The NBA restart is almost upon us, with games beginning on Thursday night. While the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Los Angeles Clippers are still the favorites, this unique situation could result in a surprise team making a run to the title. The depth and adaptability of the Denver Nuggets roster is a prime reason that they could be that surprise team once the playoffs start. They currently sit third in the Western Conference standings.
Denver Nuggets Roster Built for Uncertainty of NBA Restart
When the NBA hit the pause button on this season in March, coach Mike Malone was busy patching together his lineups. Denver had been dealing with injuries to multiple players and were mixing and matching just to survive. The last few months have allowed the Nuggets roster to be closer to 100 percent. Now that they have all their options available, the versatility, depth, and talent at Coach Malone’s disposal are as good as any team in the league.
Inside Out Duo
Denver is led by All-Star center Nikola Jokic and guard Jamal Murray. They give the Nuggets a high level inside-out tandem that has been learning and growing together over the past few seasons. Jokic has developed into one of the best big men in the NBA. His combination of shooting and passing abilities is unique for a man his size. The offense can and does run through him because he is able to attack the defense in so many different ways. He has raised his game to an All-NBA level over the past two seasons. The big Serbian was averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists before the NBA suspended play. His numbers in 14 playoff games last summer were even more impressive. Jokic poured in 25 points, 13 boards, and over eight assists before Denver was eliminated in a second-round game seven.
Murray is becoming one of the games better young guards as he continues to improve each season. He averaged just less than 19 points and five assists this season. Like Jokic, he also raised his level of play last postseason, bumping his scoring average up over 20 a night. The fourth-year man out of Kentucky is great in the pick and roll and is adept at attacking the basket and hitting open jumpers. The chemistry between these two continues to grow, as they head for their second playoff appearance.
Swiss Army Knives
This Nuggets roster also has a deep supporting cast to back up Jokic and Murray. The make-up of that supporting group is one of length and versatility. Along with the frontcourt they have Paul Millsap, Jerami Grant, and Mason Plumlee. Each of these three brings a different skill set to the table. They can all play multiple positions as well. This allows the Nuggets to adapt in games to things like foul trouble or match-ups. They can also adjust things in case an injury or a positive COVID test forces them to lose a player. Veteran forward Milsap will be relied on for scoring punch. Grant and Plumlee provide defensive versatility with their length and ability to guard multiple positions.
Out on the wings, Denver has Will Barton, Torrey Craig, and Troy Daniels in the rotation. They are currently without Gary Harris and Monte Morris, which just goes to show even more how deep the Nuggets roster is. Barton’s ball-handling and playmaking ability is needed so that burden doesn’t solely fall on Murray. Craig and Daniels will be role players looking to provide a spark off the bench. This team is deep and versatile.
Each of the past two seasons there has been a prospect in the NBA draft that fell down draft boards due to injury concerns. Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol were both high-level prospects at one point. Due to the depth already on the Nuggets roster, they were able to take a chance on both players, and its beginning to pay off.
Porter Jr was penciled in as the number one pick before he got injured in his first college game. After sitting out all of the 2018-19 season he showed why he was so highly regarded when he finally saw the floor in an NBA game. He had nine double-figure scoring performances in the final 10 games before the NBA suspended play in March. Porter Jr is a versatile scored at all three levels and is very adept on the offensive glass. He still has a long way to go on the defensive end though.
Bol Bol has yet to play in a regular-season NBA contest but has made waves with his performances in the Nuggets scrimmages while in the Orlando bubble. Bol is the son of former NBA center Manute Bol. He is a basketball unicorn, in that he has an ultra-rare combination of size, shooting, and ball-handling ability. At 7’2” he is one of the tallest players in the NBA. Despite his height and length, the fluidity of his movements is more like that of wing or guard. He adds both shooting and defensive rim protection to this team. Bol could develop into a major factor as he gets accustomed to the NBA game. For the purposes of the restart, he will add some firepower and a matchup nightmare to Coach Malone’s options off of the bench.
Share the Wealth
The one factor that maximizes the potential of this deep and versatile roster is the team’s unselfishness. A lot of that stems from Jokic being a pass-first playmaker despite being Denver’s lone All-Star and leading scorer. The team’s willingness to share the ball is a big reason why they are in the top six in both field goal percentage and assists per game. This season is already unlike any we’ve ever seen. This means that any surprises that occur as the NBA restart commences should be expected. The Nuggets have shown they can sustain success near the top of the Western Conference over the last two seasons. Now they will look to take the next step and become a true contender in the playoffs.
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