On my first trip to Denver as a kid, my grandpa drove me through Five Points, near downtown. He wanted me to see how folks less fortunate than we were living, and to remember to be grateful every day for whatever I had. We didn’t have a lot, but we sure had a lot more than some of the people I met that day. It wasn’t hard to realize how lucky I was in comparison to so many.
We had lunch at a diner in the neighborhood, and went back every year until it closed. Sam, the gentleman who owned the diner, was a wonder, always remembering the name and order of a kid who visited once a summer. As scared as I was to visit a place that was so unfamiliar to me the first time, I was so grateful every time we returned. These days, Five Points is in a state of constant flux, the neighborhood rapidly gentrifying between LoDo and RiNo. I’m just glad no one is calling it “FiPo” just yet. But this isn’t five points about Five Points. This is five points that touch on five points... Wait, what?
#1 - Five damned points
“If” is a dangerous word to throw around on sports blogs, but if the Denver Nuggets could have spread five more points around correctly on Monday and Tuesday, they’d be heading into tonight with narrow wins against two of the league’s best, in the Celtics and Spurs. Instead, Denver finds itself still straddling the playoff bubble as they careen through the seven games leading up to the All-Star break. The league did Denver no favors in the scheduling department up until that point, with the Thunder, Warriors, Rockets, Spurs (again), and Bucks comprising five of the seven contests. Speaking of the Spurs again...
#2 - Stacked is whack
Hard to say if the NBA scheduling department has a stuttering issue when communicating the matchups, but the Nuggets will also face the Spurs the first game out of the All-Star break, the third time in nine games. The fourth game against the spurs was in mid-January, and so the Nuggets suddenly get to face that opponent so often, you’d think it was a playoff series. This is not the only time this has occurred for the Nuggets this season, as Denver had already played all four of its contests against the Utah Jazz by game 38, and saw the Pelicans all three times in less than a month. G-g-g-get it together, schedule stackers!
#3 - Eveready battery
It’s tough for a player to stay invested in a season when not getting any floor time, but the Nuggets went to Darrell Arthur to start the game against the Spurs the other night after Darth had barely sniffed the floor all season. Admirably, Arthur acquitted himself nicely, having kept himself ready for the opportunity. Darth saw 19 of his 69 season minutes on Tuesday, scoring 10 of his 17 points on the year. I already tipped a cap to Arthur (and Richard Jefferson) in last week’s article, but Darrell showed a lot of class and professionalism in waiting for his time, and helping when it came. They needed him anyway, because...
#4 - Power outage
Paul Millsap? Out. Mason Plumlee? Out. Tyler Lydon? Out. Kenneth Faried? Seemingly on the outs. Trey Lyles? Slotted to help the bench with scoring. Arthur became the default choice in the equation. Suddenly, the power forward position that every one in Denver was lambasting for being overstocked at season’s start was somehow light on bodies.
#5 - Five points (of hope)
Ryan Blackburn made a compelling argument the other day for a path towards Denver’s youth movement taking the reins. Ryan’s piece was excellent (in my opinion), and I couldn’t do it justice. The underlying point of the piece has left me with a persistent thought, and I’ll try to not belabor the point and be a pale comparison of the original.
When it comes to the Nuggets young players, it’s pretty obvious that Denver will be riding the horses that are Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, and Jamal Murray for the long term. That looks to be a very wise move thus far, as they all still show a lot of room to grow, on top of already-exciting games. Additionally, Trey Lyles and Malik Beasley have also shown themselves as worthy of more floor time.
Because they’ve always been brilliant? Of course not. None of the five has always been a model of consistency, though Harris is becoming a very consistent performer, and Jokic is at worst a solid contributor on his off nights. Murray continues to progress at a very quick pace, and when he’s on, is the shining light on the floor. Lyles has also shown a talent and depth most were unaware of, and Beasley seems to be a spark plug that can replace some of the energizing presence of Faried taking the floor.
The only sure way to expose whether or not the flaws in any of these young players is fatal is to place enough pressure upon them to shine a light or get them over the hump. Paul Millsap’s return will obviously take (and deserve) a fair bit of that exposure, simply based on his talents and the Nuggets investment in his success. That said, it’s important that the Nuggets start to lean on the talents they’re grooming for the long haul, both in floor time, and in last-minute situations, to give them an opportunity to fail now so that they can either step up or move on.
Oh, by the way, it’s not actually five points on this one. There’s even more youth to investigate in Juancho Hernangomez, Torrey Craig, and depending on who you ask, Emmanuel Mudiay. It’s a tough situation Michael Malone has to contend with in the constantly-revolving lineup and injury report, a vocal-and-demanding consumer base, and calls to walk the line between winning for now and developing for then. That’s an easy needle to thread, right?
Good luck, coach. You’re a braver man than I am, and I’ll bet you’d love to add those last five points even more than me.
Where are we? Five possible points:.
This poll is closed
We’re fine. Millsap comes back, and we’re a handful by year’s end
Not bad, but we’re running out of time to make a move beyond the playoff bubble
The Plumlee injury on top of the Millsap injury may be the last straw to missing the playoffs
We are all over the map, and I don’t understand the plan
How could anyone know, as inconsistent as this season has been