The Denver Nuggets sit atop the NBA standings in the Western Conference with 10 games left in the regular season, closing in on the No. 1 seed for the first time in years. However, head coach Michael Malone may not be safe heading into the summer.
Following an injury-riddled 2021-’22 season for the Nuggets’ roster, its core of Nikola Jokic, Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray has remained relatively healthy this season. It’s pushed Denver atop the conference, well-positioned to be the favorite to represent the west in the NBA Finals.
- Michael Malone coaching record (Denver Nuggets): 362-265 in regular season, 21-27 in NBA playoffs
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However, holding the No. 1 seed in the conference is far from a guarantee that Denver will advance far. In the last four seasons, despite being one of the best NBA teams during that entire span, the Nuggets have reached the Western Conference Finals once. Now boasting its best roster in years, the pressure is mounting on Denver’s coach to deliver.
NBA insider Zach Lowe shared on ESPN’s The Lowe Post podcast that Malone’s job security might not be guaranteed depending on how the Nuggets perform in the playoffs. While it’s not as simple as a title-or-fired mentality, how far Denver goes may determine Malone’s future.
“I don’t know if it’s championship or bust, but if this team loses before the conference finals, it’s going to be a disappointment. If they lose in the first round, it’s going to be a catastrophe that I think will push some potential changes.”Zach Lowe on the future of Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone
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Fired by the Sacramento Kings just 24 games into the 2014-’15 NBA season, Malone immediately landed a job as the Nuggets’ coach in 2015. Denver went 33-49 in his first season at the helm and failed to reach the playoffs in his first three seasons.
- Michael Malone contract: Signed multi-year extension in March 2022
Related: See where Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic lands in NBA MVP race
However, the Nuggets have been one of the best teams in basketball ever since. Denver reached the Western Conference Semifinals in 2019 then reached the Western Conference Finals in the 2020 NBA postseason bubble. However, the Nuggets lost the series in five games and are 5-10 in the playoffs since then.
Considering Malone signed a contract extension less than a year ago, Denver would likely want to keep him around barring a first or second-round exit. If a change is made, though, the Nuggets will have the best coaching vacancy this summer.