Written by: Tristan Wentworth
The Nuggets have a prolific offense, a wealth of young talent, and a golden opportunity.
Last year, Mike Malone’s fast-paced tempo stressed taking high percentage shots and making unselfish plays which led the Nuggets to a top 3 finish in points and assists. Denver posted a 110 offensive rating, good for 4th in the association.
After All-Star Break the Nuggets went 15-11, increasing their +/- by 5 which was the most drastic improvement from any team. The Nuggets had 7 players average double digit points last year and for better or for worse, no player eclipsed 20 ppg.
The Nuggets have the perfect blueprint on offense with a combination of skilled shooters, post presence, and fluid off-ball movement.
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY
“The “Joker” has an exceptional basketball IQ and has flashed his ability to score from the low post, stretch the floor from three, and make plays in the open court. Last year as the focal point of the offense, he put up 17 points, 5 assists, and 10 rebounds shooting 58% from the field and 32% from 3. Malone loves Jokic as he was on record saying, “offensively he plays a near-perfect brand of basketball.”
If Jokic can improve his agility and defensive effort, he has the tools to be a superstar for years to come.
Denver’s young shooting guard Gary Harris, see our Emerging Shooting Guard Series, is the perfect complement to Jokic.
His ability to hit 3s at 42% and move without the ball gives Jokic room to operate and makes Denver dangerously efficient and tough to stop. In 2016-17 he put up a career-best 15 points, 3 assists, 3 boards, and 1.9 3-pointers.
Harris is also an exceptional perimeter ball-stopper as he led the Nuggets in steals last year(1.2) and was one of the lone bright spots on defense. Harris and Jokic are both 22 and should grow to become one of the best tandems in the NBA.
20-year-old Sophomore Jamal Murray is the Nuggets 3rd most important young asset. In his rookie campaign, he put up 10 points, 2 assists, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.5 3-pointers.
Despite being snubbed from All Rookie First Team, he proved his ability to stroke it from deep and demonstrated a solid package of finishes around the hoop.
If Murray can develop a mid-range game, and improve as a passer and playmaker, he can be the Nuggets’ point guard of the future.
Further down the depth chart, the Nuggets’ have intriguing raw talent.
Young prospects like Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Emmanuel Mudiay, Tyler Lydon, and Trey Lyles will continue to battle for playing time as all have shown unique abilities and flashes of NBA-readiness.
Perhaps one or two of these players can take a step in 2017-18 and become a consistent contributor for the Nuggets.
Despite losing a talented scorer in Gallinari, the Nuggets made a move this offseason to bring in veteran All-Star and defensive-stopper Paul Millsap for 3 years and over 90 million(with a team option).
They have been trying to get talent for years and were finally able to acquire a top-tier power forward in an attempt to make the playoffs in the short term.
Solid veteran production from Millsap, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, and Will Barton, coupled with steps forward from Jokic, Harris, and Jamal Murray, could lead the Nuggets in the right direction.
Questions at point guard remain. Fit with Millsap is still unknown. And Defense is still an issue.
That being said, Denver’s rotation could feature 7 players under 23 which bodes well for the future. Also, Denver has a young offensive-guru coach in Mike Malone and a shrewd general manager in Artūras Karnišovas.
Denver clearly wants to make the playoffs. The Nuggets have long been in the sweepstakes for another star and were involved in trade talks for Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, and Chris Paul. They obviously have the blue chip young players to incentivize a trade, but with the addition of Millsap they should hold onto their young prospects.
The Nuggets have multiple points to address, but with necessary improvement from their young core, we love them in 2017-18 and look forward to them climbing the Western Conference.
The Nuggets can compete in the present while holding onto their future, thus, the Nuggets of Gold.