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Hot Take analysis: Monte Morris, Nikola Jokic, the West, and core strains

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The hottest takes from Nuggets Nation.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets are in first place in the Western Conference, so I decided to take to Twitter to hear your biggest hot takes regarding Denver’s success. Most of the takes are about the Nuggets, but there are some general NBA thoughts in here as well, so strap in for the heat from Nuggets fans!


Hot Take Rating: 4 out of 10

Analysis: The 2017 Draft included some great rookies last year. Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum were revelations in how well they performed. In addition, some of those draftees have excelled as sophomores: De’Aaron Fox, John Collins, Bam Adebayo, and Jarrett Allen. After that, it could be argued that Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, and Lauri Markkannen deserve consideration.

It’s a hot take to put Monte Morris OVER any of those nine at this point, but to slide him right behind them into the 10th spot? Reasonable. Morris is a backup, so it’s unreasonable to give him too much credit for playing better at his age and situation than some of the younger prospects. Still, I’d give him the 10th spot.


Hot Take Rating: 10 out of 10 for both

Analysis: Any comment that has Denver has the NBA champion is getting a 10 out of 10 from me. There’s no reason to believe in the Golden State Warriors faltering against a team with limited playoff experience, even if the Nuggets blow everyone out of the water during the regular season.

In addition, I don’t see Houston missing the playoffs. James Harden is playing at an MVP level, and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey will get him the help he needs to be among the top eight squads. As it stands, Houston is 16-15 and in the 8 seed right now. The Chris Paul injury complicates things but I’m not ready to say they are a lock to miss the playoffs.


Hot Take Rating: 1 out of 10

Analysis: This isn’t hot at all. It may actually be true. Hear me out...(enters sarcasm mode)...with so many solid players on the roster, sometimes, the best way to stand out for Michael Malone to get you minutes is to look the part. We know Mason Plumlee had a core strain last year. Did he want more playing time?! Juancho Hernangomez wants to remain a part of the rotation long term. A six pack goes a long way toward showing dedication!

We also KNOW, Jokic hasn’t been participating, which is why he is still healthy. (exits sarcasm mode)


Hot Take Rating: 3 out of 10

Analysis: There are definitely merits to considering this idea. Trey Lyles has not shot the ball well. His 25.5 percent mark on three-pointers is just another underperforming shooting stretch for the power forward. Last season, Lyles caught fire and elevated his play during a time when the Nuggets needed him most. Outside of December and January of last season when Lyles shot 55/126 from three (43.3%), he has shot 54/194 in all other months with the Nuggets (27.8%). It’s quite possible that the truth is somewhere in the middle (around 34% ish) but that makes him an average shooter, below average on the types of shots he takes.

Stanley Johnson for his career shoots under 30 percent from the perimeter, but acquiring him isn’t about spacing. It’s about defending large, ball-handling forwards like LeBron James and Kevin Durant in the playoffs. Paul Millsap and Torrey Craig are Denver’s best options in those scenarios, so it would be nice for Denver to have another body to defend that player type. In addition, when Denver gets healthy, Juancho Hernangomez can play a more natural 3/4 hybrid role off the bench as the primary bench forward.


Hot Take Rating: 5 out of 10

Analysis: I still expect the Nuggets to try to work in Isaiah Thomas if/when he becomes healthy enough. He has been a GREAT veteran for the Nuggets, providing a voice of leadership and experience that the young players respect, and he deserves an opportunity to at least play a little bit when he’s able. That being said, Monte Morris has been an absolute stud as a backup to Jamal Murray. Morris is averaging nearly 25 minutes per game off the bench, 21st among all NBA reserves and ahead of players like Domantas Sabonis and Terry Rozier. He’s in line with Fred VanVleet and Spencer Dinwiddie in terms of most valuable point guard reserves right now.

Even still, Denver can experiment with cutting his minutes just a bit to work in Isaiah Thomas in short bursts. It doesn’t have to be a long time - 8 to 10 minutes or so - but that added scoring punch coming off the bench could be extremely helpful for Denver, especially if the team remains injured at that point.

Still, I don’t see Thomas being ready for some time. All signs point to him remaining out for an extended period.


Hot Take Rating: 8 out of 10

Analysis: What a season from Nikola Jokic. As we at Denver Stiffs have written about countless times, the Joker keeps proving to be one of the best centers in the NBA. Has he been the best though?

Anthony Davis is having a season for the ages. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bob McAdoo can say they have averaged 28 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists per game in a season since 1970, and Davis’ efficiency is second on that list. On a team with a less-than-desirable supporting cast that has sustained a number of injuries, Davis has been the constant.

In addition, Joel Embiid has nearly matched those averages with 26.3 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 3.6 assists. He hasn’t had the same defensive impact as in previous years, but the gigantic center is the best player on a 21-12 team, very similar to Jokic’s claim as the best center on a 21-9 team.

So, can Jokic best both Davis and Embiid to claim a First Team All-NBA spot? I doubt it. It’s possible if he continues to carry Denver for the rest of the season. His last eight games, the best stretch of his career, have yearned 23.0 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 8.0 assists. If he can maintain something similar for the rest of the season, he has a shot. Short of that, I doubt he gets First Team or Second Team.


Hot Take Rating: 4 out of 10

Analysis: I think it’s more likely than not that this is true. Stephen Curry is in his age 30 season. Draymond Green has experienced major regression offensively. Klay Thompson is just great, not elite. The real kicker will be whether Kevin Durant decides to stay or go. If he stays beyond 2019 Free Agency, the Warriors will once again be title favorites, as they should be. If he leaves, the Warriors don’t have a lot to replace him. Quinn Cook is Golden State’s fourth leading scorer with just 8.1 points per game, and Draymond not being fourth is extremely damning for their future prospects anyway.

Could they maintain their pre-Kevin Durant success if he leaves? It’s certainly possible. There is a precedent. But those teams had a younger Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes as a decent option, and a far better bench unit. DeMarcus Cousins is a wildcard, but betting on a big man recovering from an achilles tear is dangerous. The Warriors will be capped out in all likelihood, so replacing Durant would be tough.