Sitting in the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference standings, the Denver Nuggets are clicking with the pressure on.
This team has a great core of young talent, and that was on display again Thursday night against the Los Angeles Clippers in a 129-114 win. Nikola Jokic had his fifth triple-double of the season, and sixth man Will Barton had a career-high 35 points on 66.7 percent from the field. Granted, the Clips were without DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, but it was a well-balanced effort from Denver all around. It was the Nuggets’ fourth-straight W, and head coach Mike Malone should get a ton of credit for their young squad’s development.
This month, Denver is 6-2 and has a point differential of +10 (via NBA.com). Their pass-centric offense is fun to watch for casual fans, and it allows players like Jokic to make things happen. The Nuggets are third in the NBA with 25.0 assists per game and have averaged 29.3 in their last three contests. It’s no secret as to why they’ve averaged 121 points in those games, and have shot an NBA-best 51.4 percent from the field.
Also Read: Nikola Jokic Is Now a Genuine Unicorn
This team is not is not going to challenge this year in the West, as they’ll likely play the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs. That said, if they made the playoffs, it’d be a great learning experience for their young core. This team is a lot more than just Jokic, although he is a tremendous talent who could win the Most Improved Player award.
Gary Harris is coming along nicely in his third NBA season, averaging 14.4 points and shooting 42.6 percent from three. He’s got a tremendously bright future in this league with a very polished offensive game, and an offensive rating of 120 illustrates his impact on this Denver offense. As his usage has gone up to a career-high 18.6 percent, he’s delivered with an offensive box plus/minus of 2.9. That’s by far the best of his young tenure in the NBA. Here are some highlights from a few games ago in a win over the
Here are some highlights from a few games ago in a win over the Sacramento Kings:
When you combine the skillset of Harris with sharpshooting rookie Jamal Murray, this Nuggets backcourt could be something special a few years down the road. Murray has struggled this season and is only shooting 40 percent. However, his effective field goal rate is 48 percent, and 47.4 percent of his shot attempts are from three-point land.
As he gets more minutes and potentially shifts to the point more, this team will be an offensive headache for many teams in this league. Veteran point guard Jameer Nelson could help him with that going forward, too. Who knows? Maybe Emmanuel Mudiay will get things figured out, too.
Then they’ll really be multifaceted, with Kenneth Faried and now Mason Plumlee holding it down inside the paint. With veteran Darrell Arthur and youngster Juan Hernangomez knocking down threes at a high percentage, the future is very bright for this team. Malone should warrant some dark-horse consideration for coach of the year if they keep playing this way.
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