The Denver Nuggets just won the 2023 NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. Denver was the number one seed in the Western Conference but many NBA fans and tv personalities had their doubts about this Nuggets team. The Denver Nuggets were one of the only teams in the last decade to win an NBA championship with only one active all-star on their roster. So what was Denver’s blueprint to success?
Denver’s starting five this past season consisted of Nikola Jokic (back-to-back MVP), Jamal Murray (a year removed from a torn ACL and multiple surgeries), Michael Porter Jr (a year removed from a third back surgery and left leg surgery), Aaron Gordon (traded to the Nuggets late during 2021 season), and Kentavious Caldwell- Pope (a seasoned NBA veteran on his fourth NBA team). On paper, this starting rotation seems injury-riddled and lacking star power but they continued to prove the league and doubters wrong. Denver would go on to win 53 games this season, finishing with the fourth-best record in the NBA getting great contributions from Jokic and Murray all year long. Jamal Murray injury timeline: How Nuggets guard went from ACL tear to NBA champion | Sporting News
Another aspect about this Denver team that doesn’t get talked about enough was the Nuggets' bench play and second unit as a whole. Last offseason Denver signed Bruce Brown formerly of the Brooklyn Nets and Brown was arguably the biggest contributor off the bench for Denver. The 26-year-old averaged nearly 12 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.4 assists a game in the regular season and showed up when his team needed him most not only in the regular season but in playoffs as well. Some other key bench players included Jeff Green, Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, Zeke Nnaji, and trade deadline acquisitions Thomas Bryant and Reggie Jackson. Both Christian Braun and Peyton Watson were rookies this past season and both provided stout defense throughout the year. Braun got valuable playoff minutes and made a difference in a few NBA Finals games as well. Braun has won at every level he’s played at, winning three straight high school state titles in Kansas, just won the NCAA Championship as a junior at the University of Kansas in 2022, and now once again has won at the highest stage. Nuggets' Christian Braun joins short list of consecutive NCAA and NBA title winners - ESPN
Heading into the playoffs Denver was the 1 seed in the West but they weren’t treated as such, as media members had the new look Phoenix Suns with Kevin Durant, the LA Lakers, and Golden State Warriors over the Denver Nuggets. Why was this the case? Probably because Denver was a very soft-spoken team that went about their business with little to no drama. Other teams like the Warriors, Suns, and Lakers had the Hollywood flare and drama among teammates all year long but Denver tried to avoid conflict within the team as much as possible and it paid off.
The Nuggets’ path to a championship included going through the Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, and Miami Heat. Denver only lost four total games all playoffs which is hard to fathom just that much success. Denver will look to repeat this past season’s success in 2024 and on with a roster that is very much intact. The only free agent the Nuggets have to worry about is Bruce Brown but the Nuggets have the ability to match any contract offer Brown gets in free agency. The Bruce Brown dilemma: Nuggets' NBA Finals hero deserves the kind of raise the champs can't give him - CBSSports.com. The Nuggets' 2023 Finals run will studied by other teams this offseason with other powerhouse teams looking to replicate Denver’s unique success.
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