After a simultaneously frustrating and exciting off season, the Nuggets opened the 2017-2018 preseason with a bang securing three wins in a row. Complete with enough power forwards to fill a roster, the Nuggets managed to come out of the gate organized, and ready to play.
Now, let’s start off by understanding that it’s still the preseason. Teams are still figuring out their rosters, and sitting their stars so it’s hard to make any solid conclusions based on what we’ve seen so far, but three wins in a row is enough to make some real observations.
There are also some up-in-the-air conditions the Nuggets are working with, so even though three wins is great, things may get bumpy from time to time as the final roster takes shape. For example, the starting point guard has yet to be determined and three players (Jamal Murray, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Jameer Nelson) are all competing for that spot. Some people would prefer Murray for the shooting guard position, but where does that leave Gary Harris and Will Barton?
For now it appears that Wilson Chandler will start at the 3, but Juancho Hernangomez is playing well, and may just work his way up to taking the starting slot. And finally, Paul Millsap will undoubtedly take the starting role ahead of Kenneth Faried at power forward, although Faried has vowed to fight to keep his position.
All of that aside, there’s a long marathon of a season ahead of everyone that’s certain to bring change as well as some ups and downs. However, I like what I’m seeing from the Nuggets so far this season.
Without further adieu, here are my top three takeaways from the first three wins of the preseason.
Thank God for Paul Millsap! Despite a rather embarrassing ankle breaker from Andre Iguodala, Millsap looks to be just the boost the Nuggets needed to make a serious run at the playoffs this year. He brought in 22 points and 11 rebounds with 10 of those rebounds coming on the defensive end against Golden State. Defense is what the Nuggets desperately need, so it’s exciting to see Millsap come in to hopefully teach some of the younger players how to make that a main focus this season.
Despite losing Danilo Gallinari, the Nuggets are still very strong offensively.
Of course the addition of 18 points per game from Millsap isn’t too shabby, but overall the Nuggets roster is full of great shooters. Add the Nikola Jokic magic dust to those great shooters and the opportunity for good looks just goes through the roof.
Murray went 100% from 3 in game 1 against Golden State, and Harris followed that up with 71.4% in the first match up against the Lakers. In each of these first three games, the Nuggets had 4 or more players in double figures, with the latest Lakers game seeing 5 Nuggets with more than 10, and another two in the 20s. Denver will certainly need this shooting power heading into an extremely competitive Western Conference this season.
Depth will prove very beneficial.
Sure, 7 power forwards may be a tad excessive, but perhaps over time these players will prove to be useful in multiple different roles. The league is trending in the direction of position-less basketball, which may make some cringe, but versatility is never a bad thing. The Nuggets are incredibly deep which will be good for helping keep players healthy for longer, and may aid in keeping gas in everyone’s tank to capture a playoff position.
The Nuggets are also a little skinny at the 3 so perhaps some of the younger recruits will adapt to a new role and be useful as a third string player in hopes of bringing them up through the ranks to be a future asset to the team. I remain skeptical at the number of forwards on the roster, but winning games covers up a myriad of sins.
The Nuggets still have a lot to work out as the season progresses, but they’re in a far better position this year than they were last year at this time. Things are looking as though they’re starting to gel, and all I can hope is that the Nuggets keep the offense running through Jokic.
It’s easy to tinker with new people and a new year, but running the offense through Jokic isn’t broken so please, Coach Malone, don’t try to fix it.