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Roundtable: What’s going on with the Nuggets lately?

Stiffs writers discuss Denver’s start to the season and where they go from here.

Denver Nuggets v Orlando Magic Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

After winning their first three games by the skin of their teeth, the Nuggets lost a close game, were blown out in another, and won another photo finish. On a scale of 1 to 10, how concerned are you about this team?

Brandon Ewing (B_Skip1717): My concern level is a 1.5 and here’s why: sure, the Nuggets won three fairly close performances and they have lost back-to-back games, but we are still just five games into the season. There is no need to panic or be concerned about a team when the sample size is as small as five games.

Now, if the Nuggets were 0-6 and had been blown out in every loss, then I would be concerned. But, this is a good team and even though they have not played like it in the last two games, the chances of those games being an anomaly are much higher than them becoming the norm.

Daniel Lewis (@minutemandan): My concern level is at a 4. The biggest concern in the offseason was making sure that Nikola Jokic wasn’t worn out from the playoff run and playing for Serbia in the World Cup. Well, the Nuggets franchise player looks worn out, and it’s five games into the regular season. The rest of the team is off to their customary poor shooting to start the season, and they don’t have someone that can carry the offense while Jokic grinds through these early season games. I’ve completely abandoned my teamster position on the Torrey Craig bandwagon and am throwing elbows trying to find space on the Michael Porter Jr. bandwagon. The offense needs a spark from someone that can make a shot and play like they give a damn, and right now, that spark looks like a 6’10” rookie at the small forward position.

Zach Mikash (@ZachMikash): I’m about a 2. We’ve seen this before from Denver and Jokic in particular. Things always tend to look a bit clunky in the get go. The fact of the matter is though they are 4-2 and the beginning of the season is all about banking wins. It always takes some time to get things completely figured out even with the continuity from Denver. If they’re around .500 at the end of November then I will start to worry

Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn): Let’s go with a 3 our of 10. Denver’s offensive issues are real, and they aren’t simply related to not hitting shots at a regular rate. The shots Denver is generating aren’t the best looks thus far, and Denver has been fortunate to have some tough shot makers in Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray carrying the load.

Denver Nuggets v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Give one serious and one not so serious reason why Nikola Jokic has started the season slowly:

Ewing: One serious reason that Nikola Jokic has started the season slow is that he might be a little exhausted from everything he had to do this summer. Playing in a World Cup is not easy and not having a summer off to rest could be what is hampering Jokic to start the year.

A not so serious reason could be that Jokic has been staying up way to late playing the new Call of Duty, because that is what I wish I was doing. I’m too cheap to buy it full price through, so I will be waiting till Black Friday to purchase it.

Lewis: He’s started the season slowly because he’s a guy that was pressured to play in the World Cup, then despite being the best player on the team, was asked to come off the bench, and he’s mentally fatigued after being heavily involved with basketball commitments all summer.

A not so serious reason? He got too lit at that midsummer night dance party and he’s still feeling the hangover. Shirtless dancing Jokic was too powerful for regular season Jokic.

Mikash: My serious reason is Jokic is a complete unique talent and you can’t just throw a couple of weeks together down at the Olympic Training Center and expect it to be a well oiled machine out of the gate. It takes time to get used to playing with him and Jokic isn’t a guy who is going to just jack up shots when the passing game isn’t there. We’ve got plenty of evidence that he’s a pass first guy so I imagine he gets frustrated with himself when the clunkiness of the offense doesn’t allow him to operate at the level he wants to.

One not so serious reason? Have you seen the incredible twists and turns of the Pokemon Series plot? The character development? The animation? It’s next level stuff. No doubt Nikola has got hooked on all things Pokemon and is spending the wee hours of the night either watching the series or playing the games. God help us when the new Pokemon games come out next month, Joker might be out for weeks

Blackburn: I can’t quite shake the feeling that Jokic needs more spacing and cutting around him to make things work. He’s great when he needs to be, and he hasn’t needed to be spectacular for the Nuggets to jump out to a 4-2 record. He will be better when the Nuggets need him to be, but there was certainly some malaise in his response to adversity against the Pelicans.

As far as funny reasons, my guess is Jokic’s favorite Netflix show was cancelled.

Denver Nuggets v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Michael Porter Jr. debuted Thursday night, scoring 15 points on just eight field goal attempts. What’s your biggest takeaway from his professional debut?

Ewing: I’m sold. I get it... I was just talking above about how to not overreact to a small sample size, but you can just tell Michael Porter Jr. has the “it” factor. That is not something every player has, but it is certainly something he possesses and it was on full display against the Pelicans on Thursday night.

Porter can score from anywhere on the court and he showed that against New Orleans. Whether he is driving to the basket, getting to the free-throw line, or just nailing a filthy three-point jumper, Porter can do it all. It is time to play the kid moving forward.

Lewis:

Mikash: He’s got the skill set to be more dominant than almost anyone on the roster and the mentality to do it as well. He’s your starter, should have been you starter from day one and needs to be the starter going forward. Will Barton has played very well but he’ll always be undersized at the small forward position. That’s fine in certain lineups but if you can put a 6’10” guy out there and get similar production while still bolstering your struggling bench with a vet like Barton you do it. MPJ is a massive part of this team’s future but also capable of playing right now. He should be getting 25+ minutes a night.

Blackburn: He’s going to be a guy that pushes for playing time the entire year because of his talent level. He could do nothing else right, be the worst possible teammate, and there would still be pressure to play him from fans because of his scoring skill.

The takeaway from New Orleans though? That dude can score, score some more, and when you need a tough bucket, he will score again. Defense and the little things will be important to keep him on the floor, but when he gets scoring opportunities, expect him to be dynamic.