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Nuggets Weekly Digest - November 3

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It ain’t always pretty, but the wins keep coming.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets logged another exciting week, although that excitement came with a side of stress in Chicago, and they’re now 7-1 for the season putting them at 2nd place in the Western Conference. Could Charles Barkley actually be right?

In last week’s Stiffs roundtable, I predicted that the Nuggets would beat the Pelicans, Bulls and Cavaliers, but I also predicted that they’d lose to the Jazz this weekend. I will add a caveat to my Jazz prediction and say that if the Nuggets can pull their offense together a little bit they might be able to pull off a win. I’m still a little concerned that they won’t be able to turn things around fast enough given how disjointed the offense has seemed prior to the final three quarters in Cleveland.

Future games aside, the Nuggets had some ups and downs this week, but three wins are three wins so they’re doing something right.

Let’s dive in to some of my most notable moments of the week. Don’t forget to tell us about yours in the comments!

Another three wins in a row

A 7-1 start to the season is something to be proud of if you’re any team, but it’s especially noteworthy if you’re the Denver Nuggets. As Chris Marlowe might say, the Nuggets haven’t been this consistent “since Hector was a pup.” More literally, not since Apple was founded by Steve Jobs back in 1976. I continue to be impressed with how much they improved over the course of just a few months, but part of me is struggling to get too excited because the inconsistency of last season still feels so fresh.

In the world of business, the only thing that truly matters at the end of the day is the dollars and cents. Now don’t get me wrong, there are important relationships that are developed along the way and the fulfillment that comes from doing something well that you’re passionate about can’t be monetized, but it’s money that keeps the lights on. You can make yourself very busy doing lots of things that truly don’t matter, or you can focus on performing the tasks that produce results.

At the end of last season, my thought about the Nuggets as a whole was “prove it”. They talked a big game about defensive effort, and wanting to make the playoffs, but we didn’t see either of those things. So, looking at the facts unemotionally, I was hesitant to put a lot of stock in the team this season.

However, the Nuggets have shown up in a big way this year, and so far it seems that’s going to be something we can count on.

In short, they’re definitely proving it.

JUANCHOOOOOOO!

I will say again that no injury is ever a good thing, but I’m excited to see the minutes Juancho Hernangomez is getting in Will Barton’s absence. This development/recuperation time is invaluable for both Juancho and the Nuggets, and it will pay off exponentially later on this season.

Juancho’s game against the Cavaliers this past week gives us a taste of what he’s really made of. He’s a 6’9”, 230 lb sharp shooter who can rake in a ton of points and cause problems for opposing teams on defense—much like Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler.

As much as I love Barton, I was concerned about him as the starting SF, partly because of his inconsistency last season but primarily because of his size. Losing the strength and stature of BOTH Gallinari and Chandler at the small forward will cause the Nuggets to have challenges facing bigger teams in the league if they only have Barton to count on. However, with Juancho coming along nicely, he will prove to be a valuable substitution when the Nuggets need some size on their side given that he has three inches in height, and 40 lbs on Barton.

Say it with me now, “Juancho, Juancho, Juancho!”

Strong performance from Gary Harris

At my day job, I have the privilege of working with some of the most elite professionals in my industry. They consistently perform at a high level, and their day-to-day production outpaces what some people accomplish do in a week.

They’re so consistent with this high level of output, that the incredible things they do sometimes get overlooked. We’ve grown to expect amazing from them every single day. That said, the recognition (or lack there of) they receive typically has no impact on what they consistently bring to the table. They’re there to bring it every time, and we can count on them no matter what. Aren’t we lucky?

That’s exactly how I feel about Gary Harris. To say that Harris has had an incredible start to the season is an understatement. With an average contribution of 18.8 points, 3.5 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game this season, the Nuggets can always look to Harris to make a solid and game-changing contribution. In fact, there’s only one of the eight games the Nuggets have played where he’s brought in less that 15 points.

I don’t necessarily think his contributions are being overlooked, but he’s definitely one of those priceless players that bring their “A game” night in and night out. He may not be making the game-winning blocks, and put backs, but without his consistency the Nuggets would be lost.

The grains of salt

Winning aside, the Nuggets’ offense is becoming a concern

The free-flowing offense Denver had last season is still struggling to get it together. While I am all about defensive focus (let’s be honest, that’s winning them games right now), offense obviously can’t be neglected so the Nuggets need to buckle down and figure this out. Fortunately, it’s still early on so they have a little time, but things will only get more competitive as the season progresses.

I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, but I certainly hope that Denver isn’t glossing over this problem in light of winning games. It’s awesome that defense is finally a thing for the Nuggets, but their game has to be complete in order to compete with higher-ranking teams later on down the road.

Jokic seems disinterested

While Jokic is obviously a very strong contributor for the Nuggets, his general interest in games seems to be waning, lately. It almost seems as though he’s moody on the court. What concerns me is that we’ve seen this type of thing from him before, and it usually goes hand in hand with losing games.

If the Nuggets plan to move forward with Jokic as their star, he’ll have to work on his non-verbals. Perhaps he’s showing signs of frustration with the ailing offense, or maybe he really has been off in la la land. The bottom line is that we all have off days, but as professionals it’s our responsibility to be focused and consistent on a daily basis. Because Jokic is such a talented athlete, I hold him to a higher standard than others. He’s a good choice for the face of the franchise, but I lose faith in him as a leader when I see him appear disengaged.

Overall, we have to be happy about how the Nuggets performed this week. I believe the concerns I mentioned would be under much higher scrutiny if Denver had lost these games, so I hope the organization is proactive and buckles down on these opportunities for improvement before they become full-blown weaknesses.

At the end of the day, it’s a job well-done for the good guys to wrap up October.