Game 82 is in the books as the Denver Nuggets put the finishing touches on their 2015-16 season. A 107-99 loss in Portland puts the team at 33-49, the 19th losing season in their 40-year NBA run.
Potential key figures in the Nuggets’ future played well in the finale. Emmanuel Mudiay finished his rookie campaign with 25 points which is a new career high for a road game. Fellow rookie Nikola Jokic logged another top-notch all-around game with 18 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists. It was his 9th game with a double-double and at least four assists. Jusuf Nurkic struggled with 8 turnovers and 5 personal fouls, but chipped in 11 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists, and snatched 5 steals as well. The Nuggets have some nice pieces to work with going forward. The next step if figuring out what the best approach is with a solid but young core and three Draft picks.
The late Playoff push by the Houston Rockets solidifies the Nuggets’ Draft assets for 2016. As of now Denver has the 19th and 15th picks locked in with a chance at either a top-3 pick or the seventh overall. The New York Knicks 10-28 collapse after a promising 22-22 start puts Denver back in the Lottery mix. The difference between the seventh and ninth spots in the Lottery aren’t colossal, but it could be significant. The Toronto Raptors will be hoping the Nuggets own pick pays off with its 6.8% chance of jumping from ninth to the top-3. Or all hell could break loose with both the Knicks and Nuggets picks jumping into the top-3. We’ll just have to wait for May 19th.
Looking past the Draft the Nuggets have a busy free agent period looming as well. Only six teams have less money committed for the 2016-17 season than Denver. It’s far too early to speculate on what the team might do throughout the offseason with so many major checkpoints to pass. Mudiay, Jokic, Nurkic, and Gary Harris all logged over 34 minutes in Portland last night. The big question is if that’s the new normal for Denver.