The Nuggets got a much needed 106-98 Win Monday night against the Philadelphia 76ers. Sure, it’s Philadelphia, but prior to the game, Denver was 1-5 in their last 6 games. There are still a number of holes in the Nuggets roster, some more obvious than others. One of the blatantly obvious craters in the team is the lack of minutes due to the number of talented players on the roster. Coach Malone has deployed some questionable lineups this season, and perhaps a trade could solve that problem.
The point guard position has largely been believed to be Emmanuel Mudiay’s job since Denver drafted him 7th overall in 2015. He has assumed that position well but his assist numbers have dropped from last year. Still, Mudiay has started all but 2 games in his young NBA career and shows flashes of brilliance on occasion. Jameer Nelson has been stepping in to close out games, and has been fairly successful doing so. Jamal Murray has stated he thinks of himself as a point guard and likes taking control of the offense. Murray has been more of a shooting guard for the Nuggets, but some time at the point is pretty much inevitable.
Anyone following the NBA closely has surely been impressed by Jamal Murray’s play.
Murray has been doing an excellent job of coming off the bench lately for starting shooting guard Jameer Nelson. Jameer is a baller and has been serving the team wonderfully in the final minutes of recent games. Will Barton came close to 6th Man of the Year last year and has had to play around an injury the past few weeks, but is chalking up a proficient 13.6 PPG. All of this seems a tad much, and then we remember Gary Harris is coming back from a foot injury and could very much so take his starting role back. In addition to that, rookie Malik Beasley has played very little, only averaging 6 minutes per game. The 2 guard spot remains a cluster of decent players.
Coming into this year, Danilo Gallinari looked like not only the best small forward on the team, but the best overall player on The Nuggets roster. He averaged close to 20 PPG at the end of his season last year, but yet another injury prevented Gallo from being the first Nugget to average 20 PPG since Carmelo Anthony. At 8-13 and a quarter through the NBA regular season, it is apparent that Wilson Chandler is now the best player on the roster. Gallo has been the starting Small forward for the season, but Chandler may threaten that by averaging 21.3 PPG in the last 6 games, 23.6 if you exclude the Philly game. The two forwards have always played for the same team together, first New York and now Denver, so a feud over the role is unlikely. What is likely. Is the recently signed Alonzo Gee and Will Barton taking minutes from the wing.
The frontcourt is where things begin to get really tricky for The Nuggets as this is where they started their shining young big Nikola Jokic for much of the early season. This experiment of moving Jokic down to the 4 has hurt the young Serbian’s game. That is why Malone has resorted to starting Kenneth Faried, The Manimal, at power forward. Faried has been bringing his intensity on the glass to both the first and secondary squads. Behind Faried, The Nugs have rotated veteran Darrell Arthur to be a decent backup. Only averaging 5.5 points and 2.5 rebounds a game, despite having some nice jump shot and decent games, Arthur is more of a filler than a star player. When Gallinari is not playing big on the 4, rookie Juancho Hernangomez has also been playing sparingly at 11 minutes a game and only averaging 3 PPG.
The center position has classically been one of the most, if not THE most, important position on a basketball team. To that end, it's a massive help that the Nuggets actually have a decent grasp on the 5 spot. When not playing small ball, Jusuf Nurkic has been a shining young piece on the team and looks to be a dominant big man in the league. Besides his already talented level of verbal warfare, Nurkic is the Nuggets 2nd leading rebounder and has had some solid double-double performances so far this year. While not playing alongside Nurkic, Nikola Jokic has been getting back into his groove from last year. He had 2 double-doubles in a row against Phoenix and Miami before being listed out with a wrist sprain. There is still lots of time for these two big men to learn to truly be BIG men on the Nuggets roster this season.
There are too many players on the Denver Nuggets and it’s hurting nobody but the players themselves. Don’t get it wrong, having a roster loaded with talent is a great problem to have; but, it’s still a problem. Denver is going to have to move some players to either stock up on high-value picks for the coming years, or trade multiple players for a player like DeMarcus Cousins or John Wall. There are a few players with excellent contracts, such as Kenneth Faried or Will Barton, that Denver could get real value for. Whatever they decide to do, this team needs change and it needs to come soon.