When I was a kid, Saturday nights at grandpa and grandma’s house was game night. We might occasionally break out something modern (at that point) like Taboo or Pictionary, but usually it was all of grandpa’s favorites: Backgammon, Pitch, Euchre, Cribbage, and so many more you may have never heard of. But the only game that got everyone to the table was Yahtzee.

If you’re not familiar, the 10,000 foot view is this: Yahtzee is a five-die dice game that awards a number of points depending on the combination of dice you roll on a first, second, or third try. Of all the combinations you can score with, a “Yahtzee” is the highest awarded, consisting of five dice all showing the same number. How tough is that to do?

Well, when you think about the six sides of a standard die, it’s pretty quick math to understand that you’ll get any given number one out of six times. So, the odds of rolling the specific number you want is one in six, or about 16.6666666… (you get the point) percent. Rolling five die with the same number facing up on the first roll is a much larger challenge, with that combination showing up in one out of every 1,296 rolls, on average, or less than a tenth of a percent of the time (.08%) on a single roll.

But when you spent that many years with that many Saturday nights hearing dice bounce across a large wooden table, there were actually a number of times someone rolled out all five dice on the same number. Stranger things certainly do happen. I remember the cheer that went up around the room when it would occur, out of the seemingly sheer impossibility of it all. Even when the odds of everything coming up perfectly seemed astronomically slim, it absolutely occurred, and was weirdly thrilling for five little plastic cubes dancing across a table.

Your Denver Nuggets have rolled several dice of their own, taking a number of risks in this recent offseason. Injuries, conflicts, and the Nuggets dumb sh-tty luck all possibly stand in their way, but given the general fortunes often associated with your favorite team, maybe it’s about time for that rare roll of the dice. Here’s five gambles that Denver needs to have pay off to have a magical season:

Isaiah Thomas

This content is no longer available.

Your Nuggets took a low-risk, high reward gamble on Thomas, when you look at what they’ve committed to him in terms of salary and floor time. Less than two years removed from dark-horse MVP candidacy, Thomas is crystal clear on where he sits in Denver’s point guard pecking order. IT brings credibility and impetus to a Denver bench sorely in need of the same, but needs to be at least two-thirds the player he was as the Celtic’s fourth quarter dynamo for the Nuggets bet to pay dividends. Though most pundits agree that Denver’s risk here was low in terms of salary and commitment, Thomas’ performance this season stands to be a key factor in whether the Nuggets year is average or awesome.

Michael Porter, Jr.

This content is no longer available.

Another gamble came in Denver’s first choice in the recent NBA Draft. At his apex potential, Porter Jr is scoring, slashing, and style in a made-for-the-NBA package. Should he overcome or outpace his back injury and recent pair of surgeries to fulfill that potential, he has the opportunity to be every bit the star that Nikola Jokic is becoming or Jamal Murray looks capable to be. Should things track to their NuggLife conclusion, Michael will be a megawatt smile lighting the Nuggets bench in his street clothes. The words from his camp say all signs are very positive, but they’d be crazy to say anything else. Should Porter be able to join the Nuggets in any meaningful way by the All-Star break, he adds a depth and dimension to the Nuggets already-potent scoring attack that could make the Mile High Basketball squad a nightmare for any team to plan against.

Jarred Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt was the second roll of the dice that Denver made on Draft Day, taking a chance that nagging foot and ankle injuries will eventually be a thing of the past, though they need Vanderbilt to recover from a surgery on a foot injury yet to be fully defined, as discussed by Ryan Blackburn in yesterday’s excellent mailbag. Depending on Jarred’s eventual recovery, he could be a starter in the long-term, and bring desperately needed rebounding and defense to a Denver squad in need of heaps of both. A recovered Jarred gives the Nuggets an opportunity to situationally place a defensive front of Vanderbilt, Torrey Craig, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, and Mason Plumlee on the court in a moment that a shut-down is the only thing that will do.

Will Barton

Will Barton is a gamble, you say? How are we rolling the dice with a guy who has proven himself repeatedly overt he past two seasons in Denver?

Well, as impressive as Barton has primarily been, his probable move to the starting five and the vacuum that leaves behind on Denver’s bench will be one of the more sizable shifts between last season and this. With Barton’s energy and scoring capabilities looking to add depth to the starters’ already-profound punch, most of Nuggets Nation expects this change to be one of the team’s primary step forward. Should that move work out to expectations, Denver will be even more reliant on one, two, or three of the previously mentioned gents making an important contribution.

Hearing voices

The Nuggets have invested a lot of time and money in the veteran voices in their locker room over the past few seasons as the early wave of their youth movement began. There was a lot of wisdom in having experienced guys who were good teachers and supportive teammates taking the time with the likes of Jokic, Harris, Murray, Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, and even Monte Morris and the slightly-older Barton to show them how to weather the physical and emotional tolls of a lengthy season, and stick together as a team.

Like it or not, voices like Mike Miller, Richard Jefferson, Darrell Arthur, and many more will not be as prevalent a part of the core squad’s daily diet. It will be incumbent on the core guys to remember the lessons they were taught by those vets, keeping the echoes of their voices close when times get tough.

Denver is not utterly without veteran voices, as Millsap should serve as the source of constancy between last season and this one. Thomas, as a veteran, will need to be sure that his presence is supportive and a positive for this maturing young core. But the Nuggets are surely rolling the dice in that core being ready to set their own course with that consistency and sense of the game to not need so many training wheels this season.

The Denver Nuggets are taking a lot of calculated risks coming into the 2018-2019 season, Nuggets Nation. There’s as much opportunity for any or all of them to go wrong as there is for them to turn up positive. Should all five of those work out the way the team is hoping?


This content is no longer available.