Nuggets

What a Healthy Nuggets Rotation Would Look Like

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The Denver Nuggets (29-13) are sitting atop the Western Conference as we begin the second half of the season. Definitely the biggest surprise in the association thus far, Denver hasn’t had it easy, however.

Injury Bug Not Only Bites, But It Infects Too

All three offseason acquisitions for the Nuggets have yet to see the court. Isaiah Thomas, an MVP candidate just two seasons ago, has been slowly recovering from hip surgery– and draft picks Michael Porter Jr. and Jarred Vanderbilt have been recovering from surgeries of their own.

On top of this, three would-be starters have missed significant time due to injury. Will Barton has been out since the second game of the season, while Gary Harris and Paul Millsap have missed a combined 23 games.

Next Man Up

Luckily for coach Mike Malone and the Nuggets, many guys have stepped up and performed extremely well in their roles. Monte Morris has been one of the most efficient guards in the league both in assist-to-turnover ratio and in three-point percentage. Torrey Craig has provided great defensive and rebounding stability to a team who traditionally has struggled in these fields. Juan Hernangomez and Malik Beasley have both shot very well and have provided consistent energy for the team.

The bright side about the injuries has been the opportunity for younger guys to step up and prove their worth. With that said, guys are progressing well and beginning to become available to play again. So, what can we expect Denver’s rotation to look like with everyone healthy?

The Starters

There is not much debate who will be starting for Denver when healthy. Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap and soon-to-be all-star Nikola Jokic are locks in the starting 5. The only position up for debate is the three spot. The opening day starter was Will Barton, who played well in his first two outings. However, Craig and Hernangomez have done a great job in this role as well. Expect Coach Malone to give Barton his starting spot back when he’s ready, but he wouldn’t look foolish if he felt that Barton would perform better off the bench.

The 6th and 7th Men

Expect to see Isaiah Thomas and Mason Plumlee the most off the bench. Assuming Thomas is even close to as good as he once was, he should get a lot of playing time– even if Jamal Murray or Monte Morris are out there as well. Plumlee is a starting caliber big man who is a pick and roll nightmare, protects the paint well, and is a rebounding machine. Look for these two guys to headline the bench.

Rotational Players

Here is where is gets a little more unpredictable. With so many guys playing as well as they are and earning their minutes, it will be hard not to play them. The backup wing minutes will be split between Beasley, Hernangomez and Craig. The playing time of these three will fluctuate based on matchups and who is playing well. They could have anywhere from 28 to 0 minutes any given night. Morris should continue to see good minutes due to his efficiency. The issue is that a lineup with Thomas, Morris and Beasley is very small, which could cause defensive mismatches. It will be a puzzle for Malone to find the most efficient lineups with all the weapons he has.

Who’s Left Out?

While it is a good problem to have, Denver just doesn’t have the minutes to play 12 deserving guys. The odd man out will most likely be Trey Lyles, who hasn’t been playing as well as the other forwards. He is also the most likely player to be traded this year. As for Porter Jr. and Vanderbilt, there is no need to bring them back this year. Even if they become active before the playoffs start– they won’t be getting consistent minutes.

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About Fred Albino

I am a Business Management major attending Xavier University, expected to graduate in 2021. I'm from Dayton, Ohio, and I have a huge passion for sports and fitness.

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