With a convincing win against the Lakers last night, the Denver Nuggets have advanced to a 3-2 start. It has been a roller coaster of a season, but there are positive takeaways to be had amid a middling start — with the Lakers game seeming like it might be the start to a good stretch of play for the team.

Now that’s not to say the Lakers game was a pretty win — it was far from it. However, it was a game that featured the second lowest turnover number from the Nuggets this season and the defense looked the best it has all season. The rotations were more on point, the containment was better, and overall the Nuggets just executed better than they had in most games so far this season.

It has been evident this season that execution has been an issue. The team has contained pick and rolls well, but they have lacked any rim protection and were struggling with closeouts, fouling, and a decent amount of execution in general. It has come down to poor effort from Nikola Jokic especially. He has not put up much resistance to anyone in pick and roll coverage, and hasn’t contested shots very well either.

In the Lakers game though, he kicked Anthony Davis’ butt. It was the most aggressive Joker has been this season and it paid dividends. If he’s starting to be more aggressive, then that means great things for the offense. It’s still fantastic when he’s being more of a distributor, but aggressive Jokic is better than passive Jokic.

One of the brightest spots for the Nuggets has been Bruce Brown. He plays with his engine on at all times. When asked about what he likes most about playing with Bruce Brown, Nikola Jokic said, “His craziness probably. He’s always crazy. I love it.”

The Nuggets have missed someone with his kind of intensity for a long time, but he’s provided that at every turn. He will dive for balls, rotate quicker than anyone else on the court, be up and down the court, and still have energy left over. Add on the fact that it’s a sort of controlled chaos — the kind that means he’s always where he needs to be, and you get an ideal fit for the Nuggets on both ends of the floor. Though, before the season he said he was a 40% three point shooter and that’s turned out to be a lie. He’s shooting 50% from beyond the arc so far this season.

The other additions by Calvin Booth this season have also been playing well this season. Christian Braun has impressed people with his defensive play. His discipline, rotations, and execution have all been good. He’s also figuring more out on the offensive end of things. He’s shot better from beyond the arc in the regular season than in either preseason or summer league. He’s the sort of rookie that you can look at and know he will be a great role player for a long time in this league. Both Bruce Brown and Christian Braun make winning plays where ever they can.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has also been a perfect fit with the starting unit. He’s been a great shooter and a very good defender for the Nuggets. Just what the team needed as the fifth guy in the starting lineup. He knows where to be at all times and knows how to be ready for Jokic passes already.

The returning players have been hit or miss this season, but it’s to be expected. Jamal Murray has been really rusty to start the season, but again it is to be expected. He’s coming off of a major injury and 18 month absence. The NBA is a very fast environment and he’s talked about the speed being the hardest part of getting back for him. He will be the all=star level Jamal Murray again eventually, but it will take time to get there.

Michael Porter Jr. on the other hand has looked like he didn’t skip a beat. He’s averaged 18 points per game this season on 51% from the field, 50% from downtown, and 80% from the free throw line. He’s also been getting better on the defensive end of things as the season has gone along too. With clutch blocks and stops against both Steph Curry and Shai Gilgeous Alexander.

All in all, the Nuggets have a lot of flashes of the contender we know them to be. They need to iron out some wrinkles, but there are still the makings of a title team on the roster. The bench minutes will need to get better, and some roster changes will more than likely be made at some point in the season. However, the core is here and they’re starting to make the strides needed.