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Roundtable: taking a look at Denver’s start to the season

Stiffs writers join together to discuss the Denver Nuggets impressive start to the season.

San Antonio Spurs v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets are off to a strong start as they are 8-3 and just one game back of first place in the Western Conference. Denver is undefeated so far at home and have suffered all of their losses out on the road. Still, the Nuggets are currently on a four game winning streak and will look to stretch it to five tonight in Boston against the Celtics.

Before that, let’s take a look at some things that have stood out about the Nuggets so far this season!

What has surprised you most about the Nuggets impressive start to the season?

Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717): The biggest standout for me has been how well the Nuggets offseason additions have meshed with the team. The trade for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the signing of Bruce Brown have been massive upgrades to the Nuggets starters and bench unit. Even the contribution of Christian Braun through 11 games has been a welcomed sight as the Nuggets future looks bright with everything they were able to add to their roster this offseason.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Denver Nuggets Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images

Asher Levy (@asherlevynba): The thing that has surprised me the most about the Nuggets’ start this season is that they have this record and still have so much room to improve. The defense can be better, the turnovers can go down, and Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. aren’t fully back yet either. The Nuggets are 8-3 — tied for the 2nd seed in the West right now.

Peter Leensvaart (@petepizza27): I think what surprised me most this season so far is how deep the team is with talent. The Nuggets have 4 players (Jokić, Murray, MPJ, Bones) who could go off for 25 points in a game and 3 guys (Bruce Brown, Aaron Gordon, KCP) who can get you 15 points relatively often. I can't remember a Nuggets roster with as much talent as this one has.

Name an area where you think the Nuggets could still show improvement.

Ewing: Defense is an area the Nuggets could still show improvement and could be the difference of how far they go in the playoffs. The Nuggets are currently 21st in the NBA in defensive rating, but thanks to their offense they’ve been able to outscore most of the teams they’ve played to start the season. Denver is currently fifth in the NBA in offensive rating and even though it’s hard to see them becoming a top-10 defense, a top-15 spot is certainly something they should be striving for.

Levy: I think that the biggest area of improvement for the Nuggets is the defense. They have gotten better in the past while, but they still need to buckle down for full games. It’s going to be necessary to have the defensive chemistry there come post All-Star break, so the Nuggets will need to get better at rotations, staying in front of their man, and rim protection.

Denver Nuggets v Indiana Pacers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Leensvaart: Nikola Jokić is averaging his least shot attempts per game since the 2017/18 season, he can take his scoring to another level still. While Jokić has still been incredible this season, his scoring is undeniably down. He is shooting efficiently still, just not taking as many shots as he was in previous years. If the Nuggets can maintain this current level of play and the Joker starts scoring 25+ per game, they will be hard to beat.

Which player has surprised you most — either good or bad — with their play so far this season?

Ewing: I’m going to stick on the Christian Braun train, who was a player I mentioned above as someone who was added in the offseason and has already been a pleasant surprise. Braun’s minutes have declined over the course of the last four games, but he’s still appeared in 10 of the Nuggets 11 games and is averaging 14.8 minutes per game. We’ve seen how hard it is for rookies on the Nuggets to get immediate playing time, but Braun feels like a player who can break that mold with what he brings to the floor defensively.

Levy: The player that has surprised me the most this season has been Michael Porter Jr. — I expected him to be good, but he has been great! He has played like he didn’t miss anytime and looks like he did before he was injured. He hasn’t been playing with a minutes restriction and it’s been great to see him healthy again. Having someone with that amount of gravity at 6’10” makes the offense run so much better.

Denver Nuggets v Indiana Pacers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Leensvaart: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has surprised me the most this season, in a good way. I was not expecting KCP to be a 42%+ shooter from three, I knew he could shoot at an elite level but for him to start the season shooting 54% from three, that's just incredible. KCP has also surprised me with how many steals he has been getting, he's averaging a career-high 1.6 steals per game so far this season.

Who has been the Nuggets “unsung” hero though their first 11 games?

Ewing: I’m going with Aaron Gordon, who has been really good for the Nuggets to start the year. Gordon isn’t shooting the ball great from three — just 28.1 percent — but he is still averaging 14.4 points and seven rebounds per game. With all the Nuggets injuries last season, Gordon was asked to do a lot, but this year he’s been able to sit back and do his thing. As the Nuggets fourth option in the starting five, Gordon seems to be finding a groove and may just be getting started.

San Antonio Spurs v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Levy: The unsung hero to me is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. In a summer full of great additions, he may have gotten the least buzz of himself, Bruce Brown, and Christian Braun, but he completes the starting five in a way that few players could. He leads the team in 3 point percentage and has been arguably the teams best defender — he is the 3 and D wing that the Nuggets have been dying for for seasons. He is the perfect complimentary player to fill out the starting five.

Leensvaart: Bruce Brown is the Nuggets unsung hero in my opinion. Bruce Brown has started 3 games with Jamal Murray recovering and has won all 3 games. He’s put together 3 games of 15 or more points and again Denver has won all those games. My favorite thing about Bruce Brown is that even when he's not scoring he still leaves an impact on the game, with a 9 assist game as well as a handful of 5 rebound games.