If you’re not familiar with Film Fridays, each Friday, I’ll be looking at some recent Denver Nuggets’ games, lineups or something else from a film aspect to try and bring you a piece of content that you’re not getting somewhere else. Feel free to give any feedback positive or negative in the comments or find me on Twitter.
We’re a little more than a month removed from the NBA season being suspended due to the Corona Virus, and the NBA has made some progress with trying to put a product out such as the H.O.R.S.E. challenge. That’s well and good, but the season shows no obvious signs that it will be returning in the immediate future. With that in mind, I thought it might be a good time to look towards the future.
Today, we’re going to be going through a possible starting lineup that we could see next year or the year after based on players currently on the roster. I think at least one of the players we look at today will not be on the team, but I can’t just go adding players as it suits my fancy. It’d be ineriguinging to get Bol Bol in here, but I just don’t see a path to that happening right now.
Point Guard - Jamal Murray
Jamal Murray signed a massive contract extension during the 2019 offseason that pays him just a shade under what Nikola Jokic will be making. He’s not leaving Denver any time soon, and fans should be glad about that. Is Murray slightly overpaid? Possibly. However, he’s shown the consistent growth that you look for in a young player, and he fits well alongside Jokic.
He has increased his minutes and points per game in each of his four seasons. In 2019-20, he’s shooting a career-best 45.5 percent from the field, and he’s swiping 1.2 steals per game, which is another career-high. Murray can shoot at a decent clip, with a career 3-point average of 35.8 percent, and he’s still developing. Unless he stagnates, fans should start to gain a more favorable view of his contract.
Shooting Guard: Gary Harris
Remember, I said that I couldn’t add players to the roster, and this is a spot where I think the current starter has far from a firm grasp on the spot. Gary Harris is under contract for the next two seasons, and, coming off of the 2016-18 seasons, that would have been fantastic. The problem is he has been a shell of that player on the offensive end of the floor in the two years since.
His slashline for the year reads as .420/.333/.817 while averaging 10.4 points per game and 2.4 rebounds. His defense has been good with a +0.4 rating on that end after grading out as a negative the previous four seasons. Harris shows the potential to be the permanent starter at this spot, but, if they were to bring in just about anyone else, he’d likely be heading to the bench for a reserve role.
Small Forward: Michael Porter Jr.
On this one, I’m somewhat predicting a few things. One, I think Will Barton is gone after the 2020-21 season when he opts out of his player option. He wants to go somewhere that he can play a bigger role, and that won’t happen in Denver. Second, I think Michael Porter Jr. gets fast-tracked by management next season if Michael Malone continues to refuse to play him.
Porter has been completely as advertised this year. He’s shooting nearly 50 percent from the field with 42.2 percent from 3-point range. He’s averaging 19.2 points and 10.7 rebounds per 36 minutes. He has had some issues on defense, but, with the way the league is played, his offense more than enough to get him on the floor. Heading into the future, he needs to be starting for Denver.
Power Forward: Jerami Grant
I understand that Malone prefers to play with two traditional bigs, but the league is moving towards these small lineups. Jerami Grant is a perfect fit for the modern NBA. He’s a decent defender that can slash to the rim while knocking down spot-up attempts at 40.0 percent clip. The one issue you’re going to run into with Grant is his contract situation that’s coming up.
Grant has a player option this offseason worth $9.346 million that he is almost guaranteed to decline. He’s significantly outplayed that number, and he’ll likely be looking to cash in on a market that’s less than stellar. Denver needs to make it a priority to re-sign him without breaking the bank. His fit alongside Jokic is arguably the best on the team, and he still fits the team’s timeline at just 26 years old.
Center: Nikola Jokic
I’m sorry I couldn’t make the ending more exciting for you. Jokic is under contract for at least the next three seasons, and, barring unforeseen circumstances, he’ll remain a Nugget for the rest of his career. Since being selected with the 41st overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, Jokic has dramatically exceeded every expectation that Denver had in mind for the big man out of Serbia.
He’s averaged a double-double in each of the past three seasons while remaining one of the best-passing bigs the league has ever seen. His prowess to score in the post has the same gravity that you see when Stephen Curry is shooting from 3-point land. Denver has an MVP candidate since the first time since the peak years of Carmelo Anthony. I find it highly unlikely that he is surpassed anytime in the next 10-12 years.
For those of you that are still here, remember to leave your feedback in the comments or over on my Twitter, and have a fantastic film-filled Friday.