Despite sporadic minutes, Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic have been two of the Nuggets' most impactful players so far this year. It's up to Coach Malone to find ways to ensure that they're both on the floor as much as they need to be to help Denver win games.
Dear Coach Malone,
I know you're in the midst of a grueling NBA season, so I won't take up too much of your time. First of all, I want to say that I think you've done a fantastic job as the Nuggets head coach. The way you and your staff have overhauled the culture of the team has been truly incredible to watch. I think you're the perfect man for the job in Denver.
With that said, I do have one small request. Please, I beg of you, stop sitting Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic on the bench at the same time. It's been an absolute disaster. I know that sometimes defensive matchups dictate who is on the court. I know that it can be difficult to trust in such young players when you have a stable of veterans. I appreciate the challenge of getting everyone their deserved minutes on such a deep roster. But the stats are pretty clear - the Denver Nuggets are a much better team with at least one of the two Balkan big men on the floor.
According to NBA.com, the Nuggets are +24 in +/- this season when Jokic, Nurkic, or both are on the court. Additionally, 11 of Denver's best 12 five-man lineups include Jokic and/or Nurkic. Conversely, when both players are on the bench, Denver is -16 so far this season. I realize that we're only four games into an 82 game season. It's much too early to put any significant stock in these numbers. It's a long season and things change. Players are still figuring out their roles and coaches are still trying to fit the pieces together. But the numbers have been overwhelming. At this point, there's no reason for both Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic to ever be sharing the bench.
I have the utmost faith in you and your staff, Coach Malone. I'm sure none of these numbers are news to you. You mentioned on multiple occasions throughout the offseason and the preseason that you fell into the trap of playing small too often last year. You said that Denver is at their best when they play big, thanks to the abilities of Nurkic and Jokic. It's time to see that philosophy in action on the court. The Nuggets are in an enviable position of having two young big men with such skill and talent. It's time for the Denver Nuggets to start dictating matchups, not the other way around. Balkan Big Ball can and should be the Nuggets way, and I can't wait to watch it take the NBA by storm.