Denver Nuggets: Key Players, Trades, and NBA Team History
Denver Nuggets History and Highlights.
The Denver Nuggets have never won a conference title but have been one of the best teams in the Western Conference lately, thanks to the two-time MVP Nikola Jokic.
Founding and Early Years
The Nuggets got started in 1967 as the Denver Rockets. They played in the NBL and the ABA before merging with the NBA. In 1974, the team changed its name to the Denver Nuggets.
Alex English was the first star player for the Nuggets. Both English and Kiki Vandeweghe averaged over 25 points per game, leading the Nuggets to a record 126.5 points per game in 1982. In 1983, English won the NBA scoring title, being the only Nuggets player to do so by today.
Most Successful Season
The 1984-85 season was the most successful for that generation as they made it to the Western Conference Finals, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in five games.
The beginning of the 1990s looked promising for the Nuggets. They drafted center Dikembe Mutombo with the fourth pick at the 1991 NBA Draft, and Mutombo became the best defender in the next decade.
Dan Issel was the new head coach at the time, and he added players such as Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Laphonso Ellis, and Bryan Stith, forming a respectful young team.
Biggest NBA Playoffs Upset
In 1994, the Denver Nuggets were the actors of one of the biggest upsets in NBA Playoff history when they, as the eighth seed, defeated the top seed in the West, the Seattle Supersonics, by 3-2 in the opening round. In the second round, they almost made another miracle but lost to the Utah Jazz in seven games.
Mutombo Forces Nuggets Reset
In 1996, Mutombo decided to sign with the Atlanta Hawks as a free agent, forcing the Nuggets to start over. They drafted Antonio McDyess with the second pick, who could not lead the team, despite making a couple of All-Star selections. In 1998, the Nuggets had a 23-game losing streak tying the record at the time for the longest losing streak.
Heading into the 2000s, things didn’t look well for the Nuggets. However, that outlook changed in the 2003 NBA Draft when they selected Carmelo Anthony with the third overall pick.
The Denver Nuggets hired George Karl as a head coach, and in the upcoming years, the team signed Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby, and JR Smith. They traded for Allen Iverson in 2006.
Western Conference Finals
With George Karl as a coach, the Nuggets made it to the Western Conference Finals in the 2008-09 season, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers.
In the four seasons following their ascent to the 2008-09 Western Conference Finals, the Nuggets continued to make the playoffs. But the frustration was growing, and Anthony demanded a trade in 2011 and left for New York.
The Nuggets went on to miss the playoffs in the next five seasons and could not make a roster that would take them over the edge.
Nuggets Rebound With Nikola Jokic Selection
In 2014, the Denver Nuggets selected Serbian center Nikola Jokic with the 41st pick in the NBA Draft. Looking at him as a prospect who may bring some rebounding off the bench, Jokic slowly developed into the best player in the league.
The Nuggets were finally back in the playoffs in 2019 and made the Western Conference Finals a year later.
In the 2020 playoffs, the Denver Nuggets survived in the opening two rounds despite having a 3-1 deficit against the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers. However, the Lakers with LeBron James were too big of a bite for the Nuggets, and they lost in five games.
Nikola Jokic won the MVP award in the next two seasons but could not take the team on his back further than the second playoff run.
In the opening round in the 2021-22 season, the Nuggets lost to the Golden State Warriors. In the offseason, Jokic signed the biggest contract in the history of the NBA, worth nearly $270 million.