Cover Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

[In the 30 days leading up to the season opener, we'll preview all 30 NBA teams, from Tanking Teams to Lottery Leaders to Warriors Wannabes. Tanking Teams are fighting for the No. 1 pick. Lottery Leaders could make the playoffs, or they could land in the lottery. Warriors Wannabes are title contenders. Then there are the Warriors in a league by themselves. Team 9 in our preseason rankings is the Denver Nuggets. Check back every day for previews of every team in the NBA followed by our complete preseason rankings.]

Key Losses: Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, and Devin Harris. The Nuggets were way above the luxury tax and had to trade key pieces away in order to fix their issues. Devin Harris' departure only hurt the depth of this team, but losing Faried and Chandler added to what could be a much larger issue. 

Trading Faried was important and necessary as his value has plummeted. He was still a solid defender and great rebounder, but averaging under six points per game on a handful of minutes isn't a wild loss. Chandler's departure was prompted by the dire need for wings in Denver. He started 71 games last season, was an above-average defender, shot well inside and out, and was a big key to this team's success. Denver has players to replace his minutes, but it might have been a bad move for a team that was looking to improve from last season. 

Key Returns: Nikola Jokic, Will Barton, Monte Morris, Torrey Craig, Paul Millsap and Gary Harris. Denver found themselves in a terrible cap spot due to some of the big deals featuring the players listed above. Jokic is a player who could be a perennial All-Star for years to come and will now continue to pursue that level in a Denver uniform after signing a five-year deal. Barton was overpaid this offseason despite being important to the team. He has to make a big leap defensively as he'll be the one taking over Chandler's starting spot – a casualty of the large contract Barton received. 

The positive from the luxury cap issue came as the need to add Morris and Craig to NBA contracts. Morris is now the third-string point guard and is more than capable of being a court general. Craig has a spot due to a lack of wings on the roster and will need to vastly improve his shot from deep if he's going to remain on this team and in the league. 

The huge change for the Nuggets this year is the addition of a healthy Millsap and Harris. Both are underrated as Millsap as a staple down low, while Harris has emerged as one of the better young guards in the league. If they can stay healthy, the Nuggets should shoot up the standings this year as both are much tougher to cover offensively if Jokic is garnering defensive attention. 

Key Additions: Isaiah Thomas and Michael Porter Jr. Thomas is a former MVP candidate with great scoring ability, but he hasn't been the same since his hip injury. When players like Harris and Jokic come off the court, the Nuggets can turn to Thomas to be the go-to scorer. 

Porter is a player who could be one of the biggest draft steals in history or a total bust. He looked like a franchise-changing player coming out of high school, but an injury limited him to a handful of games for Missouri. He had a second back surgery this offseason and may miss the entire season, but still has the potential to return. Porter's ceiling is sky high and has the chance to be a superstar if he's healthy. That's a gigantic "if."

X-Factor: Jamal Murray. It's time to see what Jamal Murray is. Is he the kind of player who will coast? Or is his potential a dark horse All-Star candidate? He's clearly a young and talented player who experienced career-highs – essentially across the board – in his second year. He made a massive leap, but another leap could be what Denver needs to be more than a first-round exit. If Murray excels as the second-option to Jokic, then this team becomes much more dynamic. 

Betting Odds: The Nuggets over/under on total team wins is 47.5 and their odds to win the NBA Championship are currently sitting at +8000.

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