The Nuggets are 3-0, joining just three other teams with perfect records. Is this the start to the season you envisioned?
Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn): 100 percent. This Nuggets team, fresh off a playoff run and with only one or two new faces to the rotation, was supposed to get off to a hot start. The offense still looks shaky, and that’s cause for concern, but defensively is where the chemistry has been seen thus far. The Nuggets look like an elite defense, even if they aren’t actually.
Evan Fiala (@eefiala): In terms of W/L, yes. Obviously it would be nice to see the Nuggets just come out and have a perfect offense, hit threes and destroy everyone but that can’t be expected in 82 of 82 games. They are finding ways to win and that’s all you can ask for.
Daniel Lewis (@minutemandan): It’s a better record than I expected (I figured that they would lose to the Trail Blazers), but the offense has looked a little rusty. The Nuggets continue to have a team full of guys that have nice shots, reputations as shooters, but just aren’t really shooting that much. Maybe we all have to adapt to the new rugged, gritty, defensive team that they’ve been to start the season.
Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): I expected Jokic to take the reins of the offense and for it to have much better flow. But did I expect them to overwhelm teams with waves of guys and have different ones get hot every night to provide the difference? You bet. Denver’s depth is one of its strengths - not if they can just get the starters to not look like raw hamburger every night and serve up some steak instead, they’ll really have something.
Brandon Ewing (B_Skip1717): A perfect record to start the year is certainly something I envisioned for this Nuggets squad. Not every win has been perfect and they still have a lot of things to clean up, but Denver is finding ways to win, which is what championship caliber teams do. Tonight, the Mavericks present a touch matchup, but hopefully Denver can rise to the occasion on the second night of a back-to-back.
Denver’s bench has struggled to score points out of the gate. Are the struggles just small sample size or a larger issue?
Blackburn: I’m going with part of a larger issue. What many people don’t remember about last year’s bench offense was that it was also bad. Centered primarily around Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, and Mason Plumlee without Jokic on the floor, this will be the second straight year the Nuggets are saved by their team defense in that group. I don’t think that will change very much going forward.
Fiala: Mostly small sample size. As the team integrates Jerami Grant into the bench there will be a learning curve, and Monte Morris has struggled a bit. For now consider it shaking off the rust.
Lewis: I think it’s a small sample size issue. Monte Morris is shooting 20 percent from the field so far. It’s nice that he’s continuing to manage the ball well, and I think his shooting will improve. But I think the struggle can be traced to that specific issue, because with his poor shooting, the second unit just doesn’t have the scoring threat to make a positive difference. It will be a larger issue if Morris’ shot doesn’t come back. Torrey Craig, Mason Plumlee, and Jerami Grant aren’t threats to score on their own, so they need Morris to guide that unit into points. If that doesn’t work, they can always explore swapping out Craig for, I don’t know, Juancho Hernangomez.
Gross: Denver has far too much offensive talent to struggle to score. Guys aren’t moving, but you don’t really practice your back cuts in offseason pickup games. You don’t have a center-based offense either. I expected Monte Morris to have the easier time since he’s the offensive pivot on the bench, but then again his bench units have performed fine, saving or preserving a couple of games. The scoring will come. Jamal Murray is a notoriously slow starter and both Harris and Barton missed a lot of time last season and need to be worked back in as healthy contributors. Give it a few games - and enjoy the fact that Denver is winning anyway.
Ewing: With it being such a small sample size, I don’t think there should be cause for concern at the moment. Denver is just three games into the regular season and even though their bench has struggled at times, they have also done the opposite. The Nuggets bench has still shown flashes of brilliance and if they can stay consistent it will continue to help lead the Nuggets to victories.
Denver’s first back-to-back comes tonight at home against the Dallas Mavericks. Will Denver’s depth help them to victory?
Blackburn: I think we see Michael Porter Jr. tonight. With the offense sputtering a little bit and coming off a hard fought road victory, this is the ideal time to introduce Porter into the rotation. At home. Easier matchup against a Mavericks team that, while good, doesn’t have anybody that will dominate Porter 1-on-1. This feels like a game Porter could change, certainly with the energy of the home crowd, and help the Nuggets earn a win.
Fiala: Denver’s depth is one of its biggest strengths. On a given night, any one of 7 or 8 players can step up and help get the job done. I think it’s safe to say that the depth is key to helping them to any victory. Tonight, however, will be a tough back-to-back with travel against a Dallas team that is talented and hungry. The Nuggets haven’t been perfect by any means so far this season so this will be a good test.
Lewis: Hopefully it means that we see more minutes for Jerami Grant alongside the starters! He’s been a great energy guy for the team, and after seeing the team’s reaction to his putback dunk the other night, I think him getting a couple of those would give them the boost they’ll need to defend for 48 minutes against a team that is going to spread them out with shooters all over the floor and give Luka Doncic ample driving lines to lumber down.
Gross: I’m with Dan, this is one of the times I would like to see Jerami Grant play a lot. Someone has to cover Kristaps on the perimeter and Jerami is the best man for the job. The Nuggets defense is gonna get a severe test against the Mavs, and they’ll also have to find their scoring punch to keep up. On a back to back? I expect fresh legs. Michael Malone did a good job (intentional or not) with minutes in the Sacramento game, keeping the starters to about 30, but I still think this is where Juancho Hernangomez or even Michael Porter Jr. might get spot minutes to help bring the intensity level up if energy flags. Porter would also juice the home crowd. Sometimes in the early season you have to manufacture energy to get through the game, and this could be one of those times.
Ewing: The Nuggets depth will be tested tonight against a young, feisty Dallas Mavericks squad. I would look for a bounce back game from Nikola Jokic and for Denver to play much better than they did in Sacramento on Monday night. Jerami Grant should be in for a bit of a minutes increase, while we could see a player or two slide into the rotation. Could this be the night Michael Porter Jr. makes his regular season debut? Fingers crossed that is the case.