Denver Nuggets boast two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic among their roster and, with a couple of key men returning from injury, they should be considered genuine championship contenders going into the new season.
Last season potentially could have been a complete write-off for Denver as star guard Jamal Murray missed the entirety of the campaign and forward Michael Porter Jr played just nine games.
The Nuggets could easily have struggled in the absence of two of their three stars, but Jokic stepped up, averaging career-highs in points and rebounds with 27.1 and 13.8 per-game respectively, and was named MVP for the second season in a row.
The Serbian star was unable to help Denver make a significant impact in the playoffs, however, as they were eliminated in five games by eventual winners Golden State Warriors in the first round after claiming sixth seed in the West.
With Murray and Porter available again, Denver should be a force in the West this time around, as they bid to win a first ever championship for the franchise.
|What||NBA Season 2022/23|
|Where||USA and Canada|
|When||October 18th 2022 - June 2023|
|How to watch||ABC, ESPN, TNT, NBA TV|
|Odds||BOS Celtics +525, GS Warriors +600, LA Clippers +700, MIL Bucks +750, BKN Nets +800|
Jokic carried Denver into the postseason last year, but they need all of their stars fit if they are to mount a serious championship challenge.
Murray sustained an ACL injury towards the end of the 2020-21 season which ultimately saw him miss out for 18 months.
There were rumours he could return in the playoffs last season, but Denver opted to take a cautious approach rather than risk an early return, and the guard is fully fit ahead of the new campaign.
Porter was forced to undergo back surgery for a third time in November last year and that brought a premature end to his campaign, but he is also fully fit ahead of the 2022-23 season.
Jokic is clearly the star man in Denver's line-up, but the center needs a quality supporting cast and Murray and Porter provide that.
The Nuggets may have relied heavily on Jokic last season but the rest of the squad also raised their levels as well and that bodes well for the season ahead.
Aaron Gordon and new recruit Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will probably complete their starting V alongside Jokic, Murray and Porter, while the likes of Bones Hyland, Bruce Brown, Christian Braun, and Zeke Nnaji providing further support from the bench.
The Nuggets acquired Caldwell-Pope from Washington and the 29-year-old brings plenty of experience, having helped Los Angeles Lakers win the championship in 2020.
Denver selected rookie Braun with the 21st pick in the 2022 draft and he could well make an impact in the season ahead after helping Kansas Jayhawks win the 2022 NCAA Championship.
Denver aren't among the favourites to win the championship, but they are contenders if they can keep their stars fit.
Coach Michael Malone is gearing up for his eighth season in charge and there is genuine hope he can claim a first ever championship for Denver after two Conference semifinals and one Conference Finals appearances in the three years before last season's first round playoff exit.
Malone has turned the Nuggets into a real threat in a competitive Western Conference and the next challenge for the team is to try and reach the Finals, which is by no means out of the question if Jokic can come up with another huge season.
The Nuggets travel to Northwest Division rivals Utah Jazz in their season opener and they will be expecting to hit the ground running with a victory. They then face a tough trip to champions Golden State before entertaining Oklahoma City Thunder in their first home assignment.
Denver also face Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers, home and away, in their first seven games and after those games we should have a clear idea of whether or not they are serious title contenders, and how much more time Murray and Porter may need to get back to their best.
After claiming a top six seed last season despite their injury issues, Denver look a team to be feared in the West and at full strength they should be a match for any team in the NBA in a best-of-seven series.
The decision to award Jokic the MVP award last season ahead of Philadelphia's Joel Embiid did raise a few eyebrows, but the Serb is crucial for the Nuggets and, with more support next season for their star center, there is a real chance Denver could go all the way and reach the Finals.
The Nuggets are +1800 to win the NBA Championship and +850 to win the Western Conference, which puts them behind Golden State, Phoenix Suns and the two teams from LA.