With Nikola Jokic And Jamal Murray Being The Greatest International Duo In History, Are The Denver Nuggets The Next NBA Dynasty?

The Denver Nuggets won their first NBA title in franchise history on Monday night, defeating the Miami Heat 4-1 in the best-of-seven championship matchup.

Nikola Jokic was named Finals MVP and head coach Michael Malone said the team is not satisfied, they want more. Are the Nuggets poised to be the NBA’s latest dynasty?

The Core Is Under Contract

Let’s start with the world’s best player. Jokic is 28 and just led the entire playoffs in total points, rebounds, and assists. The first time that’s ever been done. He is under contract for the next four seasons, and has a player option for year five. He’ll be 32 at the end of that deal and with a game not dependent on explosive athleticism, he should age well.

His running mate Jamal Murray is 26 and came off an excellent Finals run, averaging 21 points, 6, rebounds, and 10 assists per game on 45/39/92 shooting splits. He is under contract for the next two seasons and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2025. Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth knows how critical Murray is. Expect him to sign a long term extension next season.

With Joker being from Serbia and Murray from Canada via a Jamaican-born father, they should be considered among the greatest international tandems of all time. Shaq and Kobe, LeBron and Wade/Kyrie, MJ and Pippen, Magic and Kareem, Bird and McHale, Splash Brothers. They were all American-born players. Products of the 50 states. Tony Parker (France) and Manu Ginobili (Spain) were a great tandem but neither were first options at any point of their careers. They got the bulk of their glory by coming up big in the playoffs for. Spurs dynasty that won five rings on the back of Top 10 all-time player Tim Duncan.

Michael Porter Jr., despite his struggles in the Finals, is also an integral part of the Nuggets core. He’s 24 and under contract for the next three seasons, with a partially guaranteed fourth. If he’s able to stay healthy, he’s shown that he is an excellent offensive weapon and someone who can impact the game when his shots not falling. Like he did in these Finals.

Aaron Gordon has two more years left on his deal and a player option for a third year.

He’s 27 and was second on the team this year in EPM. He’s an elite defender as demonstrated all postseason guarding Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Jimmy Butler.

Offensively he’s a capable shooter, and knows how to cut and play off of an elite passer like Jokic.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the only starter not in his 20s. At 30 and with one year plus a player option left on his deal, KCP proved to be the tall, rangy defender the Nuggets needed. He made incredible defensive efforts and is a very good three-point shooter.

Assuming health and luck, which you cannot guarantee, the Nuggets are poised to repeat next season as champs and have already been installed as the Las Vegas favorites. They are elite offensively and proved they can grind with anyone defensively. Plus they have that Jokic guy. Did we mention him?

Becoming A Dynasty Happens On The Margins

The challenge comes with keeping the entire roster together with the new CBA and the stiff penalties for going above the second tax apron.

Bruce Brown was critical for the Nuggets all playoffs long and had a big-time performance in Game 4. He’s made $6.4 million this season and has a player option for $6.8 million next season. He is almost certainly going to opt out and look for a bigger payday. The Nuggets don’t own his Bird rights and thus can’t pay him what the open market will (likely four years, $60 million).

That means Christian Braun, who is on his team-friendly rookie deal is the likely candidate to fill that spot. He will have to develop as a shooter and have a move for if and when defenders close out hard. He’s a very good athlete and will need to continue to get better at reading the game on both ends.

Jeff Green is 35 and an unrestricted free agent. He was very good off the bench for this team but he’s aging. Can the Nuggets get similar production from young players Peyton Watson and Zeke Nnaji?

The margins will be where the Nuggets determine how long they can keep the core together. Getting excellent contributions from players making a combined $26 million (KCP, Brown, Braun, and Green) is the key to avoiding the second tax apron.

It will mean letting guys go who want more money and making sure your draft picks develop into productive playoff players while they are on team friendly deals. Also, winning the title means the Nuggets will have their choice of the best of the veteran ring chasers.

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