Looking back on some of my previous articles of the off season, I’ve admittedly been pretty tough on the Nuggets. To be honest, they’ve deserved the criticism. Their choices in the draft still have me frustrated, and I’m even more disappointed in their selections after watching Kyle Kuzma (27th overall pick), and Caleb Swanigan (26th overall pick) absolutely dominate in Summer League.
They’ve done nothing to address the crowded roster, and I’m worried that they’re completely done making moves before the regular season begins. They MUST be better next season—Nuggets fans can’t take another year of let downs.
However, this week I’m going to change my perspective. I’ve noticed that it’s very fashionable among sports commentators and bloggers to focus on the negative, and while I maintain that the Nuggets deserve the criticism they’ve received I like to go against the grain.
I venture into the positive this week with caution, lest I be labeled a “homer”. For those of you who don’t know, a homer is a person who blindly supports the home team no matter what, never offering anything bad to say. Up until this year, I only knew Homer as Bart’s dad on The Simpsons, but apparently I’m still a rookie.
So, without further adieu, I would like to cite a list of things I’m looking forward to this season. After all, the sky isn’t falling, and the Nuggets really do have a lot of good things going for them that will make for fun home town basketball starting in just a couple months.
Paul Millsap & Nikola Jokic
I tried to think of a cute moniker to name this soon-to-be dynamic duo, but I’m really terrible at that sort of thing. (Leave your ideas in the comments!) However, I’m looking forward to seeing these two play together next season. It’s no secret that Jokic isn’t awesome on defense, but Millsap’s presence will help fill that void under the rim while hopefully teaching the Nuggets’ unicorn how to toughen up.
Millsap’s 18.1 point and 7.7 rebound per game averages are enough to be excited about on their own, and if you haven’t already you need to go get your Paul F-ing Millsap shirt immediately. I’ve been day dreaming of all the amazing second-chance opportunities that Millsap will give the Nuggets while Jokic works his magic to make shots for the young core—which we will talk about next.
The Nuggets’ Young Core
While the Nuggets’ draft picks have everyone feeling anxious, it’s important to remember that they have a solid young core that’s shaping up to be one of the biggest offensive threats in the league. Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Juancho Hernangomez, and Nikola Jokic have shown that they can step up and deliver a blowout loss to both the Warriors and the Cavaliers with little trouble. Add Paul Millsap to that mix, and the starting lineup looks mighty fine from where I’m sitting.
Time will tell if the Nuggets keep Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried, but they’d need to make a trade that brings some experience to the bench in light of their inexperienced depth at the forward position. Whatever happens on the bench (yes I know Juancho will likely come off the bench for Chandler), the young core is getting better and better, and with a full season under their belt collectively next year should bring some entertaining surprises.
I don’t want to get my hopes up, but the addition of Paul Millsap to the Nuggets’ roster gives them a significant chance of earning a playoff position next season. I will note that I don’t necessarily think that an 8th seed, first-round exit is a great master plan, but some high level playoff experience against the Warriors would serve them well.
Denver missed a major opportunity to capitalize on a trade for Gallinari at the trade deadline because they lost sight of the big picture that Gallo might actually leave in free agency. All they wanted was to push for the playoffs so they benched Murray, and chose to play Jameer Nelson instead which ended up being all for naught. Hindsight is 20/20, but as long as the Nuggets aren’t at risk of another Gallo blunder next year, they should absolutely push for the 8th seed for the opportunity to get the young guys some time in the ring against the defending champs.
The downside to my excitement is that there are still two months left until next season begins. I can hardly wait for things to kick off once again, but in the meantime, Winter Is Here.