After ten consecutive playoff appearances for the Nuggets, they have missed the postseason for the past three years. This season, the top seven teams in the Western Conference are all five games above the 0.500 mark, or better. The 8th spot is up for the taking. Right now the Kings are sitting at the 8th seed at 15-20. The Nuggets are only 1.5 games behind the Kings. After not being in the playoff picture recently, the Nuggets’ primary goal should be to make the playoffs. That would bring back much excitement to the Mile High City. Denver fans are thirsting for a Nuggets playoff berth. However, for this goal to be met, the Nuggets need to clean up a few things first.
The Nuggets have big consistency issues when it comes to winning games. The Nuggets have wins that include a victory over the Celtics in Boston and a win at home against the Jazz. However, they have a loss to the 76ers at home and have a loss at Brooklyn. Even though these two losses were by a combined seven points, there is no excuse to lose to the two teams that are still under ten wins. These are the games that should be easy wins on your schedule. In order to progress up the Western Conference, the Nuggets must win these games.
Next, there are still starting lineup issues. Yes, we are almost 40 games into the season, and Mike Malone is still making changes to his starting five. The most recent change came in the form of Darrell Arthur. In a loss to the Spurs on Thursday night, Darrell Arthur made just his fourth start of the season. Arthur, who has received his fair share of DNPs this year was inserted into the starting lineup in place of Wilson Chandler. At this point in the season, the starting lineup should be finalized (given that the team is fully healthy). 12 players on the Nuggets roster have started at least one game this season. How can a starting unit develop chemistry if there are frequent changes? Mudiay and Gallinari are the only two players that have started in every game that they have played in. Mudiay and Gallinari along with Jokic and Harris seem to be the consistent core of the starting lineup of late. However, that fifth spot still needs to be finalized.
Defense, defense and more defense. The Nuggets are ranked 27th in points scored in the paint by opponents. They are also ranked 27th in opponent points per game. They are ranked 28th in defensive efficiency. The Nuggets have struggled on the defensive side of the court this season, and this has been most prominent when defending the basket. The Nuggets have no true rim protector on their roster. Marcus Camby who won the defensive player of the year award in 2006-2007 was the last big man they had that could be that defensive anchor that they so desperately need. That’s why a Nerlens Noel deal wouldn’t be so bad for the Nuggets. All the Nuggets would need from him is consistent defense and shot blocking. He could pair nicely next to Jokic, who we know is extremely skilled on the offensive end.
In order for the Nuggets to make a run at the playoffs this season, they must clean up these areas. Adding a rim protector could be a great addition to the team. Consistency though is key for this Nuggets team. Consistency in the rotation and starting lineup will lead to more consistent play on the court.