Don't Look Now But The Nuggets Are Somehow 7-3
Updated: Nov 15, 2019
Last night was one of those nights where you get a warm glass of milk, crawl into bed, pull those covers up, and proceed to cry your eyes out until sunrise. Overreaction you say? I would argue the opposite. The Hawks had one of those games that had me helplessly running around the streets, asking strangers, "Is Trae Young my dad?". I'm not even a player and Trae Young had me searching for my identity. I showed up to my middle school this morning and walked right into my first period from 7th grade. I'm 20.
Y'all remember last year the clip of that man going H.A.M on the kids in daycare? That was how I felt watching Trae Young dance last night. He did what he wanted too, when he wanted too, and where he wanted too. I woke up feeling a little bit off but I don't even want to imagine the world Will Barton woke up in. I would like to think a movie of his life had to be played to him so he could remember who he was. 50 First Games, a Trae Young film. The nutmeg and jumper were impressive, but the stare after was the definition of electric. He started at one side of the bench and panned the whole team as if to say "There is nothing in this world that any of you scoundrels could do to even slow me down". Didn't verbally say that, but you just get the hunch don't ya?
Enough about Trae Young (for now), this is suppose to be about the ugliest 7-3 team in the history of hoops. Were 10 games into the season and based on how I and many others feel, I'd believe it if you told me we've won 1 game. Besides an early win against an injured and inexpirenced Pelicans team, the Nuggets have yet to have a game where it felt as if everything was on cue. Every single night it feels like the Nuggets are searching for the hot individual and not getting it done in the team style that Mike Malone has installed. The offense is scoring at one of the most inefficient rates in the NBA, interior defense is weak, and most importantly Nikola Jokic's game looks like it took a step back in a year it was supposed to leap forward.
28th in true shooting %, 27th in points per game, 26th in bench point per game, and excluding Plumlee and MPJ, no individual on the team is shooting above 45%. We're talking about an explosive Denver offense that added two scoring threats in Jerami Grant and MPJ and seemed prime to be up there with the Bucks, Rockets, and Mavs offenses of the world. An already deep team, got even deeper. What's the harm in that? At first it seemed like none, but now I have to ask: Are the Nuggets too deep? Between Craig, Beasley, Barton, Grant, and MPJ, you have 5 guys fighting for the time of 3 and it's directly impacting those aforementioned. Sabermetrically speaking, and sabermetrics never lie, the Nuggets bench is HOT GARBAGE.
If you don't know Per 100, all you need to know is the higher the number, the better that player is. True for On Court and On-Off court. Not to patronize anyone but Green=Good, Red=Bad. Most winning teams in the NBA typically have 2-3 players in the red and usually no more than one in negative double digits. The entirety of the Nuggets bench (Not even mentioning the dudes who check in for scrub time), are all in negative figures. No team in the NBA can win without a bench. The Nuggets must add some depth immediately or rearrange the lineups because the record will start to take a toll. The most worry-some part of it all is that the Nuggies have been playing their starting 5 significantly more than anyone else in the league.
If were talking starters, lets talk about the Big Galoot. The Joke Show, Nikola Jokic, the heart and stomach of a revolutionizing style of play for NBA centers. After finally putting the whole league on notice in the playoffs last year, the whole country was waiting for Nikola Jokic MVP SZN to take full effect. I'd be lying if I said I didn't throw a very heavy bet on Nikola Jokic's pre-season MVP odds (+1200 Bovada). He took a major step forward going into last year and it was only right to assume the same would continue this year, but that has been far from the truth. He's shooting 7% worse from the field for a cool 43%. His 3P% is down to an astonishing 23%, but he's attempting nearly two more threes a game than last year. Rebounding, assists, scoring, and defensive rating are all down. Statistically and physically Nikola Jokic does not look like himself.
This team for the past two years has moved as Nikola Jokic moves. The success of the Nuggets coincides with Joker taking full reign from Nurkic and that's remained true. As Nikola Jokic has became one of the scariest threats in the NBA, so have the Nuggets. The rise of Nikola Jokic has been the rise of the Denver Nuggets. If Nikola Jokic continues to take a step back, than I promise this Nuggets team will be following right behind.