After the late game let down against Oklahoma City on Sunday the Denver Nuggets’ playoff hopes came to a halt. Russell Westbrook not only set the record for most triple-doubles in a single season, but he also (with the assistance of official Ken Maurer) lead Oklahoma City to a comeback victory over Denver. Although the Nuggets will not be going to the playoffs in 2017, there is still more to play for in the last two games of the season.
Emmanuel Mudiay, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris lineup
The recent resurgence of Emmanuel Mudiay has Nuggets fans putting him back in the core for the future. In the five games in April, Mudiay has posted a 46% field goal percentage, 36% 3 point percentage, and 81% free throw percentage. He has also put up 12 PPG, 5 APG, and 3 RPG in 24 minutes per game off the bench.
If Emmanuel wants to remain apart of the Nuggets core moving forward, it will be important for him to be able to play with Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. It is well known that Mudiay plays a lot better when on the floor with Gary Harris but what about with Jamal Murray too? The Mudiay, Murray, and Harris lineup is one that Malone has started to implement in the month of April. It is an interesting lineup because it could be a Nuggets version of a death lineup. In the month of April the Mudiay, Murray, and Harris lineup has been implemented in three games and has posted a 22.6 net rating with an offensive rating of 108.1 and a defensive rating of 85.5(!!). It will be very interesting to see if coach Malone tries this lineup out more to give a larger sample size of what these three guards can do together.
Juancho Hernangomez and Malik Beasley playing time
With Denver eliminated from postseason contention, hopefully coach Malone gives Juancho and Beasley extended playing time over the last two games. We have seen a pretty good amount of Juancho this season in sixty games and eight starts but Beasley is more of the unknown. Both have put up good shooting percentages for rookies. Both have had their shares of ups and downs in their debut seasons.
For Juancho, he has an incredible 43% 3 point percentage for a rookie. His season highlight was against Golden State when he put up 27 points and 10 rebounds on 9/17 from the field and 6/10 from three point range in Denver’s big win over the Warriors. Beasley has played sparingly with the Nuggets but has put up some decent numbers in his short playing time.
In the D-League for the Sioux Falls Skyforce Beasley averaged 19 PPG, 8 RPG, and 3 APG in 16 games. This includes a monster 32 point, 19 rebound, and 7 assist performance. Both of these first-rounders have tremendous potential and it would be great to see a lot more of them against Dallas and Oklahoma City.
One important part of the Denver Nuggets’ upcoming offseason will be what they do with Mason Plumlee. Plumlee will be a restricted free agent this offseason and will command a pretty hefty paycheck. The Nuggets have to get as much of a look at Plumlee as they can. They will have to decide if what Mason has done in his short time as a Nugget and how he fits into the future is enough to pay him a large amount. In 25 games as a Nugget, Mason Plumlee has averaged 8.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.8 APG, and 1.1 BPG in 22.6 MPG. All of his shooting percentages are also up from what they were in Portland this season.
Plumlee has to be able to work well with the core youngsters in Denver in order to stick around. In 348 minutes alongside Gary Harris, the two have produced a -10.3 net rating. In 208 minutes together, Plumlee and Juancho have a -9.3 net rating. In 335 minutes, Jamal Murray and Plumlee have a -3.0 net rating. Jokic and Plumlee have a -.3 net rating together in 137 minutes. Lastly, in 105 minutes together, Mudiay and Plumlee have a .5 net rating together. So Plumlee only has a positive net rating with one of the Nuggets young core players.
Hopefully in the last two games Malone experiments a little more with Plumlee so there is more of a sample size of him with the young core. The Nuggets are going to have to decide whether Mason will be able to truly fit in well with these guys in the future for the amount of money he is going to command on the market.
So despite Denver’s season being over there is certainly still reason to watch these last two games. Its been a season of extreme highs and extreme lows. The season has been a success and it will be fun to see what the Nuggets do over their last two games.