Sitting on the Denver Nuggets throughout the season has been a sleeping giant in the form of everyone’s favorite little guy.
Isaiah Thomas is nearing a return to health for a Nuggets squad that needs an injection of energy. With the news that Thomas could return as soon as this week, his impending active status is surely a welcome sight for head coach Michael Malone. Injuries have forced Malone to play multiple young players more minutes than he figured he would have to, lamenting that many of his guys had surpassed their career highs in minutes.
Nikola Jokic, Malik Beasley, and Monte Morris are the only players on the roster to avoid missing games due to injury this year. A week ago, the Nuggets were leading the NBA in Man Games Lost due to injury. That hasn’t changed, and it likely never will this season. What will change is the available reinforcements. Jarred Vanderbilt finally returned from a foot injury two weeks ago. Jamal Murray has returned after a six game absence from an ankle injury. Gary Harris and Paul Millsap are still recovering, but both should return to full form after the All-Star break.
But the true game changer, for better or for worse, could be Thomas. All 5’9 of him (sure, okay IT).
When he was last healthy during the 2016-17 season, Thomas put up one of the best offensive seasons in NBA history, accumulating 28.9 points and 5.9 assists per game on 62.5% True Shooting. Among all players in NBA history, only Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and James Harden have matched that combination of scoring, playmaking, and efficiency. At that level, only Nikola Jokic would be the better player on the Nuggets roster. Throw out roster construction or expectations for Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, or Malik Beasley: the Nuggets would take a great player, one that could lighten the load for everyone else and simply make winning basketball games an easier endeavor.