I would like to start out by saying I’ve seen every minute of Nuggets’ basketball this season so far. The Denver Nuggets as a team, much like their young players are erratic and hard to judge. One night they could look like one of the best teams in the league and the next they could look like the complete opposite. For the most part, the Nuggets have kept their games close and their contests have been winnable until the last tick. The Nuggets have suffered two blowout losses one against the Pistons in Detroit and one against the Golden State Warriors at the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver. They have been consistent in the wrong areas this season as they lead the league in turnovers per game with 18.1. On the bright side the Nuggets also lead the league in total rebounds per game at 48.8.
The Nuggets core consists of a second year point guard in Emmanuel Mudiay who is still learning how to play his position. Mudiay has been thrown into the fire from game one as soon as he was drafted and has steadily improved his gameplay since then. Mudiay has most recently shown his tremendous talent in the Nuggets win vs the Boston Celtics in which he scored 24 points in the first quarter and 30 points in total.
Starting point guard is worst player in NBA (statistically) –
Even after his 30 point explosion Mudiay continues to be the worst player in the NBA statistically as outlined by Ryan Blackburn of Denver Stiffs. Mudiay doesn’t only struggle with turning the ball over he is also shooting at a hysterically inefficient rate. If the Nuggets were able to get a positive impact from their starting floor general, their record would be over .500 – Mudiay averages more turnovers than assists this season. Although we can all point the finger at the young point guard who is in fact playing horrifically, the game plan has a lot to do with his assist numbers plummeting. Since the start of the preseason Malone’s Nuggets have ran their offense through their bigs which has kept the ball out of their point guard’s hands when he should be creating. The real question is, how far can the Nuggets go if Emmanuel Mudiay does not improve and continues being their starting point guard?
They commit too many turnovers –
The Nuggets commit far too many turnovers to be a team competing for anything in the NBA and their head coach Mike Malone has been vocal about it recently, calling out Emmanuel Mudiay. With a league leading 18.1 turnovers per game. Their starting and backup point guards have a turnover percentage rate of 21.5 and 22.8 respectively and that just won’t get it done. To make things worse there are 8 other player on the roster with a turnover % over 10%. Another problem is that while the Nuggets are repeatedly being forced into turnovers they only steal the ball 6.7 times a game to their opponents 10.1. If the Nuggets wish to make noise in the west they must be able to cut down their turnovers.
Their biggest strength is in the paint –
Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic. Remember those names, those two big men are absolutes beasts. Malone has struggled to get the most out of both big men at the same time as he even experimented starting the two centers in the well known “Jurkic” lineup. About a year ago I wrote about how Emmanuel Mudiay and Jusuf Nurkic could be the next young duo to control the NBA, but Nikola Jokic has showed time and time again that he can be the Nuggets’ star player. The big man can hit stand still threes and he can operate out of the post. He can get his shot off in the low post and is a willing and capable passer in the high post. Only time will tell but if the Nuggets can’t figure out how to effectively use both of their big men, one will have to go. There are definitely teams watching closely waiting for the Nuggets to make one of the two available and there is no doubt that there will be no shortage of offers.
Rookies are impressive –
Before the Nuggets landed the 7th pick in the NBA draft, I prayed to the basketball gods that the Nuggets would land a top 3 pick. No, not for Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram. Don’t get me wrong they are both great players and intriguing prospects but Jamal Murray‘s game spoke to me. The kid was not only a great shooter he was a skilled passer and was crafty with his ball handling. I saw his floor as JJ Redick or a smarter JR Smith, but his ceiling (it’s ok to call me crazy) appeared to me as Stephen Curry. A couple of weeks later the Nuggets had Murray fall to their laps much like Mudiay the year before. Murray hit 79 out of 100 3s in his workout with the celtics before the 2016 NBA Draft. In their last game against the Trailblazers, Terry Scotts was forced to put Damien Lillard back in the game as Jamal Murray exploded with 4 3s in 26 seconds. Juan Hernangomez was also an interesting pick up with the 15th pick. The big man can play the power forward or small forward. His shot stretches out to the 3 point line and he has the handles to drive it to the rack. Last but not least the Nuggets picked up Malik Beasley with their final first round pick (19). The young shooting guard has a deadly stroke and is a threat to drive it to the hoop at any given time. These young guys will surely play a part in the Nuggets bright future either by being part of a trade or blossoming into full time starters.
Wilson Chandler is extremely important –
Ill Will as some call him was a very important piece in the trade that stripped the Nuggets of their 2003 draft pick and NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony. Chandler missed all of the 2015-16 season due to a hip issue that required surgery but he is back and as healthy as ever. Chandler has been on a Vegan Diet according to Rafael Canton of SlamOnline and he is in the best shape he’s ever been in. Only time will tell if Chandler is finally ready to contribute consistently to the Nuggets but thus far this season he is top 5 in the NBA in bench scoring and is a prime candidate for sixth man of the year. Chandler brings versatility that only few players bring to the game with his size strength speed and shooting ability. He can stretch the floor and also bang down low with smaller power forwards. He can guard on the perimeter at a high level and also defend the post. With Chandler on the court the Nuggets have looked like a much better team than with him on the bench and he has closed out almost every game for them thus far.