The Denver Nuggets currently pose a record of 17-10 and are just a game and a half out of first place in the Western Conference standings. With that being said, the Nuggets offense has been exceptional, but their defense has been a whole different story.
Denver currently holds the second best offensive rating in the NBA, but they have the third worst defensive rating. It’s no secret how important defense it to winning championships and if the Nuggets have their sights on their first title in franchise history, they’re certainly going to have to make some adjustments on that end of the court.
Where do you think Denver finishes the season in terms of offensive rating? They’re currently second, only trailing the Boston Celtics.
Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717): The Nuggets offense — with Nikola Jokic at the helm — is an unstoppable force as long as they remain healthy. It’s crazy how incredible the Nuggets offense has been with arguably their best shooter — Michael Porter Jr. — missing Denver’s past 10 games. I think Denver will finish the season as not just a top-5 offense, but a top-3 offense with the potential to be the best offensive team in the NBA.
Peter Leensvaart (@Petepizza27): I believe that Denver will finish the season with a top 5 offensive rating. Denver finished in the top 7 of teams offensive rating in the last 7 seasons, they’ve only been 5th in the NBA though. With a healthy roster around Nikola Jokić, I think that Denver can put up their highest finish in offensive rating this season.
Gage Bridgford (@GbridgfordNFL): I think Denver ends up in the three or four range. Similar to Pete, they’ve got a healthy roster around Jokic along with finishing as a top seven team in the last seven seasons, but they play in a Western Conference that’s absolutely loaded up with talent. Of the top 10 teams in net rating, six of them are in the West. Unless Denver gets into a ton of shootouts, which is possible, I think they’ll drop just slightly in the ranks over the course of the year.
What do you think the Nuggets biggest issue on the defensive end of the floor is?
Ewing: Focus and effort is often what separates the good defensive teams from the poor ones and the Nuggets lack of focus at times on defense is what really seems to be holding them back. Once the train gets moving down the tracks and other teams starts scoring it’s incredibly hard for the Nuggets to slow them down. Denver seems to be asking a lot from Gordon, Brown, and Caldwell-Pope, so other players need to step-up to help those three on the defensive end of the floor.
Leensvaart: Aaron Gordon has to do too much defensively. While the big 3 of Murray, MPJ, and Jokić are better individual defenders than they once were, they all still give up points occasionally throughout the whole game. Gordon has to not only guard the other teams best player in most cases, but he also has to cover up for any mistakes the Nuggets could make defensively. Denver’s starting lineup only has 2 primary defensively focused players, that lineup construction will never yield an amazing defending roster.
Bridgford: I think the biggest issue is the team’s lack of consistent focus on the defensive end. When all five players on the floor lock in on defense, they can harass teams a great deal. The problem is they don’t do that for the entirety of a game, and they give up runs. While a team like the Celtics can stifle just about any team they go up against for four quarters, the Nuggets have yet to show that they can lock in like that on the defensive end for an entire game.
Do you think the Nuggets defense is fixable or is this a problem they will have to deal with all season?
Ewing: Defense is always fixable if you ask me, it’s whether or not the players buy in to fixing that aspect of their game. The Nuggets offense is tough to slow down, but when they’re having to score 130+ points a game to win that’s going to be tough to sustain throughout the regular season on into the playoffs. Whether or not the Nuggets buy in on defense is going to ultimately be the difference of how far they make it this season.
Leensvaart: The Nuggets defense is survivable in my opinion, while it is one of the worst in the league according to defensive rating, Denver has the potential to turn it around. With Jamal Murray coming back from his injury, I think he will become better at defense over the course of the season. The same could be said about MPJ, but he wasn’t much of a defender before last years injury, he could still slightly improve though.
Bridgford: I think this issue is more than fixable. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to desire. I don’t think their issues are as much of a personnel problem as a mental hurdle. Preserving energy for the playoffs matters over the course of a long season. However, these are the months and matchups when they need to work on that mental aspect of the game. It all starts at the top and works it’s way down the bench. When your star players treat defense as important as they do offense, that will flow into the rest of the guys on the team. If they can do that, this team has a truly special ceiling. As of now, we’re in wait-and-see mode to find out if they can flip that switch.