Although this week ended on a high note, the Denver Nuggets struggled to keep the magic flowing, dropping four games in a row to put them at 10-5 for the season and in 3rd place in the Western Conference standings.

The recent win over the Atlanta Hawks has curbed feelings of panic in Nuggets Nation for the time being, but oddly enough I think this week’s losses were actually pretty important for their success, which I will explain later.

Although this will be a more sober weekly reflection, there is some silver lining so let’s look at some of the top headlines.

Macho Juancho

Maybe it’s getting old for you, but I’m only getting more excited every time I get to report on the status of the Juancho Hernangomez come-back. I’d like to think Coach Mike Malone took my advice (yeah right!) and decided to start Juancho this week, and I believe it paid off. Sure, the Nuggets’ game was a little off, but I never think that can be attributed to just one thing.

Primarily, I think Juancho’s benefit comes in how he can help space the floor for the Nuggets’ offense to promote some free-flow. His presence on the court will inevitably draw an opposing big man out from under the rim, and hopefully create an opportunity for open shots for the ailing Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris offensive trio. As with anything, the adjustment period may take some time, but overall I like how Juancho fits into the starting rotation for now.

Bench development

This week, rising stars Monte Morris and Torrey Craig saw some time on the court, and they continue to prove valuable to the Nuggets organization as the team looks to work out their kinks.

In the Nuggets’ loss to the Rockets, Morris pulled his weight in his 31 minutes bringing in 19 points and 6 assists. Although he was projected to be a dud on defense, Morris has put in the effort and shown to be valuable guarding the perimeter. While Isaiah Thomas remains unavailable to play, Morris is a viable option off the bench to not only maintain, but create and advance the Nuggets’ position in pivotal moments of the game.

The same can be said of Torrey Craig who is (in my opinion) one of the most efficient players the Nuggets have. What I like most is how he gets to work immediately as soon as he steps foot on the court. Against the Rockets, Craig played only 7 minutes, but in that time he contributed 5 points on 100% shooting, brought in one rebound, and one block. Sure, those numbers aren’t going to win the game, but it’s these types of role players who help a team sustain over the course of the grueling 82 game season.

I like Morris and Craig seeing time on the court because as the season progresses the Nuggets will need to count on their bench to be strong. When the Celtics had to work with their bench to win games last season in lieu of injury, it only worked to further develop the organization’s rotation options.

The same can be said for the Nuggets, and Morris and Craig will be important factors as the Denver makes their way toward the playoffs.

Parting thought:

No freaking out — success is NEVER a straight line upward

I’ve shared this illustration before, and I hope I don’t offend anyone here, but anyone who has ever been successful in anything knows that the path to get there was one resembling something like the picture on the right below.

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I remember when a business colleague I respected greatly showed me this image. Early in my career, I looked at this person as the pinnacle of what it meant to be successful in my industry, but the more I saw this person as this perfect example of what I needed to be and do every day (picture on the left), the more down on myself I became because I knew what my path really looked like (picture on the right). When they showed me this photo, my life truly changed. That sounds dramatic, but I mean it. I was allowed to be human at that point, and my path no longer seemed so horribly abnormal.

When evaluating the Nuggets’ season in a vacuum, the recent four-game losing streak could be cause for panic. But, looking at this season compared to recent seasons, there is no reason whatsoever to be upset. The Nuggets didn’t make the playoffs last year, and right now they sit at 3rd place in the Western Conference. Guys, that kind of improvement from one season to the next is REALLY good.

As we make our way through the regular season, and support our team it’s important for us to understand that there WILL be setbacks. There WILL be losses that can’t be explained beyond chalking it up to a bad game. As the Nuggets work their way through these challenges it will result in the success they experience being more sustainable and authentic. They NEED these kinds of losses to understand how to persevere and come back from certain defeat.

Of course we don’t want to see sustained losing streaks, but a period of loss followed by a period of bouncing back might be just the training the Nuggets need to be the team who comes back from being down by 2 games in a playoff series to win.

Overall, I’m still very pleased with there the Nuggets are at and the path they’re working on. There are still kinks to be worked out, but until we start using robots to compete in the NBA, that will always be the case.

For now, stay the course. This team is and will be very special.