Nuggets Free Agents: Devin Harris, Will Barton, Richard Jefferson
Nuggets 2017-18 Weaknesses: 30th: Field Goal Defense; 29th: 3-Point Defense. 26th: Defensive Rating. 23rd: Turnovers. 22nd: Opponent Points. 21st: 2 Point Attempts, Defensive Rebounding.
Nuggets 2017-18 Strengths: 2nd: Offensiver Rebounding. 5th: Assists. 6th: Points, Offensive Rating. 7th: 3-Point Percentage. 8th: Total Rebounding. 10th: Field Goal Percentage.
Nuggets 2017-18 Improvements: 6 more wins. Opponent Points. Defensive Rating.
Rotational Players (20 minutes a game) not 25 years old: Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray.
Even as Denver slid up the relevancy ladder and nearly got themselves into the playoffs on the last day of the season, they have one glaring hole they have to address if they want next year to be different than this year. The Nuggets are absent a point guard. Jamal Murray is an explosive talent who isn’t a point guard though the Nuggets are trying to make him into one. He doesn’t have the instincts, can’t establish tempo or run a team the way you need it to be run in a tight game, even as he elevates the Nuggets with his scoring and confidence.
The play-in game was a perfect example. The Nuggets, when the game was close, in regulation, three seconds left to play, inbounded the ball to their everything big Nikola Jokic who had the ball stripped by Taj Gibson. The ball should have been in the floor general’s hands. Except, the Nuggets don’t have one.
They need to find a playmaker, not a scorer, but someone who can lead the offense. The Nuggets turned the ball over way too many times this year because they lack elite dribblers. I get what they are thinking wanting to have everyone touch the ball ala the Warriors but they don’t have the kind of talent to be point guard by committee and that kind of offense doesn’t work anyway, particularly on the road unless you are a dominant All-Star heavy team.
The Nuggets won 15 road games in 2017-18. Only one playoff team, the Spurs, won less road games than Denver. And yet with their road woes, they still had a shot at being swept by Houston in round one if Paul Millsap, whose wallet they laughingly fattened with $30million large, would have showed up in Minnesota. But he was a disaster. In the biggest game of the last five years for Denver, max player Millsap had 10 points and 7 rebounds. Since he’s surrounded by a bunch of kids, he needed to be the example but couldn’t be. He’s not worth what the Nuggets paid him and next year they are still on the hook. Which is the Nuggets biggest problem, even bigger than losing in overtime in game 82.
They have no financial flexibility because they overspent on MIllsap. No one is coming off the cap. They have to hope the kids get better.
Jamal Murray is atrocious defending __________ fill in the blank but he has the flair for the dramatic and he loves to score. Jokic is the Nuggets bread and butter but he can’t win games by himself. Gary Harris is a nice player who has to do more.
The defense was one of the worst things about the Nuggets this year. It was a mixture of a lot of things. Millsap is old. Murray is young and makes a lot of mistakes. They aren’t a necessarily quick team. They have bad habits and often don’t play hard on that end of the floor which is indicative of a young team who is developing.
But developing or not, they were one Jokic missed shot from the playoffs and a Houston annihilation. Six more wins than last year for the Nuggets of 2017-18. Unfortunately, it was the same mind numbing defense and so the Nuggets are out the playoffs. Again. Five years and counting.