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Roundtable: Would winning 57 games make this team one of the best in Denver Nuggets history?

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Plus, Denver’s defense and minutes for Lyles and Juancho

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

If the Denver Nuggets win a franchise-tying 57 games this season, should they be thought of as one of the best Nuggets teams of all time?

Adam Mares: It’s really weird to think of this Nuggets team that way. They didn’t enter the season with the expectation that they’d become an all-timer. It still feels at least possible (even if it’s unlikely) that this team will struggle down the stretch. And most of all, it feels like this team is still in its infancy. Nonetheless, tying the franchise record for regular season wins while doing so with the poor injury luck they’ve had probably warrants it. How they fare in the playoffs will ultimately decide how they are remembered but it’s at least fun to think that this is a legitimate question. Fun season for a very special group of players.

Ryan Blackburn: I think they would have to win a playoff series or two on top of just a raw number of games. As was seen with the 2012-13 Nuggets, simply winning a lot of regular season games can quickly go sour depending on the end result. If this version of the Nuggets were to go from a game outside of the playoffs to the second or third round, that would be something special. In addition, they would be anchored by the best singles seasons by a player in Nuggets franchise history in Nikola Jokic, whose +9.7 Box Plus-Minus in 2018-19 is the highest a Nugget has ever accomplished.

Gordon Gross: One of the best teams? Absolutely. The Nuggets have only had home court in the playoffs a handful of times in their NBA history. Tying the wins mark, getting home court in the age of these Warriors and Rockets teams and in a still-loaded West? You bet they get that consideration. This isn’t the best Nuggets team (unless some truly and wonderfully amazing things happen in the playoffs) but it’s not the best this group of players will be, either. This is merely a harbinger of the great things yet to come - which is more impressive to me than the 57-win team reaching their apex.

Mike Olson: I’m drinking the Kool-Aid a little too much already this season, but I think they’re already one of the top ten teams this franchise has ever put on the court, barring anything catastrophic to end the season. If they tie the wins mark and get home court? They should definitely be in the top three-to-five at that point. Gordon’s last point is the best news, though. We’re able to debate this question, and they’re not even close to their best yet. That is the most exciting part of this current squad.

Poll

If the Denver Nuggets win a franchise-tying 57 games this season, should they be thought of as ONE of the best Nuggets teams of all time?

This poll is closed

  • 83%
    Yes
    (377 votes)
  • 16%
    No
    (74 votes)
451 votes total Vote Now

Do you see Trey Lyles, Juancho Hernangomez, and/or Jarred Vanderbilt being a part of the rotation over the final 25 games?

Mares: I don’t think Vanderbilt will see the floor too often outside of garbage time and both Juancho and Lyles will likely have to fight their way back into the regular rotation. That being said, If Juancho can regain his confidence and his health, there’s an opportunity for him to play some meaningful minutes off of the bench at PF, especially alongside Jokic. It probably wouldn’t be a lot of minutes, but if he could give the team 10-15 solid minutes per game, he could provide a nice “stretch” look in high-powered offensive lineups.

Blackburn: Lyles has the inside track because he has most recently been in the rotation, but I’m going to go with Juancho. He is unequivocally having the better season than Lyles, and his positional versatility should lead to some opportunities in a 10 man rotation. With Mason Plumlee’s ability to play next to Jokic, the Nuggets just need a guy who can hit outside shots and cut to the rim. For the first two months of the season, there was nobody better at that in a Nuggets uniform than Juancho Hernangomez, and he deserves an opportunity to recreate that. Lyles has played himself out of the rotation, and anything that Juancho brings will be an upgrade.

Gross: I would like to see more Juancho, if he’s gotten over his fatigue / yips stage of this season. But you asked what will happen, and I expect to see more Lyles. My guess is that Lyles will get the first shot at it and if he continues to struggle then Juancho is his pinch-hitter. Jarred Vanderbilt only gets in the regular rotation with some more injury woes, so let’s hope to cross that off right now even though I’m a huge stan for him.

Olson: Best guess? None of the above, by season’s end. Lyles and Hernangomez have both been non-factors over a decently long stretch of late, and Vanderbilt has shown some tantalizing play, but here’s guessing Michael Malone isn’t ready to put too much faith in that just yet. Should either Juancho or Trey show a renewed sense of where the bottom of the hoop is, that could change.

Poll

Who do you see getting regular minutes in the rotation over the final 25 games of the regular season?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Trey Lyles
    (63 votes)
  • 34%
    Juancho Hernangomez
    (151 votes)
  • 10%
    Jarred Vanderbilt
    (48 votes)
  • 13%
    Both Lyles and Juancho
    (59 votes)
  • 27%
    None of them
    (122 votes)
443 votes total Vote Now

Where will the Denver Nuggets rank in defensive efficiency (DRTG) over the final 25 games of the season?

Mares: 11th. I think Denver will defend somewhere in between the level they’ve played at the last few months and where they started the season in October and November. Paul Millsap will be a big help and just having lots of healthy bodies should allow players to commit more fully on both ends of the floor, knowing that they have competent players backing them up. But I think they were playing above their heads defensively early in the season. Got a few lucky bounces as well.

Poll

Where will the Denver Nuggets rank in DRTG over the final 25 games of the season?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Top 5
    (18 votes)
  • 24%
    Top 10
    (91 votes)
  • 57%
    Top 15
    (213 votes)
  • 13%
    Bottom half of the league
    (50 votes)
372 votes total Vote Now

Blackburn: 14th. Right where they are now. With Gary Harris and Paul Millsap returning, the Nuggets have the ability to play lineups with multiple quality defenders at all times. In addition, a stretch run should invoke higher effort level from everybody given the magnitude of this playoff run. I still think Denver struggles a bit given that none of their six guards can truly guard someone who’s 6’8 or taller, especially Isaiah Thomas and Jamal Murray. Still, 14th isn’t unreasonable in either direction.

Gross: I’m gonna go 16th. I don’t think Denver has the legs with all these injuries and health concerns to play both ends of the floor, and offense is easier for them. With Jokic having to carry more of a scoring burden he’s abandoning most of the hedging and close-outs of the early season, and the rest of the team has followed suit. I think they’ll continue to crash the boards and that will help them keep second chance points down, but Will Barton and Gary Harris still aren’t at 100% and may not be the rest of the year. They certainly won’t be pulling heavy minutes which hurts Denver’s defense in Gary’s case also. As Denver gets Vanderbilt and MPJ available into next season I expect the defense to return (with their longer bodies and youthful energy) but they’re just trying to keep it respectable this year - which 16th would be.

Olson: I feel like I’m on the Price is Right here, trying to get on stage. I’ll go with “lucky” number 13 over these last 25 games. There are some pieces to blend back together after everyone had healed up, but having Millsap and Harris back and healthy ought to shore up some of Denver’s sporadic defensive play of late. The team also knows that this stretch is what they’ve been fighting for all season long. No reason to let up off the gas now, it’s been such an unanticipated joy to watch.