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Stat of the Week: Denver Nuggets final preseason numbers

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A look back at what happened during the five preseason games.

NBA: Preseason-Denver Nuggets at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

This edition of Stat of the Week will focus on the preseason numbers from every player, broken down by projected starters, projected bench players, and projected reserves. With a lot of playing time for most every player on the roster, it was intriguing to see which players were successful and which players struggled in their roles. Various tidbits may be added depending on the player and/or situation.

Projected Starters

Player Minutes Points Assists Rebounds Field Goal % 3-Point % Free Throw % Net Rating
Jamal Murray 23.3 10.3 2.5 2.0 41.9 52.6 83.3 +1.6
Gary Harris 24.3 14.8 1.3 1.8 50.0 47.1 90.0 -0.7
Wilson Chandler 24.2 5.0 1.5 4.0 26.7 14.3 N/A -0.3
Paul Millsap 22.8 13.0 1.8 6.5 39.5 35.7 81.0 +17.6
Nikola Jokic 22.6 14.8 3.0 6.5 44.2 55.6 76.2 -2.9

The first encouraging thing I see is the shooting from all positions. Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Nikola Jokic all shot extremely well from outside the arc during the preseason, and if at least the guards continue to provide elite spacing, the rest of the offense will figure itself out. Paul Millsap also shot reasonably well outside the arc, though not well inside the arc. He will need to figure out how to balance the floor next to Jokic, as too often, Millsap’s possessions devolved into running bank shots and other low value possessions.

I’m not worried about Wilson Chandler. He’s a veteran with a bunch of data that says he’s an average shooter from the perimeter. He will get back to that point, I have no doubt.

The other thing to notice is the Net Rating numbers. Millsap is all alone with a +17.6 Net Rating, while all other starters outside of Murray are in the negative. Millsap happened to spend a few minutes with bench lineups that really succeeded, which leads me to believe that when Michael Malone staggers lineups, Millsap will be the starter most frequently out there. That definitely makes sense given the rest of the rotation, but it places a heavy reliance on Millsap to stay healthy throughout the year. Here’s hoping he does.

Projected Bench Players

Player Minutes Points Assists Rebounds Field Goal % 3-Point % Free Throw % Net Rating
Jameer Nelson 20.9 3.0 5.0 1.7 26.7 14.3 N/A +7.5
Will Barton 25.6 13.0 4.4 3.4 42.4 50.0 71.4 -1.1
Juancho Hernangomez 20.4 9.2 3.4 0.6 45.7 42.9 62.5 0.0
Mason Plumlee 20.9 8.6 7.6 2.4 68.0 N/A 47.4 +9.5

The biggest takeaways here: the Net Ratings! Mason Plumlee played the most minutes in strictly bench lineups, and he maintained a +9.5 Net Rating through five games. He (and most of the lineups around him) performed very well throughout the preseason, and his field goal percentage, rebounding, and the general performance of the bench reflected that.

Will Barton also showed more playmaking in his game than ever before. His assist to turnover ratio of 3.67 was the second best among “playmakers” in the entire NBA during the preseason. Shooting 50.0% from behind the 3-point line as well? It’s possible that Barton is in line for his best season to date.

Finally, Jameer Nelson looks to be the rightful backup point guard at this point over Emmanuel Mudiay. He’s a better shooter next to Barton than Mudiay, and Mudiay has turned the ball over twice as much. Nelson’s shot will come around, but the same can’t be said about Mudiay. Nelson is less defensive than Mudiay, but in a smaller bench role as the point guard, the important part is that Nelson will keep the offense moving (5.0 assists per game) and that he can play with the most lineup combinations off the bench.

Projected Reserve Players

Player Minutes Points Assists Rebounds Field Goal % 3-Point % Free Throw % Net Rating
Emmanuel Mudiay 19.5 8.4 3.8 2.2 42.4 38.5 56.3 -3.1
Monte Morris 4.3 3.0 0.3 0.3 50.0 100.0 N/A -68.8
Malik Beasley 8.7 2.6 0.0 1.4 40.0 25.0 N/A -38.9
Torrey Craig 6.9 0.8 0.0 0.8 16.7 25.0 N/A -31.8
Tyler Lydon 5.3 1.0 0.6 1.0 33.3 25.0 N/A -35.3
Trey Lyles 17.5 5.7 1.7 2.7 33.3 28.6 60.0 -2.0
Kenneth Faried 15.7 11.0 0.3 3.8 68.0 N/A 76.9 -23.5
Darrell Arthur 6.9 2.0 1.0 1.0 25.0 0.0 N/A -15.6

Holy negative Net Ratings, Batman!

Outside of Emmanuel Mudiay and at times Trey Lyles and Kenneth Faried, these players were utilized in garbage time minutes, and it clearly didn’t work. Six of the eight players listed had a negative Net Rating in the double digits. The only ones who didn’t, Mudiay and Lyles, spent the most time in the regular rotation.

There’s not really much to say with this group other than Kenneth Faried being extremely productive as a scorer so far. His usage rate of 23.2% was fourth highest on the team, behind Jokić, Millsap, and Mudiay. A lot of those shots came in garbage time with a spaced floor and Faried at center, but credit where credit is due, he made those shots, even some outside-the-paint shots. Due to playing at center and due to some struggles of players around him, the end-of-bench lineups had some of the worst defensive ratings on the team. It’s difficult to justify putting Faired next to anyone other than Jokić in heavy minutes at this point, and while that may be possible down the line with staggered lineups, it’s not a major point of emphasis in the rotation right now.


The rotation has slowly come into focus during the preseason, and the numbers really paint a picture of where the Nuggets currently stand. Millsap has had trouble adjusting to the offense (55.0 TS%, 12.5 AST%) but is already impacting the defense in a major way (89.2 Defensive Rating). Jokic hasn’t been the passer he was last season, but he’s made some great plays for his teammates and himself. Faried has made more impact than Plumlee as scorer so far, but Plumlee’s added defensive capabilities and passing have put him above Faried in the pecking order.

Above all though, everyone should be happy to know that this is just preseason. These games, while important opportunities for specific players to earn roles, don’t mean anything. It’s exciting to get into the swing of things as the regular season approaches quickly, just five days away!

Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter if there’s anything specific I should cover during future editions of Stat of the Week.

Poll

Which player most changed your impression of them during the preseason?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    Jamal Murray
    (33 votes)
  • 1%
    Jameer Nelson
    (4 votes)
  • 11%
    Emmanuel Mudiay
    (33 votes)
  • 21%
    Trey Lyles
    (62 votes)
  • 4%
    Kenneth Faried
    (13 votes)
  • 41%
    Mason Plumlee
    (119 votes)
  • 7%
    Other
    (21 votes)
285 votes total Vote Now