The Denver Nuggets are 7-3 in their last 10 games and are coming off a pair of huge wins against the Utah Jazz and the Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks.
So far this season, the Nuggets have the second-best record in the Western Conference, are 7-0 in their division games, boast the best defense in the Western Conference, and are doing all this during a relatively unhealthy season.
Nikola Jokic was voted to his second straight All-Star game earlier this week, however, he wasn’t voted in as a starter, because of his slow start to the year.
The team has been playing well despite three starters and a major role player missing significant time, concurrently, over the last month. Nikola Jokic, Jerami Grant and Monte Morris are the only three Nuggets to play in all 48 games this season.
The last month or so has been almost comical with the number of injuries sustained.
Gary Harris, Jamal Murray, and Paul Millsap have all missed significant time over the last month. Harris joined the team against the Pelicans after missing five games and played three games before missing the last two because of personal reasons. Jamal Murray sprained his ankle Jan. 15 against the Hornets and has not played since. Paul Millsap last played Jan. 6 against Atlanta and his knee injury has kept him out since.
To add to the parody of the Nuggets injury report, their backup center and the Nuggets second-highest minutes-per-game rotational player, Mason Plumlee, injured his right foot on Jan. 22 and is expected to miss two to four weeks recovering. Also, in Friday’s contest against the Bucks, Michael Porter Jr. appeared to tweak his ankle, forcing him out of the game. He would run to the training room and eventually return to the bench with tape, but wouldn’t return to the court.
Even with the injury plague, they are finding ways to win games and the missing players are opening the door for Michael Porter Jr. to grab a hold of valuable minutes and really showcase his talent. In his last 10 games, Porter is averaging 25 minutes-per-game, and with that time he’s demonstrating why he was considered the most talented player in his draft. Porter Jr. is putting up a fantastic 15-9-2 stat line while shooting 48.5 percent from the field, 52.5 percent from three, and 83.3 percent from the free-throw line.
Over the last 10 games, Jerami Grant was slotted into the starting lineup for Paul Millsap and has made the most of it. Grant’s stat line of 16-5-2 while shooting the three at a 46 percent clip has been important for the Nuggets’ offense.
With Jamal Murray’s injury, Monte Morris has filled into the starting lineup, and PJ Dozier now anchors the second string and he’s done a great job of facilitating and running the offense like a veteran in the absence of so many players.
There is still speculation about the Nuggets making a move before the trade deadline on Feb. 19, but for the time being the incredible depth of this roster built by Tim Connelly and his staff, has been the driving force behind their ability to remain competitive night in and night out.
The Nuggets have three road games and three home games on their schedule against some quality opponents before they get a long, much-needed, break for the All-Star weekend. If the Nuggets can carry their momentum into All-Star weekend, rest up, regain their roster health, then they will have a fantastic opportunity to hit the postseason at exactly the right time.
I’m a firm believer that this roster has what it takes to beat anyone in the Western Conference, but health is a crucial part of their ability to make a deep playoff run.
This year’s Nuggets roster is trying to do something no other Nuggets team has done before, immortalize themselves in history by winning the city of Denver its first-ever NBA Championship. The rise of Michael Porter Jr., the continued dominance of Nikola Jokic, great coaching by Mike Malone, and most importantly, roster health, will all play major parts in their quest for history.