The Denver Nuggets are NBA champions and boy are they enjoying it. In the meantime, the Phoenix Suns are making moves to win the next one.
Denver Nuggets: NBA Champions
The NBA is a rollercoaster and, somehow, the Denver Nuggets winning the NBA championship feels like a long time ago now.
Claiming a 94-89 win in front of a home crowd in Game 5, the Nuggets lifted the Larry O’Brien Trophy and have since paraded around Denver celebrating the first championship in franchise history. Mike Malone has been on a rampage of celebratory drinks and petty shots in one of the most memorable coaching performances in NBA parade history.
Mike Malone is putting up Wilt Chamberlain numbers at the nuggets parade 😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/J5uI1MjU3y
— Bucketsquad (@BucketSQD) June 15, 2023
While most of the headlines have been around Nikola Jokic and Malone since the win, the Nuggets are a prime example of how building a roster and developing cohesion can translate into success.
“Since day one in training camp in San Diego, we knew we could do this. We worked for this. Was it 17 of us, 15 of us? Worked extremely hard. Every practice, every game, we stayed locked in. We stayed together,” Bruce Brown said after Game 5.
While other franchises desperately search for a deal that will, on paper, make them a better team, the Nuggets developed a list that they knew would work together if given the time. Even while Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. missed considerable periods of time, the team developed as though they were there. To their credit, the Miami Heat did similar to stun the NBA world and reach another Finals series.
The discourse after the Finals is often around how this championship will mould the rest of the league in the coming years. For many, cohesion and consistency is being recognised as key components to success and one franchises a tier below the genuine contenders can develop instead of looking for a deal to accelerate the process.
Nikola Jokic ended up with the NBA Championship he desired, but that didn’t stop almost everybody else from revisiting the fact voters snubbed him for the Most Valuable Player award for a myriad of head-scratching reasons.
Handed the NBA Finals MVP on the back of 30.2 points, 14 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game, he became the lowest-drafted player in history to win the award.
His resume is already incredible and it won’t be a surprise to see another MVP and championship added to it in the not-too-distant future.
As it stands, the Nuggets are $5.50 favourites to win the 2023-24 NBA championship.
Nikola Jokic at age 28:
— NBA champion
— Finals MVP
— WCF Finals MVP
— 5x All-NBA
— 5x All-Star
— 2x MVP
How many centers have a better resume? pic.twitter.com/I4tK7HJq9J
— StatMuse (@statmuse) June 13, 2023
For the Heat, it’s another one that got away. As great as Jimmy Butler performed throughout the playoffs as a whole, he couldn’t find the next gear in the NBA Finals to pull his team out in front. The supporting cast couldn’t make up the difference either.
Jimmy Butler & Bam Adebayo combined to shoot 4-of-17 in the second half
— Rohan Nadkarni (@RohanNadkarni) June 13, 2023
As a result of another Finals loss that largely comes down to their lack of scoring in big moments, the Heat are said to be in the market for Damian Lillard…
2023-24 NBA Champions
As is often the case, the defending NBA champions open as favourites to win the next with the Nuggets at $5.50 to back-to-back.
There or thereabouts for a few years now, the Boston Celtics are alongside a proven Milwaukee Bucks team at $6 to go all the way in 2023-24. Although, it’s safe to assume we will see a few changes to both rosters over the summer. The Phoenix Suns round out the short contenders for the championship with the Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers on the second tier. For the Warriors and Lakers, there is a lot of possible roster tinkering to take place before next season tips off.
While the Miami Heat continue to defy the odds they’re at $20 to go one better in 2023-24. The arrival of Damian Lillard would quickly change that price, though…
Top 10 Odds
|Golden State Warriors
|Los Angeles Lakers
Beal On The Move
Bradley Beal trades have dominated social media for years.
Seemingly happy to get paid on a poor team, the new Washington Wizards leadership have given him the best of both worlds. Beal and his monster deal are heading to the Phoenix Suns where he will link up with Devin Booker and Kevin Durant and become an instant championship contender.
BREAKING: The Washington Wizards are trading three-time All-Star Bradley Beal to the Phoenix Suns for Chris Paul, Landry Shamet, a handful of second-round picks, and multiple pick swaps, league sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 18, 2023
Despite the lack of team success, Beal is one of the best scorers in the NBA. He averaged 23.2 points per game this season and is only two years removed from averaging 30+ points in back-to-back seasons. The 29-year-old is still in the prime years of his career, and while he’s known most as a scorer, is an underrated passer after averaging six assists per game across his last two NBA seasons.
The typical response to a ball-dominant player joining others is “there’s only one ball” and that will do the rounds again here. However, Booker and Durant, albeit in a limited sample size, proved they don’t need a traditional point guard to get the ball up the floor. Both are capable of getting the Suns to their spot and can score at will when the opportunity presents itself. Beal is another that can handle the ball, but he won’t need to do so much in this rotation. Notably, the Suns can have one of Booker, Durant or Beal on the court at all times – scary.
The major issue that might arise following this deal is off the court. Booker, Durant and Beal are all on deals worth more than $50M a season. Add Ayton’s deal to the big three and the Suns are already over the $162M luxury tax mark set for next season. This is going to be a very, very expensive supporting cast and one that won’t allow for any long-term injuries – a concern at times for all three Suns stars.
For the Wizards, well, they’ve not won many supporters from this deal…
The Wizards screwed themselves giving Bradley Beal that no trade clause with the supermax. They should have dealt him instead of extending him. Predictably embarrassing it ended this way.
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) June 18, 2023
A lot was expected of the Suns following Durant’s arrival in the 2022-23 season. They never got close to reaching those expectations. However, with a summer to develop their cohesion and integrate Beal into the rotation, the Suns are on the fourth line of betting to win the 2023-24 NBA championship at $7.50.