All-Stars Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic steal the spotlight as Denver’s answer to the NBA trend of super-duos, but earning a high playoff seed requires a larger vision. Five starters are why the Nuggets are considered contenders. Their wealth of reserves will likely make the difference in how Denver crosses the finish line.
Or so we thought.
It’s too early for panic, but six games into the season, Denver’s bench has yet to meet its lofty expectations. The five-player second unit combined for a minus-83 rating in a Tuesday night defeat at home to the Mavericks. Eight players came off the bench in Thursday’s loss at the Pelicans with a collective minus-18. However, internal confidence remains unshaken regarding the depth.
“We’ve got the best bench in the league when we’re clicking on all cylinders,” starting small forward Will Barton said. “It’s a long season.”
And, at least on paper, Denver began the season with a bench to corroborate Barton’s claim:
— Point guard Monte Morris ranked second in the NBA last season with a 5.71 assist-to-turnover ratio.
— Power forward Jerami Grant recorded career highs in Oklahoma City a year ago for scoring (13.6), 3-point shooting (39%) and rebounds (5.2).
— Small forward Torrey Craig started for Denver in the 2018 playoffs. Center Mason Plumlee touts 256 career starts over eight NBA seasons. Shooting guard Malik Beasley made a personal best 40% from behind the arc last season.
— When Denver’s healthy 10-man rotation is intact, wings Michael Porter Jr. and Juancho Hernangomez do not get many minutes; a hyped first-round draft pick and a critical piece of the 2019 FIBA World Cup title for Spain.