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Denver Nuggets

What's next for the Denver Nuggets?

The Denver Nuggets amazing postseason run has come to an end at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.

With a duo of young stars in the 25-year-old Nikola Jokic and 23-year-old Jamal Murray, it's safe to say that the best is yet to come in the Mile High City.

Here's what's next for the Nuggets.

The 2020 NBA Draft

The Nuggets will select 22nd in the 2020 NBA Draft, a pick that originally belonged to the Houston Rockets.

NBA.com's draft expert, Eric Fawcett, has the Nuggets selecting Aaron Nesmith, a 6-foot-6 sharpshooter from Vanderbilt that averaged 23.0 points in 14 games before a foot injury put an end to his sophomore season.

Denver will not make a second-round selection, as the Brooklyn Nets own Denver's second-round pick.

Free Agency

2020 is going to be an interesting year for the Nuggets as far as free agency goes.

Of the players on Denver's postseason roster, seven are impending free agents: Paul Millsap, Mason Plumlee, Noah Vonleh, P.J. Dozier and Tyler Cook will all be unrestricted, Torrey Craig will be an unrestricted free agent and Jerami Grant has a player option to return to the team or explore free agency.

Of the above seven, Millsap, Plumlee, Craig and Grant are particularly intriguing, while Dozier has an interesting case of his own.

Let's start with Millsap, who is on the final year of a three-year, $90 million contract signed In the 2017 offseason. The 35-year-old averaged 11.6 points and 5.7 rebounds during the regular season, served as the locker room leader and had moments in the postseason, including his inspired performance against the LA Clippers.

It's safe to say Millsap has received his last big payday of that proportion, but teams will certainly be in pursuit of his services should he decide to come back for a 14th season.

After Millsap, Grant is the other postseason starter that can exercise his player option to make $9.3 million next season or enter free agency, where he stands to earn a larger contract as he is one of the biggest free agents in the 2020 class. Grant, who averaged 12.0 points while shooting 47.8% from the field and 38.9% from deep, had been particularly great in the Western Conference Finals, taking on the assignment of guarding both LeBron James and Anthony Davis at times.

Seeing how Grant played 62% of his minutes at power forward this season (versus 36% at small forward), Denver could look to make him its full-time power forward and move on from Millsap.

Elsewhere in the frontcourt, Plumlee plays a big role for the Nuggets, serving as the backup for Nikola Jokic, who at times has a tendency to find himself in foul trouble. The 30-year-old earned over $14 million this past season and could be in search of what could be one final big contract

On the wing, Craig earned a few starts in the postseason and is one of Denver's premier perimeter defenders. There's a bit of a logjam with wings in Denver, though, meaning Craig, who will be 30 in December, might be the odd man out.

Then there's P.J. Dozier.

Dozier, who saw his two-way contract converted to a guaranteed deal ahead of the restart, could theoretically serve as a young option to emerge as Craig's replacement. He'll be 24 next season and has provided energy on both ends of the floor, as he put on full display in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

The next step for Michael Porter Jr.

What's next for Denver's young star?

In 2018, Porter was a high-risk, high-reward pick, as the Nuggets selected him 14th overall after a string of back injuries caused his draft stock to plummet. After missing the entirety of the 2018-19 season, Porter showed big flashes of potential stardom as a second-year rookie.

While he had moments throughout the first part of the season, it was during the NBA restart that Porter truly had his breakout, earning All-Seeding Games Second Team honours with averages of 22.0 points, and 8.6 rebounds on .551/.422/.931 shooting splits.

At one point, the Nuggets official Twitter account dubbed Jokic, Murray and Porter the team's big three after a seeding game win over the Utah Jazz.

Did they speak too soon? Porter has yet to be named a full-time starter and, as we witnessed in the playoffs, still has some growing to do in order to realize his star potential.

At 22, there's not much doubt that he'll eventually take the necessary next steps towards stardom but there are questions that pertain to the ways in which Denver can facilitate such growth.

Does he need another year in a similar role? Is it time for him to be a starter? Can he be the third-best player on a title team?

While MPJ is a versatile player that can score at multiple levels, he played the majority of his minutes at the power forward position last season. Does the team have enough confidence in Porter to make him the starter while letting both Millsap and Grant walk? Would either of them be comfortable with move to the bench in favour of Porter?

Lost in this all is Will Barton, who missed the entirety of the restart due to a knee issue. Barton played the role of the team's third-best player during the regular season and stands to reprise his role as that guy next season.

Barton tweeted in support of Porter during the restart but there are understandably some questions surrounding the plethora of talented players that the Mile High City has to offer.

Admittedly, it's a good problem to have, but head coach Michael Malone has some things to figure out, and some of the biggest questions surround the team's 22-year-old budding star.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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