Strike 1: It’s damn hard to reach the top of the NBA mountain top. It’s even harder to stay there.

The Denver Nuggets already knew that coming in. That target on their back glows in the dark.

So far, so good after capturing Game 1 of their opening playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers. But the road ahead is going to be filled with steep cliffs and narrow passages. Given the fact that their roster is full of inexperienced backups, and the Nuggets starters had to play a ton more minutes this year as opposed to last, if Denver’s somehow able to repeat as NBA champs, it will truly be like conquering Mt. Everest, and will easily go down as the best season in Nuggets history.

It would also place Denver in some rarified air, and give Nuggets Nation – including those within the organization – a chance to start whispering the “D” word.

Dynasty: “A powerful group that maintains its position for a considerable time.”

Winning one championship validates a team and the incredibly hard work it takes to get there. But winning two or more? That’s special stuff.

A generation from now, how will the Nikola Jokic-led Denver Nuggets be remembered? Like the 2019 NBA champions Toronto Raptors and the title winning 2021 Milwaukee Bucks “one-hit wonders?” Or like the Steph Curry-led Golden State Warriors – an eight-year dynasty?

All those Warriors did under head coach Steve Kerr for those eight seasons between 2015 and 2022 was win the NBA’s Western Conference six times (including five in a row) and capture four NBA titles. That would certainly qualify as a “powerful group” and “a considerable amount of time.”

Not winning the NBA title this season wouldn’t necessarily disqualify the current Nuggets from a chance at making such a claim, but they’d certainly need to at least reach the Finals. Can they do it? They pretty much ran it back this season with the same core group, and actually won more games, but with that younger and inexperienced supporting cast? Time will tell if that plan allows them to remain at their peak and at least win the west.

Take Golden State for example. They won their first title in 2015, then lost a seven game finals series to Cleveland the following year. Still, they accomplished great things over the long term in large part because their front office didn’t just stand pat. They were able to keep their core – Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – together while being aggressive and adding superstar Kevin Durant to the roster after failing to repeat in 2016.

Would the Nuggets – could the Nuggets – do something similar?

After acquiring Durant for the 2017 season, the Warriors won back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018. After Durant moved on as a free agent, they still won the west again in 2019 and added another NBA title in 2022. The core stayed together, but the surrounding cast was being continually altered and upgraded, and not just through the draft.

So the question is – win or lose again this season – will the Nuggets repeat their past offseason and stick with the current cast of youthful draft picks as the critical backups for their standout core? Or would they be willing to venture out of their comfort zone and make trades and/or free agent acquisitions to bolster the roster?

Win or lose, we’ll find out this summer.

First things first of course. The Nuggets have their hands full not only getting past LeBron James and the Lakers, but potentially having to deal with both Minnesota and Oklahoma City to just reach the Finals. It’s like being forced to climb one 14’er after another.