What is Wrong With the Denver Nuggets?
Expectations were high coming into the season for the Denver Nuggets. After coming back from two different 3-1 series deficits and making the Western Conference Finals, it makes sense why people were considering the Denver Nuggets a dark horse candidate for this year. Unfortunately, things have not gone quite as planned for Denver 13 games into this shortened NBA season, and that is being generous. So, what is going on with this squad? It is a variety of facets and we will cover them in this piece.
What’s Wrong With the Denver Nuggets?
Horrible Perimeter Defense From the Denver Nuggets
The loss of Torrey Craig is hurting the Denver Nuggets more than people realize. As good as Gary Harris is at guarding the perimeter, he is still a bit undersized at 6’4, is only one player, and cannot play all 60 minutes. As a result, when the second unit comes in, opposing teams are feasting at the three-point line. The Nuggets are giving up the highest percentage of left-corner three-point shots at 49.3 percent. On top of this, they are also allowing a 36.2 percent rate from the right-corner three-point area.
Any avid basketball savant will you that the corner-three is the shortest three-point shot, which in turn can be the easiest one to make. That is already a recipe for failure for Denver’s defense which has seen some drastic changes with new additions to a team that is in need of a solid wing defender with length. Especially with how much emphasis this league puts on three-point shooting. However, this is just the surface of the Denver Nuggets’ problems.
New Additions to the Bench
As alluded to already, the Nuggets lost some key pieces to their second unit. In turn, they had to get new personnel and incorporate them into this Denver culture. Fellow CrownHoops contributor and Nuggets fan, CTFazio, had a great thread on Twitter describing the Nuggets’ early-season struggles.
The Campazzo signing didn’t make sense to me when the nuggets have the best backup point guard in the league. It’s tough playing that small of a backcourt in the league today. Murray has been up and down battling injury clearly, but he hasn’t been the same as in the bubble
— CT (@CTFazio24) January 18, 2021
As you can see, he mentions the signing of Facundo Campazzo who has been relatively underwhelming for the Denver Nuggets, averaging a player efficiency rating of only 10.3. Yes, he is a rookie, but a 29-year old rookie. It did not make sense to sign him when the team already had Monte Morris and needed another wing with the losses of Jerami Grant and Torrey Craig. We have not even got to the other additions of Isaiah Hartenstein and JaMychal Green who is having a great year from deep-range (51.3 percent). Are these bad players? Absolutely not, but it takes time to develop chemistry and get used to a new team. It is one thing to get one new player up to speed. It is another to utilize almost an entirely new second unit.
Injuries are never an excuse for poor play. They are apart of sports in general. However, there is such a thing as KEY injuries. Denver’s third option, Michael Porter (a 19.5 point per game scorer), has been out most of the season due to Covid protocols, and Jamal Murray has missed a game and has been playing hurt with a bum elbow. It is starting to affect his offensive output as his field goal percentage is now at 45.4 percent. This is still not a bad percentage, but it is steadily decreasing.
As a result, all of these factors are putting too much pressure on superstar, Nikola Jokic, who would be a top-three MVP candidate right now if the team had three more wins. Speaking of Jokic, he is tallying 10.3 assists which are leading the league right now, which is unheard of for a center. Despite Jokic’s great play, the Denver Nuggets are still under .500. It is time for the Denver Nuggets to start playing up to their potential. The fans deserve better, the league deserves better, and in turn, the team itself deserves better and they know it. The season is shorter and coach Malone knows it, so it is time for him and the players to kick it into gear before something ugly happens.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images