The 2017-18 season finished with the Denver Nuggets at a loss for words after a Game 82 defeat on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Nuggets let up 112 points in the season ending loss, and head coach Michael Malone insisted that the team must be better defensively if they wanted to eventually realize their playoff goals.

Fast forward to 2018-19, and the Nuggets accomplished their mission, winning 54 games and earning the second seed in the Western Conference. While Denver dropped from the sixth ranked team in Offensive Rating in 2017-18 to seventh in 2018-19, they made a leap defensively, jumping from 23rd in Defensive Rating in 2017-18 to 10th in 2018-19. Part of the improvements stemmed from having a healthy Paul Millsap for 70 games as opposed to the 39 he played the year prior, but it certainly helped to receive a larger commitment from the entire roster defensively, as it was definitely a team effort. Nikola Jokic took a significant step forward in his commitment to Denver’s defensive game plan and executed well.

Still, in the 2019 playoffs, the Nuggets struggled to slow down the Portland Trail Blazers’ guard scoring lineup when it mattered. There were plenty of weaknesses, and many of the bench players that contributed to Denver’s strong defensive units struggled to compete offensively to stay on the court. It’s possible that even though the Nuggets ranked 10th in Defensive Rating, they may not be the 10th best defense given their playoff personnel. That being said, it’s possible that Denver improves upon their defense in the upcoming season following their first taste of playoff atmosphere.

With the addition of Jerami Grant, a highly versatile defender against guards and forwards, there’s potential for Denver to be better. If he replaces the minutes of Torrey Craig and Mason Plumlee though, two of Denver’s hardest workers in the regular season, then the team may actually lose a step. No one knows how Michael Porter Jr. will affect the dynamic or if more trades are to come.

With this in mind, here’s the Question of the Week: How good will the Nuggets defense be in 2019-20?

This content is no longer available.