Every once in a while, Denver Nuggets fans need a chance to let off some steam. Sometimes, it’s to air their grievances. Sometimes, it’s to share their high expectations in a safe space.

Every Thursday night, I will ask Nuggets Nation for their hottest takes, good or bad, so that we can talk about them together. Some are too hot for the article, and I apologize if you don’t make it into the piece, but I will do my best to answer as many as I can.

Let’s get spicy!

I wasn’t watching the TNT broadcast the first time around, but Charles Barkley had a great line at halftime, with the Nuggets down 12 and looking like a complete shell of themselves on both ends, that I will paraphrase here:

“A team that consistently finds itself down at halftime that wins the game in the end knows that it’s good and believes it doesn’t have to try hard to get a win.”

That sentiment almost perfectly describes the Nuggets right now. I’ve used this statistic in previous seasons and believe it to be an apt method to evaluate Denver—Net Rating by quarter:

  • 1st Quarter: -9.7 Net Rating (27th in the NBA)
  • 2nd Quarter: -6.6 Net Rating (22nd)
  • 3rd Quarter: +20.1 Net Rating (4th)
  • 4th Quarter: +6.6 Net Rating (9th)

The Nuggets are displaying the ultimate “We know we are better than you” syndrome to start the year, and it’s true. They are better than the teams they have faced and basically needed only the third quarter to do it.

I will have less concerns about the Nuggets going forward when they show up in the first half of games. It makes the second half that much more fun when they play with a lead rather than playing from behind.

I hear ya, Cade. Denver is currently 25th in the NBA in shooting accuracy in the short midrange, generally synonymous with the floater zone. You know I have been preaching about floaters and their danger for most of the season. The first Stat of the Week of the 2019-20 season was about floaters and how they could end up becoming a negative. Let’s check back on that article real quick:

“Now, the Nuggets cannot change who they are, nor should they. So much of what makes Nikola Jokic great on offense is his ability to make decisions in the middle of the floor. There are limited ways to get him the ball there, and the easiest action is a middle pick and roll that can lead to a floater at times. For the Nuggets though, they have to find ways to get back to the most efficient version of themselves, and that means attacking the locations on the floor that make the most sense analytically.”

So, are the Nuggets attacking the locations on the floor that make the most sense analytically?

According to Cleaning the Glass, the Nuggets own the 21st ranked frequency in shots all the way at the rim and the 18th ranked frequency in corner threes. Denver’s 23rd in the percentage of their points coming on free throws as well.

The answer then is a definite no at the moment.

I’m not going to pull up the stats on his deep threes, but there’s definitely an argument for Jamal to start raining hellfire from beyond the arc in deeper and deeper area codes. It won’t be supremely efficient, but Luka Doncic currently shoots 31.0 percent from three-point range, and the percentage doesn’t matter because teams feel they have to guard him from 28 feet.

Murray could definitely have a similar gravity, but too often, he’s battling a tendency to drive into the lane or to the midrange where he feels more comfortable. He has slowly developed into Denver’s version of CJ McCollum over the years with his midrange frequency and desire to seek out those shots. The problem though is that Denver needs a Damian Lillard at the point guard spot in this offense. Someone who has to be guarded from 30 feet out and can take some attention away from Nikola Jokic.

It will eventually sink in. It may happen this year. Once it does, Denver will be that much more dangerous for it.

I heard this one a lot tonight, and the fact that it’s a statement that can be made in a non-joking fashion should shame a lot of Nuggets fans who wrote off Will Barton too soon. In his minutes as a starter during the 2017-18 season, a sample of 40 games, Barton averaged 17.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 4.4 assists on a 47.6/40.4/87.2 slash line, basically the numbers of a lower volume Khris Middleton.

Barton’s a bit small to play the 3, but there are many matchups he’s comfortable taking on. He defended Kyrie Irving well tonight. He matched up with Jimmy Butler against the Miami Heat and came out on top. He spent time against Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns and CJ McCollum and the Portland Trail Blazers.

The dude is a legit baller, and half of Nuggets Nation wanted him gone because he was injured last year. Shame on fans for writing off one of the most important Nuggets of this decade.

Honestly, I’m here for it. Paul Millsap is currently shooting 45.6/50.0/88.1 on the season. the three-point and free throw percentages would of course be career highs, and Millsap should be commended for that. As the Nuggets have moved away from Millsap as a focal point in the offense and as more of a spot-up shooter and cutter, Millsap has adapted his game and become more fficient of a shooter, a big step for a team like Denver that needs shooting around Nikola Jokic as often as they can get it.

Will those shooting numbers sustain? Probably not, but neither will Millsap’s abnormally inefficient shooting inside the arc. That has been as surprising as Millsap’s elite outside shooting.

The Nuggets really do have a mess at small forward right now. Barton has solidified the starting spot, but behind him, the Nuggets have rotated through Torrey Craig, Michael Porter Jr., and Juancho Hernangomez most recently. So far, the bench has shown the most energy and ability to execute offensively with Juancho out there, and that matters. Denver’s been dead in the water offensively with Craig and MPJ in that spot.

Now, one game isn’t the be-all-end-all for evaluating lineups, but Juancho at the backup small forward certainly deserves another look. Monte Morris appeared more comfortable out there tonight, and Jerami Grant had a solid performance, hitting two three-pointers and nearly ending the career of one of Brooklyn’s bench forwards during Denver’s comeback effort at the end of the third quarter.

MPJ was supposed to earn that time, but if he can’t hold down the position over Juancho, then it makes more sense to go with Juancho for the next few games to see how he does.

There’s a good argument for it. Without getting too much into detail on guards around the league and how they are performing, the most notable performances defensively are coming from Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics, Jrue Holiday of the New Orleans, and both Ben Simmons and Josh Richardson on the Philadelphia 76ers. All four are excellent and deserving if they do make first team.

Gary Harris has a claim too. He consistently takes on the toughest assignments the opposing team has to offer and wins the battle frequently. Against Lillard and McCollum, Harris was great. Against Luka Doncic, Harris made life hell. Buddy Hield had the same number of turnovers as he did points when facing Harris.

It won’t always be like that. It certainly wasn’t against Trae Young. Great defenders are sometimes beaten by great offense. It just happens. Harris does an excellent job of forcing opposing guards to work harder than they want to throughout the game, and that leads to poor performances. For that, Harris deserves as much credit for Denver’s strong defensive start as anyone on the roster.