Teams on the Rise : Denver Nuggets
A team that should get more attention this upcoming season should be the Denver Nuggets. They just missed the playoffs the last two seasons, finishing ninth in both seasons. Their big free agent signing Paul Millsap, played in only 38 games. With a healthy roster and internal development the Denver Nuggets could make some noise this season.
The Denver Nuggets ranked 6th in offensive rating last season. Mike Malone has established a nice pass first system that allows everyone to touch the ball and be a playmaker. The offence is centred around Nikola Jokic, who averaged 6.1 assists as a big man and led his team in that category. Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Will Barton provide the bulk of the team’s three point scoring. Together they averaged 6.2 made threes per game on 16.5 shots for an average of 38%. To put that into perspective, the team on average made 11.5 made threes per game on 37% shooting. The addition of Paul Millsap gave Denver another playmaker and reliable scorer. If Paul Millsap played in more games Denver could have possibly slid into the eight spot this year.
The Nuggets saw some of their youth take another step last season. Jamal Murray had his early struggles to begin the season but got his rhythm and played fairly well as a score first guard. He still struggles to create plays for his teammates but with how the Nuggets play offence maybe they do not need him to be. Gary Harris continued his development as a solid 3 and D player. He averaged his highest points per game of his career this season as well as remaining a solid defensive player. Nikola Jokic improved in almost every category, he got into better shape for the 2017-2018 season and it showed. He still has his defensive issues but with time hopefully he will be able to fix them. Or at least improve to a point where it’s easier to hide him in defensive schemes. Trey Lyles emerged as a mid season breakout when injuries began to pile up for Denver. In only 19.1 minutes per game he averaged 9.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. While providing spacing with his three point shooting (1.1 made threes per game on 3 shot attempts).
Denver got a steal in this year’s draft taking Michael Porter Jr with the 14th pick. Porter’s medicals scared teams so much he almost fell out of the lottery. This pick is definitely a high risk high reward pick. Porter seems to have the physical tools to be great in the NBA but also has a big bust potential. Many mock drafts before had him going number one in the draft before injuring his back in his first college game. He did return for a few games before the season ended but did not look good at all. If he truly lives up to the hype Denver will have gotten a steal.
The main problem for the Nuggets this year was defence. They ranked 22nd last season and also had one of the worst away records in the league. Usually teams on the road have to rely on defence more than offence. With Denver’s defence being pretty terrible it’s easy to see why they were not a good road team. A couple of main focuses this offseason should be to resign Will Barton and look to get defensive minded players. Jerami Grant and Luc Mbah a Moute should be their main targets. Both players should not cost too much money to attain. This would be ideal for their salary cap especially if they can find someone to take Kenneth Faried.
Denver’s goal should be to get into the playoffs at least as a seventh or eighth seed if the team is healthy. They have been so close only to have a few mishaps derail their playoff chances. With a clean bill of health, internal improvement, and possibly some key free agent additions, the Denver Nuggets look to be a young, up and coming team.
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