Monte Morris sees Nuggets going nowhere but up in rejigged West

MANILA, Philippines – The Denver Nuggets finished atop the West last season, and according to Monte Morris, that is not going to change even with the recent player movement expected to shape the future of the NBA. 

"Still top 2, top 3," Morris – who is in the country to help promote NBA 3X Philippines – told Filipino reporters when asked where he would rank his Nuggets in the upcoming season.

Trades and free agent acquisitions shook up the wild, wild West in the offseason. 

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George teaming up has turned the Los Angeles Clippers to legitimate title contenders, while Anthony Davis linking up with LeBron James has made the Los Angeles Lakers another championship favorite.

The Houston Rockets are also strong contenders, now having two Most Valuable Player winners in their team with Russell Westbrook reuniting with James Harden

While the Golden State Warriors lost Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets and could miss the services of the injured Klay Thompson for an entire year, they still remain competitive by signing D'Angelo Russell and Willie Cauley-Stein. 

Perennial playoff teams Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers are not to be left out after pulling moves to bolster their respective rosters. 

But Morris noted chemistry – and not just firepower – will play a major factor in team success.

"You got to look at it, we're not doing a lot of movement. We had success this past season. We got chemistry, we know what we got to do. These teams look good on paper, you still got to figure it out," he said. 

"We know what we're going to get from every guy on the roster, we've been there before. I think that's kind of getting overlooked." 

"You got to figure everybody out and that can take time, that can take all the way to the All-Star break." 

For Morris, the Nuggets are only bound to get even more mature after playing in back-to-back seven-game series last season that both went the distance.

The Nuggets survived the San Antonio Spurs in 7 games in the first round before falling short to the Trail Blazers in 7 games in the second round. 

Morris actually sees the young Nuggets core – built around 24-year-old Nikola Jokic and 22-year-old Jamal Murray – as somewhat similar to the Warriors dynasty when it was still in its infancy. 

Back in 2015, the Warriors suffered a first-round playoff exit to the Los Angeles Clippers, just a year before they captured the NBA crown against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"I feel like we're under the same type of situation. We missed it last year by one game. It's only up from here. We know what we're going to do," Morris said. 

"For us to get 14 games in our belt, people that played 14 years in the league ain't got 14 playoff games under their belt." –

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.