On a scale of 1-10, how concerned are you about the team’s 3-game losing streak?
Adam Mares: I’d say about a 3. Losing to the Lakers would certainly take it up a number but I think the losing streak feels a lot more destructive than it actually is. There was always going to be an adjustment period as the team tries to figure out how to integrate Isaiah Thomas and it goes beyond just Thomas’s play. Michael Malone is trying to find a rotation that makes sense and players are trying to adjust to new roles. If Thomas can’t find his rhythm and/or the team can’t find rotations that work consistently, then Malone will have to make the difficult call and bench Thomas. But whether they figure IT out or not, this should be a temporary problem.
Ryan Blackburn: 5 or so, but only because it is in Denver’s best interest to hold on the 2 seed. The Nuggets are almost certainly going to finish with home court advantage in the playoffs, and doing so would provide them with a needed advantage in any circumstance. Even still, the 2 seed is the real prize, with the opportunity to face the 7 seed in a first round series as well as stay away from Golden State. The more the Nuggets drop games to inferior opponents, the more likely they will be faced with a tough first round opponent. The Nuggets have done enough work already to drop some games, but turning this losing streak into a drought could be costly for their chances of advancing in the playoffs this year.
Zach Mikash: Concerned. Probably around a 7. Have we forgotten what NuggLife is? Maybe I agree with Adam because it’s a feel thing, not a nuts and bolts thing. Holding the 2 seed until the last 15 games and sliding to the fifth seed in the last week feels very NuggLife. Feels a lot like being a two seed and your assistant coach takes over to drop you to a five seed, feels very like you’re a three seed and you’re best player blows his knee out two weeks before the playoffs so you lose to a six seed. Feels very like you’re a four seed and finally don’t have to play the Spurs or the Lakers in the first round but the fifth seed Clippers had a better record so they get home court and dispatch you in five games....I might be a 9.
How important is it that the Denver Nuggets hold on to the 2-seed?
Mares: It’s certainly important but much less important than finding their groove heading into the playoffs. I’d rather the team play 15+ games with a set rotation and guys knowing their roles and be the 3-seed than for them to patch enough wins together to hold onto the 2-seed but have less of an idea about who they are, who plays when, and what their roles are. So by my count, Malone has a couple more games to experiment before narrowing down his rotation.
Blackburn: As I mentioned above, I believe it’s extremely important. The difference between facing one of San Antonio or Los Angeles (Clippers) and facing one of Utah or Houston is stark. If Denver faces Houston in the first round, I will pick Houston to win that series in 5 or 6 games because of Denver’s matchup issues. Avoiding a tougher opponent and allowing the Nuggets to get adjusted to the playoff scene would make things much easier.
Mikash: Specifically the two seed not all that important, but not dropping below three is very important. Getting the two seed means winning the division, it’s nice, it guarantees you homecourt against everyone except the Warriors and it also is a simple matter of pride. However, am I all that concerned about the Nuggets ability to steal homecourt advantage away from the Thunder or Blazers? Yes, but not nearly as worried as I would be about them getting Golden State in the second round or Houston in the first, nor am I placing all that much emphasis on hanging that division title banner. So 2 seed or 3 seed, either one, just not worse than that.
Are you more excited about the starting lineup or concerned about the bench?
Mares: Easily the former. I’ve said this for quite some time but the starters are a sleeping giant. They already have the best net rating of any 5-man lineup in the NBA to play at least 50 minutes and they haven’t even hit their stride offensively just yet. If Harris and Murray can knock down their shots at the rate we expected coming into the season, then Denver is going to be a problem.
Blackburn: Definitely the starting lineup. The bench will be sorted out, and there’s probably only room for two of the three bench guards in the playoffs anyway. The starting unit features five players who should all exceed 35 minutes per game in the playoffs, and that unit happens to be one of the NBA’s most dangerous. As Adam alluded, Denver’s starting unit features the best raw plus-minus (+63) of any unit that has played less than 100 minutes. That group is simply elite together and could be Denver’s knockout punch come playoff time, their personal Death Lineup.
Mikash: In 20 games you know what the Nuggets bench is? Monte Morris, Malik Beasley and Mason Plumlee. End scene. So I’m not really all that concerned. No doubt the Nuggets are hoping for Isaiah Thomas to show them something to feel good about using him in the playoffs, but unless he turns it around fast I can’t see them using him in the postseason save for a situational moment every few games. The starting unit finally being back together and getting healthy has me very excited though. That lineup crushes and they will get huge minutes in the playoffs so to see the success is very encouraging.
Come to our watch party!
We are co-hosting the official Nuggets Watch Party tomorrow night at Stoney’s Uptown at 1035 E. 17th Ave. These watch parties are always a lot of fun and offer attendees a GREAT chance to win prizes, tickets, and other giveaways. Come talk Nuggets with us as we root against the hated Lakers. Stoney’s has a phenomenal selection of food and beverages including all-u-can-eat wings. We’ll be there and we look forward to meeting you!