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  • Dan Crouch

Pot of gold for Nuggets: Denver wins its first NBA championship

The Denver Nuggets have won the 2023 NBA Championship. Picture: Jack Dempsey.

The Denver Nuggets have won the NBA championship for the first time in the franchise's 55-year history. The Nuggets defeated the Miami Heat in game five of the NBA Finals 94-89 to claim the title and hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy in front of their dedicated home fans.

Nikola Jokic deservedly won Finals MVP after averaging 30.2 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.2 assists - the first player to ever reach those benchmarks in a Finals series. He also became the first player in NBA history to lead the playoffs in total points, rebounds and assists.

Jokic's teammate Jamal Murray - who missed the entire 2021-22 season with a torn ACL - completed his comeback with a historic playoff run in his own right.

Out of all players in NBA history who have played in at least 50 playoff games, Murray has the largest increase from regular season points per game to playoffs points per game. Second place on that list? Nikola Jokic. Denver in the Jokic/Murray era have consistently risen to the occasion and played at a higher level in the playoffs, it should come as no surprise that they have reached the apex.

Denver is one of the NBA's smallest markets and built most of its team through the draft, but it did not rely on high draft picks. Jokic - who now certainly holds the title as the best basketball player in the world - was drafted by Denver in 2014 with the 42nd pick in the draft, Murray was pick 7 in 2015, and Michael Porter Jr was pick 14 in 2018.

The only players on the roster drafted higher than Murray were Aaron Gordon and Jeff Green. Gordon - pick 4 in 2014 by the Orlando Magic - was acquired by the Nuggets in a trade which they predicted would help deliver this championship. Green - pick five way back in 2007 by the Boston Celtics - was signed as a veteran leader who could provide versatility off the bench after 16 years in the league and stints on eleven different NBA teams.

Denver won this championship without the luxury of a top player signing with the team in free agency to instantly catapult them into championship contention (like LeBron James joining Miami before leading them to two championships, or Shaquille O'Neal joining the Lakers before delivering three straight championships to Los Angeles).

They also did so without landing a number one draft pick and scoring a generational talent (like the Spurs lucking out with Tim Duncan, or Houston with Hakeem Olajuwon).

As such, the Nuggets represent hope for small market teams and teams which are not blessed with lottery luck. More importantly, they are proof that you can build a championship team without tanking for draft picks - a strategy which has become all too common in the NBA.

The Nuggets secured this championship through good old-fashioned team cohesion, a drive to improve, and a great team culture led by star player Nikola Jokic and coach Mike Malone.

There were questions asked of Denver's credentials along the way, but only one question remains now: how many championships can they win? With a young core, a great culture, an excellent coach, and the best basketball player in the world on their side, the sky is the limit.


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