%, 88 FT%, 11.6 PER, 56 TS%, 3.1 WS, .105 WS48

He played well as the team’s backup point guard, as he primarily excelled as a facilitator and defender, and he also could provide some floor spacing skills.  He’ll still need to improve his outside shot, but he had a solid rookie season this year.

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Denver Nuggets
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

G Austin Rivers
2021 (NYK/DEN): 36 GP, 7.9 PPG, 2.3 APG, 2.3 RPG, 42 FG%, 37 3PT%, 71 FT%, 9.9 PER, 55 TS%, 1.3 WS, .072 WS48

Early on, he had some big games for the New York Knicks, but he saw his playing time diminish, and he was then traded to the Thunder, and was later waived before signing on with Denver.  Rivers filled a role quite nicely for the Nuggets, as he was able to provide some shooting, ball movement, and some defense.  He struggled in their second round series loss to the Suns, but Rivers was able to be a fairly solid role player for the Nuggets this year.

2021 Season Grade: C+ (C w/NYK, B- w/DEN)
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

Rivers will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

F JaMychal Green
2021 (DEN): 58 GP, 8.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 46 FG%, 40 3PT%, 81 FT%, 13.6 PER, 59 TS%, 2.6 WS, .110 WS48

He was able to provide some floor spacing and rebounding skills, but he didn’t defend quite as well this year, and he didn’t shoot the ball very well in the playoffs.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

Green has a player option that he can exercise for next season.

C JaVale McGee
2021 (CLE/DEN): 46 GP, 7.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 51 FG%, 66 FT%, 17 PER, 54 TS%, 1 WS, .068 WS48

He didn’t play nearly as well as last year, as he didn’t make shots nearly as efficiently this past season.  While he was still able to provide some rebounding and defense, he didn’t play much in the playoffs this year, and he was very ineffective on offense for Denver in the playoffs.

2021 Season Grade: C- (C w/CLE, D+ w/DEN)
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

McGee will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

Big things were expected for Bol Bol after he played well for the Nuggets in the Orlando bubble in 2020. However, Bol Bol’s 2021 NBA season turned out to be vastly disappointing. Bol Bol struggled to get off the bench, and he was riddled with erratic, inconsistent play, though he would show flashes of his tantalizing shooting and playmaking skills at various moments throughout this season.
(Photo:
Ashley Landis, Pool, Associated Press, via The Denver Post)

F-C Bol Bol
2021 (DEN): 32 GP, 2.2 PPG, 43 FG%, 38 3PT%, 67 FT%, 9.4 PER, 53 TS%, 0 WS, -.004 WS48

Big things were expected out of Bol Bol this season, but he struggled to find playing time, as he seemed to be in his coach’s doghouse this year.  He did show some solid shooting and playmaking skills, but his lack of strength made it difficult to rebound or to defend inside, and it’s also uncertain if he can also defend out on the perimeter.

He is a very talented young player, but he struggled to get minutes, and he was quite inconsistent in the limited playing time he would receive this year.

2021 Season Grade: D+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2.5 stars potential)

F-C Zeke Nnaji
2021 (DEN): 42 GP, 3.2 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 48 FG%, 41 3PT%, 80 FT%, 11.3 PER, 61 TS%, 0.9 WS, .104 WS48

He didn’t get much playing time, but Nnaji shot the ball well in limited minutes this year.  He didn’t seem to do the other things as well, but he is an athletic, energetic big man that has shown that he can provide solid floor spacing skills at the NBA level.

2021 Season Grade: C+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2.5 stars potential)

F P.J. Dozier
2021 (DEN): 50 GP, 7.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 42 FG%, 32 3PT%, 64 FT%, 10.4 PER, 50 TS%, 1.1 WS, .051 WS48

He is an athletic point forward that finally was able to get some extended playing time this year.  He was able to provide some playmaking and rebounding skills, and he was able to play well at times on both ends of the floor, but he didn’t shoot or score the ball very well this past season.

2021 Season Grade: C-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

Dozier’s contract is non-guaranteed for next season.

G Markus Howard
2021 (DEN): 37 GP, 2.8 PPG, 38 FG%, 28 3PT%, 78 FT%, 6.4 PER, 48 TS%, -0.3 WS, -0.068 WS48

He didn’t seem to play well in the NBA for most of the season, but the diminutive scorer had a knack for playing well against the Portland Trail Blazers.  He played well against them in the last regular season game, and he also played well against them in his team’s first round series in the playoffs.

If Howard can find a way to be as effective against all of the other teams as he was against Portland this year, he could end up being a solid role player in the NBA.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

G-F Shaquille Harrison (Two-Way)
2021 (UTA/DEN): 34 GP, 2.1 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 33 FG%, 19 3PT%, 82 FT%, 6.8 PER, 42 TS%, 0.2 WS, .030 WS48

He’s an athletic combo guard that rebounds and defends well, but he did not shoot nor score the ball very well, as he was not a good offensive player this past season.

2021 Season Grade: D
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

F Vlatko Čančar
2021 (DEN): 41 GP, 2.1 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 46 FG%, 27 3PT%, 77 FT%, 9.7 PER, 55 TS%, 0.3 WS, .053 WS48

He is a tall, mobile forward that has seen scarce playing time with the Nuggets in his two seasons with them.  He projects into a 3 and D role, and he’s been able to provide some scoring skills, but he hasn’t really been able to establish his footing or a stronghold onto a rotation spot on his team this year, and he may need to find a team that can give him the minutes for him to play next season.

2021 Season Grade: D
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

Head Coach:
Michael Malone
2021 (DEN): 47-25, 4-6 in the playoffs
Coaching career: 305-274, 20-23 in his playoff career

Michael Malone led the 2021 Denver Nuggets to a good regular season record, but they fell a bit short of expectations in the playoffs, as they ended up getting swept by the Phoenix Suns in the second round this year.
(Photo:
AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

He led the 2021 Nuggets to a solid finish in the regular season, as they won more games than expected in that time span, and he was able to help them land the 2nd seed due to the strong play of 2021 MVP center Nikola Jokic and due to their talent and depth of their team. 

However, their star point guard Jamal Murray got hurt late in the year and ended up missing the playoffs.  Denver was able to defeat Portland in the first round, but Murray’s absence hurt them in the second round, as they ended up getting swept by Phoenix.  Malone was able to get strong seasons out of Jokic, Porter, and Gordon, and it will be very interesting to see how far the Nuggets can go in the postseason if they can all stay healthy next year.

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Head coach of the Denver Nuggets
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

A Brief Summary of the 2020-21 Denver Nuggets’ Season:

They had a very good regular season, as they were able to win a lot of games due to the strong play of the league’s 2021 MVP, Nikola Jokic, and Denver was a solid, well-balanced team that excelled both offensively and defensively.  They were hurt by injuries, as they lost Jamal Murray late in the year, and he ended up missing the rest of the playoffs.

The Nuggets were able to win a series, but they were unable to get a win in the second round, and they ended up getting eliminated by Phoenix in the playoffs.

The 2020-21 Denver Nuggets’ Season Grade: B-

The Denver Nuggets’ Projected 2021-22 NBA Rotation:

Projected Starters:
C Nikola Jokic
F Aaron Gordon
F Michael Porter Jr.
G Will Barton
G Jamal Murray

Key Reserves:
G Monte Morris
G Facundo Campazzo

Others competing for a spot in the rotation next season:
F-C Zeke Nnaji
C Bol Bol
F P.J. Dozier
G Markus Howard
The 26th Overall Pick of the 2021 NBA Draft

Other players that are currently projected to be on their next season’s roster:
F Vlatko Cancar
G-F Shaquille Harrison

Impending Unrestricted Free Agents:
F Paul Millsap – Not Expected Back
G Austin Rivers – Not Expected Back
C JaVale McGee – Not Expected Back

Players with an Impending Player Option:
G-F Will Barton – Expected Back
F JaMychal Green – Not Expected Back

Projected Offseason Plan for the Denver Nuggets:
They are not projected to have a lot of cap space, and some of their players may opt to try to cash out to hit free agency, and some of the other players that did not get as much playing time may choose to opt out.

They’ll likely try to re-sign the players that are impending free agents, and in the draft, they’ll need to draft wing players that can shoot, defend, and ably create their shots to complement Jokic and Jamal Murray.

The 2022 Denver Nuggets’ Expected Win-Loss Record, and Projected 2022 Season Prediction:
50-32, 4th in the Western Conference in 2022

Expected 2022 Season Outcome:
The Denver Nuggets are likely going to be a top-4 seed out in the West due to having one of the best players in the league in Nikola Jokic, as well as a solid group of role players, but the Nuggets may need to be a more dynamic offensive team and improve their defense in order to make a deep playoff run next season.

NBA Scouting Live
error: Content is protected !!