2019-20 Schedule: 41-32
Comparing the Denver roster from last season with their current roster leaves a lot to be desired from a team that competed in the Western Conference Finals a season ago. On paper, the Nuggets lost their best defensive player in Jerami Grant and their backup center in Mason Plumlee. The hope is that what we saw from Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. in the Bubble were for real.
Before the Bubble, Murray averaged 18 points a game and exploded for 26.5 over 19 playoff games in the Bubble. During the playoffs, Murray shot 45% from deep, but that hot shooting won’t hold up for the career 35% three-point shooter. What could hold up is the shot selection. Murray shot more pull up three-point shots in the playoffs and was hunting for those looks inn the pick and roll. Denver also believes the guard is going to step up his defense this year. Michael Porter Jr. showed flashes of brilliance in the Bubble over the summer with his increased role.
Overall I think we see more of the same from the Nuggets this season, one of the better regular-season teams in the West, but I am not sure they got enough better to make it to the finals.
Will Barton or MPJ?
With Will Barton‘s absence from the Bubble, MPJ bloomed into what draft prospects thought he could be. Porter averaged 11 points a game and showed shot creation that the Nuggets will need this season out of the forward position, and Nuggets camp seems to think he will be having a huge sophomore season. The issue is Will Barton. With the way the roster is constructed, Michael Porter fits better with the starting unit with his ability to spread the floor and defend. Will Barton is coming off a season where he scored 15 a game and has been quoted saying he is a starter and has no desire to be a six-man. The issue is Barton would fit in so nicely as the secondary playmaker next to Monte Morris on the second unit. Barton’s skill set leads to a better second unit offense and Porter provides more defense and floor spacing for the starting unit. What really matters is who Denver will elect to finish games with this season, hopefully, that is Porter.
One player to keep an eye on is Facundo Campazzo. Campazzo is a 29-year-old rookie coming over this season from Argentina. Campazzo is probably a top 10 passer in the NBA already. If you have not yet go look up a mixtape and it will convince you. The issue is whether at only 5’11” he can defend and shoot well enough to hang in the NBA.
It’s amazing I have gotten this far into this article without mentioning Denver’s best player Nikola Jokic. Jokic is something the NBA has never seen before. No center in the history of the NBA has provided the amount of playmaking Jokic has for this Denver team. The offense runs through him and for the last three seasons he has been one of the best three playmakers in the league. This season the Nuggets are going to need more from him than ever before. Losing Plumlee as a backup off the bench means that there is not a lot of rim protection behind Jokic this season. Look to see either Jokic or Paul Millsap on the floor until Bol Bol is ready to help rim protect at an NBA level (don’t hold your breath).
The starters this season will be Jamal Murray and Gary Harris in the backcourt. If Harris can stay healthy this season, that alone will help the Nuggets’ defensive woes. Hopefully, the 3 and D guard can find his 3 again after a down shooting season last year. At the 3 I think Malone will elect to start Michael Porter Jr. which will help both the Nuggets and Fantasy owners as well. Millsap and Jokic will round out the frontcourt, the Nuggets can’t afford much of a decline in the aging Paul Millsap this season if they want to continue to contend.
As for the bench unit, Monte Morris will continue to be an elite backup point guard with P.J Dozier as his running mate. Will Barton will be the lead scoring threat off the bench with JaMychal Green helping both the starting and bench units as a switchable defender who can knock down corner 3’s. I think the Nuggets won’t have a backup center that contributes heavily to this team unless they trade for one. It is more likely the minutes will be split between Millsap and Jokic with Green getting a bit in smaller units.