Denver Nuggets Midseason Report
Feb 8, 2020; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) is congratulated by guard Gary Harris (14) in the second half against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
The Denver Nuggets approach the All-Star break sporting the second-best record in Western Conference.
The team passes the eye test and plays great defense and unselfish team basketball. When shots aren’t falling, they resort to a slower offense that gets good looks and plays smart basketball. This Nuggets team is incredibly well-coached, disciplined, and laser-focused on an NBA Championship.
The Nuggets have the best center in the league. Nikola Joki? is playing a role unlike any other center in the history of the NBA, and he’s revolutionizing the way the game has to be played against the Nuggets. He’s eighth in the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating and has the second-most triple-doubles in the NBA with 11, only trailing Luka Doncic and Lebron James. He’s been incredible–playing every game this season, hitting multiple game-winners, and just outright dominating on a nightly basis.
The Nuggets have a point guard in Jamal Murray who’s starting to round into form. In February so far, Jamal Murray is averaging 28-6-3 and has started to play like the player Denver gave a max contract before the start of the year. He’s leading the Nuggets in scoring in three of the four games since his return from injury, and he’s shooting at percentages that fans have been waiting for all season.
Denver has depth, skill, veteran leadership, youth, and versatility that are showing in their regular-season performance so far. The team has the personnel to swap between small ball, defensive units, offensive units, big ball, scrappy players, and energy players. These different combinations of players allow them to match up with any team in the league and play a brand of basketball that seemingly cannot be matched.
The team is starting to get healthy after recently returning Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, and Jamal Murray after extended stretches without them. Michael Porter Jr., Will Barton, and Mason Plumlee are all still out, but the team will be playoff ready once they return to health.
The Nuggets have a competitive nature that manifests when Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray start playing their patented two-man game to finish games. Watching nearly every Nuggets game this season, I’ve yet to see a team effectively stop those two when the end of the game is approaching. They seemingly always get the right shot and they are one of the prettiest duos in the NBA to watch.
Michael Porter Jr. is definitely the player on this roster that sets Denver over the top. He is a difference-maker, and when he’s healthy the team elevates from a great team to a full-blown contender. Getting Porter back into the rotation, healthy, and contributing is going to be the difference between losing in the playoffs and completing the team’s mission of winning a championship.
Michael Malone has done such an amazing job coaching this deep roster, keeping everyone united and working toward a common goal, and slowing the introduction of Michael Porter Jr. to the NBA. He has this team selling out on defense, playing together, avoiding playing for stats, and truly believing in each other. The combination of the roster Tim Connelly has built, the excellent job done by Mike Malone and his coaching staff, and the drive, competitive nature, and skill this roster has will bring an NBA Championship to the city of Denver.
This is the best team that the Denver Nuggets have ever fielded, and it’s not really that close. The 2009 Denver ‘Thuggets’ had a chance to immortalize themselves as the only Nuggets team to advance to an NBA Finals, but they couldn’t beat the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. I honestly believe the Nuggets of 2019-20 have a window open now because they can beat the Lakers, Clippers, Bucks, and Raptors, which represent the other top four teams in the NBA. There’s not a team that confidently wants to face the Nuggets in a seven-game series.
After the NBA All-Star Weekend, the Nuggets will begin their march toward playoff readiness where we will see the rotations start to become more concrete. Roles will be clearly defined. Players will know and accept their roles, which is a part of the reason Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez were traded. They seemingly were the players that could cause a rift in the roster because of their roles toward the end of the season. The Nuggets will not sleepwalk into trap games and lose to teams they shouldn’t, which has been a trend this year. They will start to build their brand of playoff basketball so that they can hit the postseason ready.
The Nuggets have a win percentage of 70.8%, if they carry that win percentage through the last 28 games of the season, they should win 19 more games, placing their expected win total at 58 games. This would outpace the best win total in Nuggets history, which was previously 54 wins, and make this the best regular-season Nuggets team of all time. Obviously, they have higher hopes and championship aspirations. Being a good regular season team is fun, but they want to go all the way and will have to elevate their play in the postseason to do so.
Record – 38-17
Last 10 games – 7-3
Opponent Points Per Game – 106.4
Points Per Game – 110.3
Home Record – 21-7
Away Record 17-10
Division Record – 9-0
Player Leader Stats
Points Per Game – Nikola Jokic – 20.6
Rebounds Per Game – Nikola Jokic – 10.2
Assists Per Game – Nikola Jokic 6.9
Steals Per Game – Gary Harris – 1.3
Blocks Per Game – Jerami Grant – 0.9
Shooting Percentage Leaders
Three-Point Percentage – Paul Millsap – 43.4 percent
Field Goal Percentage – Mason Plumlee – 60.5 percent
Free Throw Percentage – Jamal Murray – 89.8 percent
Accolades to this point
– Best record through 55 games in franchise history
– Best Opponent PPG in the Western Conference
– Second Seed in the Western Conference
– Undefeated against division opponents