This one is for the rebels. The iconoclasts. The fabulous few.
No, this is not an Apple commercial.
OK, that was an Apple commercial, but the rest of this is for that casual NBA fan who just cannot seem to determine who to set as their League Pass favorite for this upcoming season, and reads Denver Nuggets blogs in the offseason. In retrospect, a massive audience, I’m sure. For the five of you left who just can’t seem to choose who to throw your allegiances to in this upcoming season, here’s a dime on why you might like your dial to be stuck on Mile High Basketball.
#10 Prove it or move it
There are a couple of key names attached to the success of the upcoming season who have reason to prove themselves in 2018-19. Head coach Michael Malone returns for the final year of his current contract, having improved the squad in every season he’s led the team. That said, it’s common knowledge that the playoffs are a marker Malone must meet to be sure to keep that seat at the end of the bench molded to his butt imprint. Coach will have to take the lessons of his first three seasons in Denver very much to heart as he guides one of the more compelling teams the Nuggets have fielded in quite a while. While Malone comes in with high expectations of himself and the team, he needs to guide the squad in avoiding the lulls of seasons past that many spectators laid at his feet. As an admitted fan of Malone, here’s hoping that he’s grown as much as his squad has in the last three years, and that the inevitable pitfalls will be easier for them to overcome quickly. If two seasons of having their noses pressed to the playoff glass doesn’t motivate this team for a full 82-game season, what will?
Joining Malone on the hot seat is veteran point guard Isaiah Thomas. IT comes to Denver at the end of a turbulent season and a half. Should Thomas recoup even 75-80% of his MVP-caliber self for the Nuggets bench this season, he’ll garner a far better contract the following season than the vet minimum Denver picked him up for. Thomas is certainly savvy enough to know that his best shot at a decent contract will involve helping Denver hang a lot of “W’s” on the board. Should IT falter or flounder, odds are good the market for his services could shrink or even disappear. With either outcome, it’s tough to picture Thomas in Nuggets blue for too long, so enjoy it while it lasts.
#9 Past Puppy
I love puppies. Who the heck doesn’t love puppies?
I mean, if you DON’T like puppies, I guess that’s ok. You heartless, soulless...
Admittedly, there are downsides to puppies. They are decidedly clumsy. They tend to pee in inopportune places at inopportune moments. You may be lucky when it’s just pee. They often spend many of their adorable moments crashing into one another and whining.
The Denver youth movement has certainly endured their puppy phase over the last few seasons. Thankfully, the Nuggets pups are finally past, by and large. The early-phase wobbly first steps are now distant memories, and the metaphorical skidding-on-the-linoleum phase seems to be mostly bygone as well. This phase of Nuggets basketball brings hungry young players who understand both how good they are, and how much better they still can be. Though the Nuggets are still constituted around a core that makes them one of the younger teams in the league, any awkwardness to this point looks to be long gone.
#8 Startin’ Barton
In a recent chat with Altitude’s Chris Dempsey, Coach Malone made no bones about his plans to bring Will Barton into the starting five in the upcoming season, news that surprised no one, as Barton most naturally fills the vacuum left by Wilson Chandler’s departure this offseason. Ill Will will should finally have a full season’s starter’s minutes under his belt, and should benefit from the alleviated pressure of not being the offensive alpha dog on the floor for many of his minutes. Barton should also mesh into the starting five fairly seamlessly, as he often found himself on the court with many of the starters in the pressure of closing minutes. Look for the added octane of Barton’s starting when preseason kicks off in 53 days.
PFM has spent a fair bit of time as a famous monogram in the larger Denver area, but the sleeve that heart is pinned to has been passed on, from the Denver Broncos Peyton eFfing Manning to the Denver Nuggets Paul eFfing Millsap. Nuggets Nation saw a glimpse of what a fully-functional Millsap can bring to this Nuggets squad last season, during two brief stretches. The first was in the games leading up to his injury, when he and Nikola Jokic were finally figuring out what 13.5 feet of pick-and-roll-and-pick-your-poison could do to an opponent. The post-game conversations along that stretch were slowly turning gleeful as their chemistry was gelling quickly. Millsap then spent a lot of downtime after a Julius Randle hack attack before willing himself back into the lineup and playing through pain to help Denver to the cusp of the playoffs last season. This year should bring more Millsap, which can only be a great thing for these Nuggets.
#6 Something New, Something Blue
Eras of basketball move in waves. When Michael Jordan was winning six championships over two stretches, I was at an age it would have been impossible to imagine His Airness ever tumbling from the top of that hill, had I not already been smitten with Magic Johnson. But like Magic and Larry Bird before him, MJ eventually gave way to Kobe Bryant who gave way to LeBron James. Begat begat begat. As transcendent as James was at the end of last season, his frequent-flier miles continue to build on this incredible journey. Eventually, the King will no longer be the King of the Hill. For the first time in his career, King James finds himself the sole elder statesman on his new squad as he enters his 15th campaign. Though LBJ certainly has a lot of incredible basketball yet in front of him, he’s also decidedly on the downhill side of the ride.
But if you want to see one of the shinier new toys in today’s NBA, spending your time on the team-first Nuggets is a real joy in offensive basketball from the boys in blue. If you’re more of a defensive fan, I’d refer you to the puppy pee paragraph above.
#5 The Garrison
Fans of Gary Harris have watched the two-guard progress from an afterthought to one of the better two-way wings in the league. His year-over-year numbers until now have steadily progressed forward at an impressive rate. As Harris enters his fifth season, it will be compelling to see if he can take another step or two forward before his trajectory naturally flattens out as every player arc does. To his credit, Harris spends his offseasons shoring up his game, so his abilities may continue to expand several seasons longer than the average. It will be fun to see what new facets Gary brings to the court this season. Join the Garrison, we’re growing in number.
#4 Winter Knit
It’s good that the Mile High crew plays their games over the winter, as the squad is as closely knit as most any in the league. The Nuggets have been careful to foster a camaraderie amongst the core that extends past the court. It’s easy to find stories about the players time together as a team, and to see their fondness for one another. They are having fun playing the brand of basketball that reigns in Denver these days, and it’s always a lot more fun for a fan to watch a team that has a good time and shares the love when they win, and stands by one another during the tough spots.
The Nuggets are a little more pointed at the point guard spot this season, with starter Jamal Murray stepping into another season at an age where he should see big growth in his already-dangerous game. Murray is one of the most competitive guys on the squad, and has an exceptional mutual trust with Malone. Jamal well knows where his game needs fleshing out, and comes into his third season hot.
Behind Murray are Thomas and Summer League stud Monte Morris. This will be the first time in recent memory that Denver will come at you from the point position in waves.
#2 The Big O
The biggest of O’s, actually. Offense, that is. What were you thinking? Not that I’ve not experienced a little priapism during some of the Nuggets largest offensive outbursts, but thankfully even overtime games stay inside four hours, so I’ve managed to avoid medical consultation.
Check it out for yourself, and see if you don’t see a little hardwood at the prospect of what has regularly been the finest offense in the the league for extended stretches of the last couple seasons. Today’s Nuggets basketball is worthy of the popcorn and price of admission. If you jump on the bandwagon now, you can still get out ahead of your friends who catch up midseason, and impress them with how long you’ve been in on the team that recently spent a couple seasons begging for attention.
#1 No Joke
They call him the Joker. And while it fits his easygoing personality, Nikola Jokic is no joke. It’s not a stretch to say that Jokic himself is a key to a number of the other items on this list, including the sharing attitude of the team, the offensive output, the pointier point-center, the close-knit nature, and a new era of Nuggets basketball. While Jokic will never take an ounce of that credit for himself, his insistent desire to be better together than individually continues to pay massive dividends for these Denver Nuggets. The large commitment the team made to him in the offseason was an investment in what he can be, and he seems equal to that task and much more. Even more exciting, Jokic’s game is one of thought and craft, and should mature well over the years, an exciting prospect for Nuggets Nation.
Will the Denver Nuggets be your League Pass favorite this year?
This poll is closed
Of course. But that was already true, why do you think I read this blog?
I sign up to watch all teams, but will watch the Nuggets this year.
I live in Denver and have Altitude, like 99.9% of this audience, you dingus.
Yes. You’ve convinced me.
None of the above